Monroe's Motivated Sequence

Perfecting the Call to Act

Be inspiring!

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Is persuasion a gift? Are some people born with the ability to speak well and "sell" their ideas successfully?

It sure seems that way when you're wowed by a motivational speaker, or galvanized into action by a thought-provoking presentation.

In your role, do you ever need to motivate, inspire, or persuade others?

Whether you're a senior executive giving a presentation to the Board, a manager giving a morale-boosting speech to your team, or a production manager giving a presentation on safety standards, at some point, you'll probably have to move people to action.

While there are certainly those who seem to inspire and deliver memorable speeches effortlessly, the rest of us can learn how to give effective presentations too. Key factors include putting together a strong message and delivering it in the right sequence.

Monroe's Motivated Sequence: The Five Steps

Alan H. Monroe, a Purdue University professor, used the psychology of persuasion to develop an outline for making speeches that will deliver results. It's now known as Monroe's Motivated Sequence.

This is a well-used and time-proven method to organize presentations for maximum impact. You can use it for a variety of situations to create and arrange the components of any message. The steps are explained below.

Step One: Get Attention

Get the attention of your audience. Use storytelling  , humor, a shocking statistic, or a rhetorical question – anything that will get the audience to sit up and take notice.

Note:

This step doesn't replace your introduction – it's part of your introduction. In your opening, you should also establish your credibility (see The Rhetorical Triangle   for tips), state your purpose, and let the audience know what to expect. Delivering Great Presentations   provides a strong foundation for building the steps in Monroe's Motivated Sequence.

Let's use the example of a half-day seminar on safety in the workplace. Your attention step might be as follows.

Attention Workplace safety is being ignored!
Shocking Statistic Despite detailed safety standards and regulations, surveys show that 7 out of 10 workers regularly ignore safe practices because of ease, comfort, and efficiency. Some of these people get hurt as a result. I wonder how comfortable they are in their hospital beds... or coffins?

Step Two: Establish the Need

Convince your audience there's a problem. This set of statements must help the audience realize that what's happening right now isn't good enough – and it needs to change.

  • Use statistics to back up your statements.
  • Talk about the consequences of maintaining the status quo and not making changes.
  • Show your audience how the problem directly affects them.

Remember, you're not at the "I have a solution" stage. Here, you want to make the audience uncomfortable and restless, and ready to do the "something" that you recommend.

Need Apathy/lack of interest is the problem.
Examples and Illustrations Safety harnesses sit on the floor when the worker is 25 feet above ground. Ventilation masks are used more to hold spare change than to keep people safe from dangerous fumes.
Consequences Ignoring safety rules caused 162 worker deaths in our province/state last year. I'm here to make sure that you aren't part of next year's statistic.

Step Three: Satisfy the Need

Introduce your solution. How will you solve the problem that your audience is ready to address? This is the main part of your presentation. It will vary significantly, depending on your purpose.

  • Discuss the facts.
  • Elaborate and give details to make sure the audience understands your position and solution.
  • Clearly state what you want the audience to do or believe.
  • Summarize your information from time to time as you speak.
  • Use examples, testimonials, and statistics to prove the effectiveness of your solution.
  • Prepare counterarguments to anticipated objections.
Satisfaction Everyone needs to be responsible and accountable for everyone else's safety.
Background Habits form over time. They are passed on from worker to worker until the culture accepts looser safety standards.
Facts Introduce more statistics on workplace accidents relevant to your organization.
Position Statement When workers are responsible and accountable for one another, safety compliance increases.
Examples Present one or more case studies.
Counterarguments Safer workplaces are more productive, even in the short term – so workers aren't more efficient when they don't take the time to follow safety rules.

Step Four: Visualize the Future

Describe what the situation will look like if the audience does nothing. The more realistic and detailed the vision, the better it will create the desire to do what you recommend. Your goal is to motivate the audience to agree with you and adopt similar behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs. Help them see what the results could be if they act the way you want them to. Make sure your vision is believable and realistic.

You can use three methods to help the audience share your vision:

  1. Positive method – Describe what the situation will look like if your ideas are adopted. Emphasize the positive aspects.
  2. Negative method – Describe what the situation will look like if your ideas are rejected. Focus on the dangers and difficulties caused by not acting.
  3. Contrast method – Develop the negative picture first, and then reveal what could happen if your ideas are accepted.
Visualization Picture a safe and healthy workplace for everyone.
Contrast Method/
Negative Method
Continue the status quo (keep doing the same thing), and someone will be seriously injured. Picture yourself at a colleague's funeral. You were right beside him when he decided not to wear his safety harness. How do you face his wife when you know you were right there and didn't say anything?
Positive Method Consider the opposite. Imagine seeing your co-worker receive an award for 25 years of service. Feel the pride when you teach safety standards to new workers. Share the joy of your team's rewards for an outstanding safety record.

Step Five: Action/Actualization

Your final job is to leave your audience with specific things they can do to solve the problem. You want them to take action now. Don't overwhelm them with too much information or too many expectations, and be sure to give them options to increase their sense of ownership of the solution. This can be as simple as inviting them to have some refreshments as you walk around and answer questions. For very complex problems, the action step might be getting together again to review plans.

Action/Actualization Review your safety procedures immediately.
Invitation I've arranged a factory tour after lunch. Everyone is invited to join us. Your insights will really help us identify areas that need immediate attention. If you're unable to attend this afternoon, I've left some pamphlets and business cards. Feel free to call me with questions, concerns, and ideas.

Key Points

For some of us, persuasive arguments and motivational speaking come naturally. The rest of us may try to avoid speeches and presentations, fearing that our message won't be well received. Using Monroe's Motivated Sequence, you can improve your persuasive skills and your confidence.

Get the attention of your audience, create a convincing need, define your solution, describe a detailed picture of success (or failure), and ask the audience to do something right away: It's a straightforward formula for success that's been used time and again. Try it for your next presentation, and you'll no doubt be impressed with the results!

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