How do you write speeches that motivate people? One way to achieve this goal is with something called Monroe’s Motivated Sequence. This is essentially a simple formula for writing persuasive speeches.
It was created by American psychologist Alan H. Monroe, who was a lecturer at Purdue University. By studying the psychology of persuasion, Monroe was able to create a simple sequence of steps for generating persuasive communication. In this article, we’ll briefly go over the basic steps of Monroe’s sequence, as well as provide examples of the sequence outline in action.
The 5 Steps Explained
Monroe’s Motivated Sequence steps consist of the following:
#1: Grab the Attention of Your Audience
The first step in this five-step process is grabbing the attention of the audience. This is by far the most important step of Monroe’s sequence. The reason why is simple: the use of attention is critical if you want the audience to listen to what you have to say.
Remember, people have extremely short attention spans. This means you only have seconds to grab their attention. According to Monroe’s sequence, the easiest way to do this is by bringing up a problem the audience has.
The specific parts of the attention step can involve the following. For example, you can start off by telling a dramatic story. This could be your own personal story of how you overcame adversity and went on to success.
You may also want to use a rhetorical question. Just be careful when doing this. Avoid questions that have a simple “yes” or “no” answer. Another method is to mention a shocking statistic or historical fact. Statistics are a good idea because they help to prove you’re an authority on the subject.
a. Better Sleep Workshop: “According to a 2021 August article in the Harvard Medical Journal, 7 out of 10 people are sleep deprived. These people do not get more than 4-5 hours of rest per night…” (Follow this sleep example set down through the steps below.)
b. Workplace Safety Seminar: “How many companies ignore workplace safety? It’s a lot more than you think. In fact, according to a recent survey, 4 out of 5 employees routinely ignore practices related to workplace safety. The reason why they do this is that it’s simply easier. Unfortunately, ignoring safety practices often results in injuries or even death…” (Follow this safety example set down through the steps below.)
c. Random Acts of Kindness: “Did you know that you can literally save someone’s life with random acts of kindness? How many times have you stopped to thank the people in your life? For example, the waiter or waitress who served you, or maybe your electrician or spouse. These random acts of kindness can have a profound effect. They can brighten the person’s day and even change the world…” (Follow this kindness example set down through the steps below.)
#2: Highlight the Fact That the Audience Needs This Problem Solved Immediately
Here are the three key parts of how to do this step.
Highlight the Problem
The next step in this sequence is highlighting the problem which needs to be solved. In this second step, you want to talk about the potential consequences of ignoring their problem. You address what could happen if the issue is left unsolved.
Provide Specific Evidence on How the Issue Affects Them Directly
Try to provide some evidence for this. For example, ignoring a weight problem could lead to diabetes or heart disease. The key here is that your audience must believe that they need to change. That the best place and time to do this is NOW, and that failure to do so will result in serious consequences.
Also, zero in on the fact that this problem affects them directly. Do not talk about vague or unspecific problems that may or may not apply to them specifically. Don’t tell them that plastic pollution affects the environment. Tell them that microparticles end up in the food that THEY eat.
Use Statistics to Instill a Sense of Urgency and Get Them Emotional to Take Action
In addition to this, you need to instill them with a sense of urgency. They have to realize that action needs to be taken immediately. Explain what will happen if the problem gets worse. Also mention what will happen if the problem becomes irreversible.
It’s important that you back this up with evidence. Prove to them that what you’re saying is true. The easiest way to do this is once again with statistics. You want to elaborate and expand on the issue. Visual data like graphs and charts is also a useful tool.
The ultimate goal is to agitate the audience and get them into a highly emotional state. You want to make them worried about the problem and even a little bit fearful. The audience needs to be at the point where they need to solve the problem immediately. Just note that you don’t want to go overboard. Using too much fear can make things seem unrealistic and you’ll lose the audience.
