Giving a speech to your team can be intimidating.
What if you mess up? What if they don’t listen? More importantly, what if you can’t communicate your message clearly and effectively?
You see, that’s a real problem.
In today’s hyper-accelerated world, keeping an audience’s attention is becoming harder and harder. And it relies on many soft skills such as communication and enthusiasm.
In this article, we’ll walk you through a proven method for speech-giving called “Monroe’s motivated sequence.” This method will help you keep your audience engaged and help you transmit your message with more power.
Let’s start with a basic question.
What is Monroe’s motivated sequence?
Monroe’s motivated sequence is a speech-development technique that helps you structure your messages more persuasively.
It’s a five-step framework designed for persuasive presentations, aiming to motivate listeners to take immediate action at the end of the presentation.
American psychologist Alan Monroe developed this framework in the early 1930s while working as a speech professor at Purdue University.
The motivated sequence contains five main steps:
- Attention: Grab the audience’s attention through stories, metaphors, statistics, and quotes.
- Need: Convince the audience there’s a strong need they must satisfy.
- Satisfaction: Show the audience the actual solutions to satisfy that need.
- Visualization: Help the audience visualize how things may change if they implement your solution.
- Call to action: Motivate the audience to take a specific action (e.g., donate money, purchase a product, join a community, etc.)
We’ll cover these steps more in-depth a bit later, but first, let’s cover a major concept.
The psychology behind Monroe’s motivated sequence
Giving a speech is simple. Getting your audience to actually take action on what you said is not that simple.
Monroe’s motivated sequence is effective because it builds expectation. It helps listeners visualize there’s an actual gap between their current situation and their desired situation. Then, it positions your solution as the best way to bridge that gap.
Let’s explore the psychological impact of the sequence:
First, you evoke some pain in the audience by showing the need.
Then, you alleviate the pain by presenting a solution.
You even help the audience visualize how their lives would be if they implement your solution.
All this roller coaster of emotions is deliberate and aims to persuade the audience to take action at the end of the presentation.
But the real power of Monroe’s motivated sequence lies in the “Need” step.
If you can convince your audience they have a need you can solve, they’ll feel much more motivated to take that ultimate action.
On the other hand, if the audience doesn’t believe there’s a need, they probably won’t adopt the solution you’re presenting.
For that reason, this framework can be extremely persuasive.
You should use it in an ethical way, having the audience’s interest in mind.
Other things to pay attention to include:
- Avoid manipulation: Always respect the other person’s ability to make their own choices.
- Be genuine: Be empathetic and try to help people in a genuine way.
- Use factual information: Make sure the information you’re providing is accurate.
Using Monroe’s motivated sequence is a great way to get your team on board with a certain action or to sell a product to potential customers. Let’s take a look at how you can use it.
What are the five steps of Monroe’s motivated sequence?
Now that you understand the importance of structuring your message using Monroe’s motivated sequence, the question is: How can you actually implement this method?
Let’s break down the steps:
Step 1: Attention
Humans have pretty short attention spans.
Classic research suggests you only have about eight seconds to capture someone’s attention.
Whether that statement is true or not, the fact is that you must capture the attention of your audience from the beginning. Otherwise, they won’t stick around for the most important sections of your speech.
In traditional speech frameworks, you start with a basic three-step introduction, which includes:
- Thesis statement: A summary of the central point of your speech.
- Speaker credentials: Reasons why the audience should trust what you say.
- Audience connectors: Something to engage with your audience.
Monroe’s motivated sequence, though, focuses more on the persuasion side of the process, ignoring the conventional steps.
Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t include those three steps, but you should focus more on grabbing the audience’s attention rather than presenting your credentials or summarizing your speech.
In other words, you should open with impact.
Some ways to do it include:
- Come up with a startling statement: Tell something bold that hooks the audience from the start (e.g., “Marketing is for losers”). Just make sure to have something solid to back up your statement.
- Tell a story: Human brains are wired for stories. Benefit from that fact by telling a compelling story that’s related to your central point.
- Use strong statistics: If you have a dramatic statistic that supports your main point, start with that.
- Use interesting quotes: Leverage the power of “trusted advisors” by using relevant quotes and statements that may be interesting for the audience.
Keep in mind that you can stack up these techniques.
For example, you can start with a big, shocking statement and then back it up with statistics. Or you can use an interesting quote and then tell a story. You could also use the four techniques.
The point here is that you can devote this entire action step to make sure you grab people’s attention.
Step 2: Need
Dale Carnegie, author of the classic “How to Win Friends And Influence People,” once said:
“The only way on earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it.”
