17.3 Organizing persuasive speeches: stand up, speak (2023)

learning goals

  1. Understand three common organizational patterns for persuasive speeches.
  2. Explain the steps used in Monroe's Motivated Sequence.
  3. Explain the parts of a problem-cause-solution speech.
  4. Explain the process used in a persuasive comparative advantage speech.

Steven Lilley -Committed– CC BY-SA 2.0.

Earlier in this text, we discussed general guidelines for organizing speeches. In this section, we'll look at three ideal organizational patterns for persuasive speech: Monroe's motivated order, problem-cause-solution, and comparative advantage.

Monroe's Motivated Sequence

One of the most cited and discussed organizational patterns for persuasive speech is Alan H. Monroe's motivated sequence. The purpose of Monroe's motivated sequence is to help speakers “organize supporting materials and motivational prompts to form a useful pattern of organizing speech as a whole” (German et al., 2010).

Although Monroe's motivated sequence is commonly discussed in most public speaking textbooks, we would like to make a small caveat. Almost no research has been done to date that has shown that Monroe's motivated sequence is more convincing than other structural patterns. In the only study that experimentally examined Monroe's motivated sequence, researchers did not find the method more appealing, but found that listeners found the pattern more organized than other methods (Micciche, Pryor, & Butler, 2000). We wanted to set that aside because we don't want you to think that Monroe's driven sequel is some kind of magic bullet of persuasion; research simply does not support this notion. At the same time, research supports that organized messages are perceived as more persuasive overall, so using Monroe's motivated sequence to think through persuasive reasoning can still be very beneficial.

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Table 17.1 Monroe's Motivated Sequencelists the basic steps of Monroe's motivated sequence and the subsequent response a speaker wants from his audience.

Table 17.1Monroe's Motivated Sequence

stepspublic reaction
attention-draw attentionI want to hear the speaker.
Need– Show the need, describe the problemSomething needs to be done about the problem.
satisfaction— Meeting the need, presenting the solutionTo satisfy the need or fix the problem, I need to do this.
visualization—Display of resultsI can see myself enjoying the benefits of trading.
Plot- Request an action or approval from the publicI will act in a certain way or approve of a decision or behavior.


The first step in Monroe's motivated sequence is theattention step, in which a speaker tries to get the audience's attention. To grab your audience's attention, we suggest you think about three specific parts of the attention step. First, you need a strong attention-grabbing device. As already discussed inChapter 9 "Introduction Questions: How to Start a Speech Effectively", grabbing attention at the beginning of your speech is very important. Second, you need to make sure you present your topic clearly. If your audience doesn't quickly know what your topic is, they are more likely to stop listening. Finally, you need to explain to your audience why they should be interested in your topic.


I'mneed stepIn Monroe's motivated sequence, the speaker establishes that a specific need or problem exists. In Monroe's conceptualization of a need, he speaks of four specific parts of the need: assertion, illustration, branching, and suggestion. First, the speaker must state the problem clearly and concisely. This part of a speech must be clear to the audience. Second, the speaker should provide one or more examples to illustrate the need. The illustration is an attempt to make the problem concrete for the audience. Then a speaker should provide evidence (eg statistics, examples, testimonials) showing the impact or consequences of the issue. Finally, a speaker must point to the audience and show exactly how the issue relates to them personally.


In the third step of Monroe's motivated sequence, thestep of satisfaction, the speaker proposes to satisfy the need or solve the problem. Within this step, Monroe (1935) proposed a five-step plan to meet a need:

  1. expression
  2. explanation
  3. theoretical demonstration
  4. related to practical experience
  5. face objections

First, you need to clearly state the attitude, value, belief or action you want your audience to accept. The purpose of this statement is to clearly tell your audience what your end goal is.

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Second, you want to make sure you're clearly explaining to your audience why they should accept the attitude, value, belief, or action you're proposing. Just telling your audience to do something isn't powerful enough to really get them to change. Instead, you really need to provide a solid argument as to why they should accept your proposed solution.

Third, you must show how the proposed solution meets the need or problem. Monroe calls this connection between your solution and the need for a theoretical proof because you can't prove that your solution works. Instead, you theorize, based on research and common sense, that your solution will fill the need or solve the problem.

Fourth, to help with this theoretical demonstration, you need to reference practical experience, which should include examples that show your proposal has worked elsewhere. Research, statistics, and expert testimonials are great ways to reference real-world experience.