a. Better Sleep Workshop: “What most people don’t know is that sleep deprivation affects every part of your body. Not only that, over time, this problem can lead to chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attacks, and also strokes. If this is the first time you’re hearing this, then you may be shocked…”
b. Workplace Safety Seminar: “There are dozens of cases where this happens. For example, oftentimes employees don’t pack away their tools or clean up properly. There are other times when safety equipment is used for everything other than what it’s meant for…”
“But this is why there were more than 173 worked place safety-related deaths last year. And this was in our state alone. When you look at the USA as a whole, this figure measures in the thousands…”
c. Random Acts of Kindness: “But why do we need to do this? After all, a random act of kindness might sound a bit stupid or even corny to some. The fact is that millions of people are struggling through life. In fact, more than 20 million Americans are now suffering from clinical depression. Not only that, the suicide rate is at an all-time high. This unhappiness leads to greater unhappiness…”
“For example, these unhappy people go home and yell at their families, or indulge in other negative vices such as drugs or alcohol. It’s a vicious cycle which only gets worse with time and leads to even bigger issues. The problem is that most people are so wrapped up in their own lives that they barely take the time to think about other people…”
#3: Provide a Solution to Their Problem or Way to Satisfy Their Need
The third step of Monroe has five main components:
Provide a Solution to the Problem
The third step of Monroe’s sequence is all about providing a solution to their problem (This is also known as the “need” step of Monroe’s sequence). This section usually covers the main part of the presentation.
Explain How This Solution Works to Meet a Specific Goal
Another purpose of this satisfaction step is to explain how your solution works. For example, if you’re selling a product then you’ll need to explain the product, step-by-step. How does the solution to the audience’s problem satisfy their desires and fulfill their specific need?
Talk about the specific goals they’d like to achieve. For example, you can break the specific parts of the need down into further elements. How does this problem affect their health, finances, relationships, and so on?
Provide Details, Be Believable & Provide Proof
When doing this it’s important that you provide enough details. By the time you’re done with this section, the audience should understand exactly how the solution works.
Make sure the audience believes in your solution. To do this, you need to provide proof of its efficacy, and also prove that you have the best and most effective solution. You can do this by providing statistics, success examples and testimonials. For the testimonials, it helps to talk about the practical experience of people who have used the solution.
In this step, visual aids like charts and graphs will also be helpful. You can provide additional evidence, such as in the form of before and after pictures and case studies.
Anticipate & Overcome Objections
Something else you need to think about is meeting objections the audience may have. Think about objections they may raise, how you can defuse these, or even turn them to your advantage. Depending on your format, you may want to involve audience members in your presentation. You can do this by having people ask questions.
Finally, summarize your solution and the information you’ve provided. You can even think of this as your thesis statement (when doing this it helps use visuals accompanied by persuasive bullets).
a. Better Sleep Workshop: “I’ve spent the last five years researching this issue. During this time I’ve discovered the common reasons why people struggle to get enough sleep. Using these findings I’ve created the Better Sleep Workshop…”
b. Workplace Safety Seminar: “To prevent this, workers need to be instilled with a sense of responsibility. They need to be held accountable for their own safety, and also the safety of fellow co-workers. The way this happens is through the development of habits, and also by holding employees to a higher standard so that your company can build a culture of workplace safety…”
c. Random Acts of Kindness: “This is why it’s so important that we engage in these random acts of kindness. Doing this will also have an incredible effect on your own life. They cost you nothing and will make you feel on top of the world. Think about you: don’t you feel good after complimenting someone or helping them out?”
“Whether it’s appreciating service workers, friends, or assisting the homeless, random acts of kindness have an immediate effect on your emotional state. Another great benefit is that people will start doing things for you. The key point here is to realize that random acts of kindness can only lead to good things… ”
#4: Help Them Visualize a Compelling Future
At this point, you should be moving towards the conclusion of your speech. In this visualization step, the speaker shows their audience a future without the problem (You can also think of this as the “projection” step). This is where the power of your persuasion skills really comes into play. You have to paint a vivid picture of how great life will be when their needs are satisfied.
Mention what will happen if they implement your solution. What changes can they expect to see? You can also use the compare and contrast method. For example, what will life be like if they don’t take action? What kind of negative outcomes will they experience? How will these negative outcomes affect their lives?
In this visualization stage, you need to be as realistic as possible. Go into great detail when talking about either a positive or a negative future. The better you can do this, the more effective you’ll be at creating desire. Essentially, your most important goal is to make your audience agree with you. They have to agree that adopting what you’ve proposed is going to lead them to a better future. Here are the five steps to do this:
- Use the positive method of visualization by highlighting the positive outcomes they may experience.
