Let’s March!

There are many ways to persuade someone to take action. You may recall the old story about a party on an elegant cruise yacht when a lady fell overboard. Immediately an 80-year-old man jumped in the water and rescued her. Party goers pulled them both out of the water. The captain was grateful as well as astonished that the old man performed such an act of bravery.

That night a banquet was given in honor of the elderly hero. He was called forward to receive an award and was asked to say a few words. He said, “First of all, I’d like to know who pushed me!” That is probably not the best technique to move people to action.  We all have to persuade at times.  Here are less drastic ways to motivate people to take action.

Be organized.  Audience members listen better and will stay with your line of reasoning when they can easily follow the structure of your speech.  An effective method is to state your main idea and then follow with three or four main points.  Develop each point with relevant evidence and then finish with a move-to-action ending.

Show how what you are advocating works elsewhere.  We use this technique in casual conversation such as “We went to see the Hunger Games and it was even better than the book.  You have to go to the movie, too.”  In a speech you might say “This program has really helped the D J Widget Company and I know will do the same for your company.” 

Use testimony from experts the audience respects.  This requires knowing the expertise of the audience members and whom they respect as sources for evidence.  One of the reasons presidents from both parties will quote Abraham Lincoln is that he has credibility with everyone.  If you are speaking to a group of basketball coaches or players, quoting Tom Izzo or John Calipari will enhance the point you are making. 

Finally, don’t rely only on logic.  There must also be feeling and emotion in the content of the presentation.  One of the best ways to accomplish this is to include stories.  Stories provide the emotional power to drive the logical aspects home to the audience.  If you are persuading the audience to give to United Way, find a story of someone who has been helped by United Way and share it.  Make people understand why to give but also feel that that their gifts make a difference. 

You can deliver an effective presentation and people may leave impressed with your ability and yet not be persuaded. It was said of Cicero that when people heard him, they turned to one another and said, “Great speech.” But when Demosthenes spoke, people turned to one another and said, “Let’s march.” If you follow these principles you are more likely to get people to march!

Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. Steve won the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in 1970 and was chosen Outstanding Professor of the Year at NKU in 1984, among other awards and honors. Since retiring, he volunteers with nonprofits, spends time with family, travels, preaches occasionally, and enjoys reading and writing. Contact Steve at (859) 866-5693 or at steveboyd111@gmail.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *