Persuasion through Public Speaking: Monroe’s Sequence

In seeking to persuade others, it’s important to make a plan before you jump write in. If you’ve ever needed to deliver a speech off the cuff, I’m sure you’ve run into trouble. Without forethought, we often fail to package our speeches in the best possible way, and that’s ok. But when we know we will be speaking ahead of time, and can prepare, it makes all the difference. Keep reading below to find a few helpful tips on public speaking.

One of the best places to start is Monroe’s motivated sequence. Crafted by Alan H. Monroe, this sequence is one of the most popular ways to build out your argument in a thoughtful and compelling way. Briefly, here are the five steps. We’ll unpack these afterwards.

  • Attention — Getting their attention. “I want to listen to the speaker.”
  • Need — Describing the problem. “Something needs to be done about the problem.”
  • Satisfaction — Presenting the solution. “In order to fix the problem, this is what I need to do.”
  • Visualization — Visualizing the results. “I can see myself enjoying the benefits of taking action.”
  • Action — Requesting action from the audience. “I will act in a specific way.”

First, you want to grab the audience’s attention. Nowadays, our attention spans are extremely short, even shorter than they were just a decade ago. So you have to be quick and compelling if you expect the audience to listen to what you’re saying.

With that in mind, you’ll want to craft a solid introduction. If you can’t capture their attention from the beginning, nothing else matters. 

One way to ensure your introduction stands out is to start with a hook that ropes them in. Often, this looks like a compelling quote, or a fascinating statistic that may surprise the audience. Be sure that you use true facts and figures — you don’t want to hurt your own credibility, and it’s just as easy to find reliable information online. If you make a statement that is too outlandish, chances are the audience will fact-check you in real time, and have no interest in keeping onboard.

You also want to introduce your thesis statement early on; that is, why are you going to speak today, and what topic are you covering? It should clearly explain what the issue is and how you plan to address it in your speech.

You also want to remember a few things about the speech as you build it out past the introduction. While you may hit a number of these head-on in the introduction, they bear repeating throughout for emphasis. 

One is to ensure the focus is on the audience. The people in attendance likely came because they are interested in what you have to say, but not necessarily just to hear you speak. You want to focus on the audience and how to move them; you already know what you’re saying, and if the focus moves away from the audience, they’ll lose interest. This involves the need mentioned above. There has to be a problem to solve, and that’s what engages the audience.

Another way to keep the audience engaged is through numerous examples. A lot of times, we find ourselves describing complex issues and falling into the trap of industry jargon. If you didn’t know the terms you’re using before becoming an industry expert, or an insider, chances are the audience won’t know them either. So be cognizant of the fact that you need to speak at their level, not your own.

Something else to consider is the satisfaction step, where you actually outline how the problem presented can be resolved. The speech is rendered useless if there are no concrete steps to move forward. 

Speaking of satisfaction and concrete steps, the fourth step is visualization. This takes the audience past the identification and asks them to visualize what the future looks like, and how they can play an active role in achieving that future. You can have them visualize a positive future, where they have taken and implemented your advice, or a negative one, where they have not pursued the solutions you suggest.

After you’ve built up the argument across the middle part of your speech, the most important thing to remember is a call to action at the end. I always advocate that you put some sort of call to action at the end of everything you do: Click Here, Share Now, Sign Today. Whatever it looks like that you’re trying to accomplish, no persuasion is complete unless you ask the folks there to do something. 

With this outline, you’re ready to approach a persuasive argument and master public speaking. Be sure to practice your speech aloud to know how things sound together, and you will be changing hearts and minds in no time.

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