No matter how interesting you are, if you can’t demonstrate to your audience that you can help them get what they want, you’ll never influence them.
Here’s where the “Need” step comes in handy.
This section is fully devoted to showing your audience there’s a great need associated with the topic in question.
Remember, at the end of your presentation, you want your audience to take some kind of action. The only way to achieve that goal is by helping them understand there’s a big gap between where they are and where they want to be — a strong, deep need.
By uncovering what your audience needs, they’ll be more likely to take the action you want.
Now, the question is: How can you convince the audience they have a need?
The best way to do it is by citing solid sources that support your main point. That is, statistics, research, and surveys that may indicate that what you’re saying is true.
We suggest you include:
- Internal sources: Sources that come from within your own organization or research.
- External sources: Sources you can pull from external research.
By balancing your citations, you’ll be able to add more credibility to your persuasive speech.
Step 3: Satisfaction
Once your audience understands there’s a need they must satisfy, the next step is to show them how to do it — tell them what the solution is.
Here’s where you should explain in detail all the steps involved in the solution. What should they do to solve the problem or satisfy the need you articulated earlier?
This step is called “satisfaction” because you make them feel a little bit better.
In step two, you showed them there’s a gap between their current and desired situation, which made them feel anxious or upset.
Now you’re making them feel hopeful.
But what kind of solution should you present?
Here are three tips:
- Focus on a single solution: Presenting too many solutions may lead to decision fatigue, leading to no action.
- Make it relevant: The solution you’re presenting should be relevant for your listeners.
- Make it practical: You want the solution you’re proposing to be something everyone in your audience can do.
Step 4: Visualization
The next step is called “Visualization.”
As the name suggests, this step aims to help the audience visualize what their lives would look like if they decide to adopt the solution you introduced earlier.
At this stage, phrases like “picture this” or “imagine that” can help listeners crystalize a mental image and better understand the impact of your solution.
Now, there are three different visualization methods you can implement:
1. The positive method
The positive visualization technique aims to help the audience build a mental image of all the benefits involved with your solution. You want them to feel how their lives would improve. Some helpful questions you can ask include:
- If you were able to get rid of this problem, how would you feel?
- How would society change if this problem didn’t exist?
- How would your life improve without this problem?
The point is that you should guide the audience’s imagination towards visualizing the solution as something real.
2. The negative method
The negative technique, on the other hand, focuses on highlighting the negative aspects of not adopting the proposed solution. How would inaction impact the audience’s life?
For instance: “Let’s imagine that, once this speech is over, you go back to your home and act as if nothing happened. What would be the consequences of that in the long run?”
3. The comparative method
Finally, you have the comparative technique.
This technique aims to contrast the positive scenario with the negative one and help the audience visualize both connotations and their potential implications.
You want to make sure they fully understand both scenarios, so they’re able to make a more informed decision.
Regardless of the method you choose, the most crucial thing to remember is that you should guide the audience through the visualization phase and help them crystallize a mental image of your solution in action.
Step 5: Call to action
The whole purpose of persuasive speeches is to persuade people to perform some kind of action, right?
No matter how many statistics you include in your speech or how much storytelling you use, if people don’t take action, the speech is useless.
That’s why the last step in Monroe’s motivated sequence is called “Action.”
In this step, you’ll ask the audience to do something.
You can ask them for an email address.
You can ask them to purchase a product.
You can ask them to donate money to a non-profit organization.
The point is that you should ask them something specific and completely related to the topic of your speech.
Some other things to consider include:
- Ask for just one thing: Again, asking for too many things at once can lead to decision fatigue and, thus, inaction.
- Ask for something simple: Your call to action should be (ideally) something they can do at that precise moment.
- Ask for something possible: Ask for something most of your audience will be able to do (e.g., it would be hard to ask for $100,000 donations from a group of high-school students).
- Ask for something relevant: Ask for something your audience cares about. Your call to action must have the audience’s interest in mind.
This should be the most emotive section of your speech because you’re helping the audience to take part in solving the problem you articulated earlier.
If you do it right, your audience will feel good about taking action — they’ll feel they’re participating in the proposed solution.
Ready to inspire your team?
Monroe’s motivated sequence is a great method to communicate complex topics in a way everyone can understand. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you’ll be able to structure any speech or presentation faster and more effectively.
Hopefully, now you have enough information to implement it in your business and inspire your employees, coworkers, customers, or anyone else you’re working with to take action.
For more help inspiring and managing your team, check out Pareto Lab’s course on how to manage people.