Speak for Yourself

Claire Duffy's blog about public speaking and communication (in real life). Speak well, do well!

Persuasion – Five steps to success

Getting people to do what you want  is a very handy skill.  Who takes out the garbage, how much you earn, which party  gets elected  – persuasion is a part of everyday life. “Persuasion is a basic form of social interaction,” says Eric Knowles, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. “It is the way we build consensus and a common purpose.”

Five steps to success

To be persuasive you have to convince  and influence  people – shape their idea of what they need and how you can give it to them. The ability to change people’s minds and hearts will make you a highly effective communicator.  Your fundamental skills are  tuning to your audience, and  using  credibility, connection and content to best effect. After that, the key is  to arrange your material.

There is a simple, widely used and practically foolproof sequence of steps for effective persuasion. (The great graphic is ‘borrowed’  from Tweak Your Slides ).

Called ‘Monroe’s Motivated Sequence’ these steps are  in almost all books and courses about persuasion and the art of selling – whether it’s ‘selling’ ideas, products, policies or a philosophy.  Alan Monroe developed the sequence  in the 1930s after studying John Dewey’s work on problem solving combined with our human tendency to be self-motivated and self-centered.

These five elements need to be included in any persuasive speech. If you do, it will work!

1. Attention-getter

Attention-grabbing arouses interest. In a speech or conversation you can use a story, shocking example, dramatic statistic, quotations, etc.  It opens your audience up emotionally and gives you the connection you need. Attention can be very brief, so once you have it, you need to move on quickly.

2. State the need – generate awareness

Show that a problem exists, that it is significant, and that it won’t go away by itself.  You need to demonstrate there’s a harm being done.  Ideally  you want the ‘problem’ to be  tangible, significant, and intractable. Here is where facts can be important. Use statistics and examples. Supplement them with descriptions or scenarios to paint a vivid picture of what’s going on and what’s wrong with that. You are setting the stage – ultimately you will convince your audience that they must act.

3. Satisfaction – provide a solution

Provide specific and realistic solutions. Promise them something – a better world, a clear conscience, taps that don’t leak….whatever is your focus. Match the solution  to the problems and harms you identified earlier. Consider where they might be resistant, and address  their concerns. Try to preempt any objections now, before they are raised.

4. Visualize the change – see the benefits

Here is where you build an imaginary picture of life in the new, altered world. You need them to see that they can’t get along without your idea, product or service. Be detailed. Use examples and scenarios to explain what will happen when your solution is implemented. Use this step to allay their fears, reassure them and firm up their sense of what is going  to happen. Their emotions  and reason together  will mean they ‘buy in’ to your proposal. Remind them of  the consequences  of doing nothing (or doing something other than what you suggest). This creates urgency.

5. Action – what they should do

You now need to prompt them into action. Tell them exactly what to do. It needs to be immediate and doable.  Show what, how, when, where.  Make it easy, and think about  a reward  to entice them on.

Watch the sequence work 

Crude but convincing, the Snuggie Commercial is a perfect demonstration of the sequence  in action. Have a look  here  and see for yourself.

Here’s a summary table of the basic process :



Audience reaction

 Attention to get audience to listen “I want to hear what you have to say”
 Need to get audience to feel a need or want “I agree. I have that need/want
 Satisfaction to tell audience how to fill need or want “I see your solution will work”
 Visualization to get audience to see benefits of solution “This is a great idea”
 Action to get audience to take action “I want it”
Want more? Here  is a good instructional video on how to use Monroe’s  Sequence. Here is another great resource, Tweak your slides.  I pinched the  graphic above from it, and also the snuggie suggestion.

One comment on “Persuasion – Five steps to success

  1. Therese bennetts

    Hi Claire,
    Love our blog. Will be referring people to it at tomorrow’s Public Speaking Workshop. Cheers Therese B

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