Motivational lectures are common across the globe and are mostly favoured by aspiring professionals who seek to advance their careers and enhance their personal lives. In Addis Abeba, a number of motivational lectures are offered in ballrooms, rented spaces and even at the National Theatre. Some attendees have turned devotees, participating regularly and paying hundreds or even thousands of Birr for the lecture series, writes TEMESGEN MULUGETA, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER.
Frezer Desta, 30, a 2016 graduate of building construction from Addis Abeba Tegbareid Polytechnic College, is working at one of the radio stations as a phone operator for a live show called “Leb Sew”.
On the programme the hosts invite guests from different professions and quizzes them with prepared and phoned-in questions received from the listening audience.
As a phone operator, Frezer is very busy at work during the programme, which is aired on Fridays and Sundays. Tuesdays are his day off, and he usually goes to the National Theatre where he attends a motivational lecture.
Frezer has been attending motivational lectures for the last six months.
“I want to be an international trainer and that is why I take it seriously and attend as many lectures as possible to improve myself,” said Frezer.
The weekly program is hosted by Mindset Consult, an inspirational and entertainment platform founded by Mihert Debebe (MD), a consulting psychiatrist and a motivational speaker.
Mihert is a board-certified psychiatrist and fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and an author of two books, ‘Yeteqolfebet Qulfe’ and ‘Lela Sew’.
Mindset Consult was inaugurated in December 2017 by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) at a ceremony held in the Oromia Cultural Center.
Experts suggest that attending a public lecture is worth the effort.
Since June 2018, the lecture series, which costs 100 Br per event, has been held at the National Theater with nearly all the seats occupied.
The program was first launched for a fee of 1,000 Br for a four-lecture series but was reduced in half following requests by participants.
“The lectures offer me a good understanding of how to communicate effectively with other people and give me a better outlook on life,” Frezer adds.
Mihert, whose company’s motto is “to transform,” echoes Frezer’s assertion.
“The motivational speeches bring about a culture of personal development and positive mindset in a civilised society,” Mihert said.
Attended by almost 1,000 people, the program has bankers, government leaders, media personalities, captains of industries, health professionals and artists as participants.
“Our attendees are those interested in improving themselves and taking advantage of the great networking opportunities we provide,” continues Mihret.
Mihret gives the lectures for two hours, and a single thematic subject lasts for four consecutive weeks.
The lectures can be very informative as opposed to very technical and academic speeches, according to him.
Though the concept is new for the country and is not yet popular nationwide, in neighbouring Kenya public lectures are common practice, ranging from online public speaking courses to corporate staff training.
Slowly gaining an audience in Ethiopia these days, attendants of such events like 20-year-old Sileshi Umer believe that the sessions have larger effects on people.
“After attending the sessions,” said Sileshi, “I’ve decided to change my career.”
Sileshi graduated from Mizan-Tepi University in 2005 in Natural Resource Management and started working at a non-governmental organisation (NGOs) as a youth development coordinator.
“The motivational lectures I attended have shaped me to be a responsible person and allowed me to take life seriously,” Sileshi told Fortune.
Sileshi, who has been attending the session hosted by Mindset Consult for the past year, has started offering motivational speeches himself since about six months ago.
His program, held in Gerji in Bole district, next to Bitaniya building, is called ‘Walk to the Light’.
On average 60 people, including nurses, media members and business owners attend his sessions. He offers his attendees printed material, drinks and refreshments as part of the program he provides.
Creating a trained, educated and transformed generation in Ethiopia that is released from cognitive poverty are his aspirations, said Sileshi, who has changed his profession to be a motivational speaker.
Though Sileshi does not charge participants for now, some other organisers like Kefelegn Zelelew, a 32-year-old host of another motivational lecture program, Hawaz, held at Sarem International and Radisson Blu hotels, charges 50 Br for each session.
Hawaz, which has been held for the past two years, is held every other month and attracts 400-450 attendees.
“We aim to offer a programme that will inform, stimulate, entertain and inspire people,” Kefelegn said.
A regular follower of these lectures is Tadele Bogale (MD), who says that some of these programmes fail to meet their target of educating, inspiring or entertaining.
“These lectures fail to attain their purpose, because the target audience is poorly defined, leaving both the audiences and presenters disappointed,” he says.
“While it may be appealing to try to be all-inclusive and attempt to reach everyone, public lectures will be more effective if targeted to the right audience,” adds Tadele.
Not only local people are hosting such programmes, but also global companies such as TEDx, an event operated under license by US-based TED, are in the mix.
TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually held in the form of conferences that have been held for over three decades in more than 100 languages.
TEDxAddis, which is part of TED, is designed to share ideas in communities around the world and is held at Jupiter International Hotel once a year.
Biruk Yosef, one of the regular attendees of these events finds TEDxAddis as the best place to network and meet like-minded people.
“The speakers are experts in the topics they speak about,” said Biruk. “It helps me catch up with what is going on and on new thinking since I am far from the school environment now.”
Public lectures, Biruk adds, give a different perspective and make hard topics simple and easy to understand. The lectures can be very informative as opposed to very technical and academic speeches, according to him.
Experts suggest that attending a public lecture is worth the effort.
Motivational lectures are open to the public, according to Seble Hailu, a counsellor and a psychology lecturer at Addis Abeba University.
“The main goals of motivational lectures are to create new ideas, solve problems and motivate people to act,” she says.
However, she recommends that motivational lectures should be based on research and data, because people can gain better knowledge and motivation by bringing about a clarity of thinking.
Yet Frezer, who has been investing time from his busy schedule in these public events, plans to keep on spending his time attending until he reaches a space where he wants to be.