- Use the negative method of visualization by talking about negative emotions and consequences. What are the consequences of not acting today?
- Contrast these futures. Mention that their life can either be like this…or that. Things can either get better or worse and it’s up to them to decide.
- Help them imagine the actual implementation of your solution. Talk about what they’ll have to do and what that will be like.
- Make this future projection realistic. Don’t talk about things that seem impossible or unrealistic. If you do this you may turn them off.
a. Better Sleep Workshop: “The bottom line is that this problem is more serious than you could ever imagine. Unless you dramatically improve the quality of your sleep, you may end up with one of the chronic conditions previously mentioned. What’s more, you’ll sleepwalk through life and spend your days feeling terrible, living life as a burnt-out zombie with bags under your eyes. There’s a good chance you’ve already experienced this and desperately want to change…”
“On the other hand, if you solve this problem, imagine how much better your life could be. What would it feel like to finally get enough sleep, and wake up every morning feeling as if you’re on top of the world? If you’ve been sleep-deprived for a long time, this probably sounds like a dream. But it’s more than possible…”
b. Workplace Safety Seminar: “What would your company be like if workplace accidents were a thing of the past? If you could go years without an accident? Believe it or not, this is possible, even if it doesn’t seem like it today. The exact opposite is also true. Unless you take care of this problem, accidents are going to continue. You may find yourself attending more funerals than you’d like…”
c. Random Acts of Kindness: “Can you see yourself becoming this type of person? You probably could if you try hard enough. Imagine yourself becoming the type of person who actually takes the time and effort to deliver heartfelt compliments to those around them. Who genuinely goes out of their way to commit random acts of kindness. How would your life change if you started doing this? Even better, how would the lives of the people around you change? The first thing you’ll notice is that you immediately start to feel happier…”
#5: Call on the Audience to Take Action
Below are the three main points to accomplish this Step #5.
Give Them a Specific Call to Action
The final step in this sequence is asking the audience to take action. In this part of your speech speaker attempts to make the audience commit to the solution. The solution could be buying your product, making changes in their life, or taking some kind of action.
What’s important is that you mention the specific action which must be taken. Do they need to call a number, visit a website, or click on a link? Does the action involve booking an appointment or meeting with a sales representative? Even if the presentation doesn’t involve selling, there are still actions that can be taken. For example, do they need to implement a new habit or start living life in a new way?
Keep It Simple
Keep this action as simple as possible. You don’t want to overload the audience or give them too much information. As an alternative to this, you may want to provide the audience with options. For example, you could mention options a, b, c, and so on.
Because they need to think about these options, this helps to get your listeners more involved in the solution. Ultimately, the complexity of this action will depend on the complexity of your solution.
Make It Urgent
Something else you should do is leave the audience with a sense of want and urgency. This sense of need should be so great that the audience takes immediate action. When everything is said and done, you’ll want to end your speech. Sum up everything you’ve said in a simple way and provide one final call to action.
a. Better Sleep Workshop: “The choice is now yours. You can continue with doing what you’ve always done and one day face the consequences. Your next best choice is to sign up for our Better Sleep Workshop. To get started now, simply visit our website at…”
b. Workplace Safety Seminar: “Part of the solution to this is immediately reviewing your safety procedures. Our company can help you with this. We’ll tour your factory and identify areas that need attention. Our team will point out what you’re doing wrong and how you can improve. If you’d like to get started on solving this problem, then call or email us now at the number or email on the screen.”
c. Random Acts of Kindness: “The problem is that many people have no idea how to get started. This is why we’re going to go over some examples and suggestions for random acts of kindness which you can do today. Try the following methods today and take note of how it makes you feel, and more importantly, how it affects the recipient of your random act of kindness. Who knows, you might just save someone’s life, or even change the world.”
With Monroe’s Motivated Sequence you can quickly create a persuasive argument. This organizational pattern also provides you with the framework needed to persuade people. Another benefit of this method of persuasion is that it’s versatile, and fits almost any situation. While the purpose of Monroe’s motivated speech outline is to motivate people, it can really be used for anything.
This path of persuasion is highly effective. It’s the secret behind the great speeches of people like Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs, and others. The bottom line is that these structural patterns will also work for you, even if you’re not a persuasive speaker or have experience giving public speeches.
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