If you’ve never heard of it, or have only heard the term in passing, “Monroe’s Motivated Sequence” is a method for writing and organizing persuasive speeches.
Alan H. Monroe was a Speech and English professor at Purdue who created the eponymous “Monroe’s Motivated Sequence” in order to teach his students how to better hone their speeches. And since he created the motivated sequence in the 1930s, it’s been taught around the world.
It’s a time-tested method that many speech writers swear by, and it works in five distinct steps:
1. Get the Audience’s Attention
Monroe stresses that attention is fickle and fleeting – it’s as difficult to grab as it is to hold on to.
At the beginning of the speech, don’t dive into your topic. Instead, find some way to show the audience that you’re worth listening to, that there’s something compelling about you or your thoughts. Luckily, there are a few ways to do this.
If you’re comfortable making jokes and you have the right audience receptive to jokes, starting off with a little humor is perhaps the best way to get attention. Speeches are, by and large, boring. And long. Or, at least, that’s the preconception most people have. If you can get them laughing or even smiling, you’re in a good place.
If humor’s not your game, try telling a (short) dramatic story that relates to the topic, or a surprising and interesting rhetorical question for the audience to chew on. Even an alarming statistic can get them sitting up.
The audience, in their minds or body language, should be responding to this section of your speech with: “I want to hear more from this person.”
2. Identify and Stoke a Need
This is the basic question of the speech and the reason you’re writing it.
What does the audience need? Why did they agree to sit in a seat and listen to a speaker instead of watching TV or working? Are they seeking self-help, financial advice, life advice, medical knowledge?
This part of your speech is devoted to outlining the problem. Make it personal for the audience – what do they want and what happens if they don’t get it.
At this point, the audience should be thinking: “Yeah, I do need that.”
3. Satisfy the Need You’ve Outlined
This is where the facts, figures, anecdotes, and the true meat of your speech comes into play. You’ve got the audience wanting something, and this is the part where you give it to them.
This section needs to include solutions to their problem, and they can’t just be examples of success. You need to walk the audience through the methods of satisfaction so that they understand and agree with them on a fundamental level.
Here, ideally, the audience should be thinking: “You know what, I think that might work.”
4. Visualize the Outcome
There are a few ways to approach this chunk of the speech, and what you choose will depend on your topic and your audience.
The first way is to explain what comes next, after they’ve implemented your ingenious solution you outlined in Section 3. Explain how the satisfaction of their need – using your methods – will improve their life. Again, facts and figures are your best friend here – provide evidence of how your solution could lead to the outcome you’re describing.
The second way is also to outline what comes next but coming from the other side of things. What will happen if you don’t implement the solution outlined in Section 3? What happens when the need from Section 2 goes unmet? How does it affect the audience’s lives, their happiness, and their future?
You can even use both of these methods for a one-two punch – start with what will happen if they don’t satisfy their need and then segue into a brighter future. If you use both, make sure to keep it tight – if the audience can already see where you’re going, they’re going to get bored. Keep it short.
After this section, the audience should be thinking: “Wow, this is something I have to do.”
5. A Call to Action
As the conclusion of your speech, this last section should be a brief and punchy as you can manage it. This is the part where you inspire your audience to act.
Give them a short, one-line summary of need, solution, and outcome. Then, you urge them to act now, to put your solutions into effect immediately.
What the audience should be thinking at this point: “What am I waiting for?”
Implementing Monroe’s Motivated Sequence
Now that you’ve got a basic understanding of Monroe’s Motivated Sequence, the best way to fully absorb it is to try it yourself.
Write a short persuasive speech and break your concept down into the five sections before you dive into drafting. This doesn’t have to take up a whole day – just a quick, half-page speech with a couple sentences per section.
Read it over, and you’ll find your speech is tighter, more persuasive, and much easier to organize, write, and deliver.