Monroe's motivated sequence

Understanding Monroe’s Motivated Sequence Approach

Day in and day out, we want to be heard – at work or at home, as we speak or as we write. Sometimes it is easier said than done. While the art of persuasion comes naturally to some, others might struggle to get their message across and fear their arguments won’t be well-received. So practice is the name of the game. 

Fortunately, there’s Monroe’s Motivated Sequence approach, for everyone looking for a quick and understandable way to structure their speech, presentation, or article. Using Monroe’s Motivated Sequence outline, you can achieve a compelling result in just five simple steps. But what is Monroe’s Motivated Sequence? How do you use it in practice? Let’s start with the basics. 

What is Monroe’s Motivated Sequence?

The Monroe’s Motivated Sequence approach is a 5-step persuasive speech outline that helps you organize your ideas and show them in a logical sequence. This sequence is: attention, need, satisfaction, visualization and action.

It was developed in the 1930s by Alan H. Monroe, a Purdue University professor who studied the techniques of influential speakers and found common patterns in their arrangements.

This approach is based on the way people think; it takes into account that people must first be made aware of a problem before they will accept a solution for it. Therefore, Monroe’s Motivated Sequence breaks the act of persuasion into five steps:

  1. Attention: Capture your audience’s attention.
  2. Need: Establish a need for change.
  3. Satisfaction: Present your solution as the best way to address the need.
  4. Visualization: Describe how things will be different if your audience adopts your solution.
  5. Action: Call your audience to action.

Monroe found that speeches organized around his sequence were more effective and memorable than the traditional “introduction, body, conclusion” approach. Speech coaches continue to train professional speakers, debaters and sales professionals in this method today. Let’s go through each step to better understand how to use this method of persuasion. 

Monroe's motivated sequence outline with examples

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When is Monroe’s Sequence useful?

Monroe’s Motivated Sequence can be used in a variety of situations. The most obvious examples of situations where it would be useful are speeches, videos, and other presentations to groups of people.

When you’ve got an important message to get across, it’s helpful to have a format that makes it easy for your audience to understand the information you’re presenting. Monroe’s Motivated Sequence can take the guesswork out of presenting your information, and help you put together a speech that will be effective and impactful.

Here are five ways you can use this approach when presenting to a group:

  1. When you need everyone on board with a big change.
  2. When you have new goals to set up for success.
  3. When you want people to pay attention right away.
  4. When you need everyone to take action on something important.
  5. When you’ve got new ideas or products.

Monroe’s Motivated Sequence outline: The five steps

In essence, with Monroe’s motivated sequence, you begin your speech with an attention-getter to catch the audience’s eye and ear. Then you explain the need for action and give information to support your argument. Next, you offer a plan to solve the problem and describe the benefits of taking your suggested action. You then ask the audience to imagine what would happen if they followed the plan, and finally, make a clear call to action that defines exactly what you want them to do. Let’s take a look at each step.

1. Attention: Capture your audience’s attention

Capture audience attention with a meaningful story, interesting quote, shocking statistic or personal experience.

The first step of Monroe’s Motivated Sequence pattern is to gain the audience’s attention quickly.

This is what you say to grab the attention of your audience and compel them to listen to you. It’s important for your attention getter to be informative without being boring, as well as relevant to the topic at hand. Some examples of attention getters include:

  • asking a rhetorical question
  • using a quote from someone famous
  • recounting an interesting story
  • telling a joke
  • using an image

2. Need: Establish a need for change

Provide a simple and clear statement of the problem or need.

Once you have gained their attention, talk about the problem or need in relation to your topic. Sometimes it helps to use an interesting quote related to your topic to emphasize the importance of this need. Then tell how this problem affects someone personally such as through an anecdote or personal experience (this establishes credibility as well). If possible, include some kind of shocking statistic that relates back to this problem so they will fully understand how important it is.

When crafting your speech, it is important to understand the exact problem that you are trying to address with your proposal and communicate this to your audience. If you do not make this clear, then it will be more difficult for you to convince your listeners that the five-step plan that you propose is a viable solution. 

For example, if World Vision USA came in front of an audience and said the following: “We believe in bringing clean drinking water and hygiene education to impoverished communities around the world,” that would not be enough information because it does not show how things wouldn’t improve without their intervention. 

However, by adding a few additional words they can transform this statement into a definite problem: “The lack of access to clean drinking water has left many impoverished communities around the world vulnerable.” This sentence allows us to see that there is a problem and motivates us to want to help solve it.

3. Satisfaction: Present your solution as the best way to address the need

Propose your solution to the problem or need.

Now that they know there is a need for change and why it needs to happen, the next step in Monroe’s Motivated Sequence is proposing your solution to the problem/need. Let them know how they could solve this problem if they take action on your cause/topic/idea. 

In this phase, you’ll also want to make sure that your proposed solution is clear, simple and easy to implement.

You can do this by asking yourself how do you know the solution will work? What is the benefit of your solution? How will it solve the problem? How will it make their lives better?

By answering these questions for yourself, you’ll be able to come up with a simple and clear solution that people can easily understand and act on.

In other words, explain clearly what steps could be taken now and what concrete benefits would come from taking these steps in detail so that they can visualize themselves benefiting from taking action on the issue at hand.

You should briefly describe your solution and then explain why it is effective in meeting that need or solving the problem.

  • Provide an overview of your solution.
  • Explain why your solution is effective.
  • Provide examples of how the solution will work.
  • Provide evidence to support your solution (concrete facts and figures). If possible, include a timeline for its implementation.
  • Explain the benefits of the solution: how will it improve things?

Once this is done, you can jump to the next step – visualization. 

4. Visualization: Show them what will happen if they accept your proposal

Describe how things will be different if your audience adopts your solution.

This step is self-explanatory. Here, you show your audience what will happen if they accept your proposal. You can use vivid sensory descriptions of how people’s lives could improve or become easier if they follow your plan. The more oomph you have in this step, the more likely people are to follow the lead. Only after visualizing what will happen, can you call your audience to action. 

5. Action: Call your audience to action

Call your audience to action so they’ll feel empowered to make the desired change.

The final step is a call to action – a statement telling the audience exactly what you want them to do as a result of hearing your message. Your request should be specific and reasonable given the circumstances. Tell them the steps that they need to take in order to implement your solution.

All in all, Monroe’s Motivated Sequence is a great tool for any speaker who wants to convince an audience to take action. By following the five-step pattern – attention, need, satisfaction, visualization, and action – you can construct an effective persuasive speech. 

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