Finally, Monroe recommends that a speaker respond to potential objections. As a persuasive speaker, one of his jobs is to think through his speech and see what counterarguments can be made against his speech and then refute those arguments in his speech. Rebutting arguments against your speech shows your audience that you've done your homework and read multiple sides of the issue.


The next step in Monroe's motivated sequence is thispreview step, where you ask your audience to imagine a future where the need is met or the problem is solved. Essentially, the visualization phase is where a speaker can show the audience why accepting a certain attitude, value, belief or behavior can positively affect the future. When you help people imagine the future, the more concrete your visualization, the easier it will be for your audience to see and be won over by the possible future. You also need to be sure to clearly show how adopting your solution directly benefits your audience.

According to Monroe, visualization can be done in three ways: positive, negative or contrasting (Monroe, 1935). In the positive visualization method, a speaker shows how accepting a proposal will lead to a better future (eg recycle and we will have a cleaner and safer planet). On the other hand, the negative visualization method shows a speaker showing how not accepting the proposal will lead to a worse future (eg don't recycle and our world will be polluted and uninhabitable). Monroe also recognized that visualization can involve a combination of positive and negative visualization. Essentially, you show your audience the two possible outcomes and let them decide which one they prefer.


The final step in Monroe's motivated sequence is theaction step, in which a speaker asks the audience to approve the speaker's proposal. For better understanding, we have divided the action into two distinct parts: public action and consent. Audience action refers to direct physical behaviors that a speaker wants from an audience (eg, flossing twice a day, signing a petition, wearing seat belts). Consent, on the other hand, involves the audience's approval or approval of the speaker's proposed attitude, value, or belief.

When preparing an action step, it's important to ensure that the action, whether it's audience action or approval, is realistic for your audience. It's unrealistic to ask your peers in a college classroom to donate $1,000 to charity. It's much more realistic to ask your colleagues for a dollar. In a persuasive speech based on Monroe's Motivated Sequence, the action step ends with the concluding element of the speech. As discussed elsewhere in this text, you need to make sure you end on a high note so that the speech ends on a high note and the audience feels a sense of energy and closure.

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Now that we've gone through the Monroe Motivated Sequence, let's see how you can use the Monroe Motivated Sequence to outline a persuasive speech:

Specific purpose:To convince my colleagues that the United States should have stricter laws governing the use of for-profit medical experiments.

Main points:

  • Heads up:Do you want to earn nine thousand dollars for just three weeks of work that sits and doesn't pay much? Then be a human guinea pig. Granted, you'll have to have a tube down your throat for most of those three weeks, but you're making three thousand dollars a week.
  • Need:Every day, many illiterate citizens with low socioeconomic status are exploited by medical and pharmaceutical companies to be used in for-profit medical and drug experiments. Would you like one of your family members to fall victim to this evil plan?
  • Satisfaction:The United States must enact stricter laws governing the use of for-profit medical experiments to ensure the protection of illiterate and lower socioeconomic status citizens.
  • visualization:If we enact stricter oversight of experimentation, we can ensure that medical and pharmaceutical research is conducted in a manner consistent with Central American decorum. Unless we adopt tighter experimental controls, we may find ourselves in a world where the lines between subject, guinea pig and patient are becoming increasingly blurred.
  • Plot:To stop the atrocities associated with for-profit medical and pharmaceutical experimentation, please sign this petition urging the US Department of Health and Human Services to impose stricter regulations on this runaway booty industry.

This example shows how you can take a basic speech topic and use Monroe's Motivated Sequence to efficiently and effectively outline your speech in a clear and simple way.

Table 17.2 Monroe's Motivated Sequence Checklistalso includes a simple checklist to help ensure you hit all the key components of Monroe's Motivated Sequence.

Table 17.2Monroe's Motivated Sequence Checklist

step in sequenceEnot
attention step
gained public attention
Present the subject in an understandable way
Showed the public the importance of the topic
need step
The need is summarized in a clear statement
The need is adequately represented
Necessity has clear consequences
Need clear points for the audience
step of satisfaction
The plan is clearly stated
The plan is easy to explain
Plan and solution are theoretically demonstrated
The plan has clear practical relevance
The plan can meet possible objections
preview step
Practicality of the plan presented
The benefits of the plan are tangible
The benefits of the plan concern the public
Specific visualization type chosen (positive method, negative method, contrast method)
action step
Request for concrete action by the public
The action is realistic for the audience
The final device is illustrative


Another format for organizing a persuasive speech is the problem-cause-solution format. In this special format, you discuss what a problem is, what you think is causing the problem, and what the solution should be to resolve it.

Specific purpose:To convince my peers that our campus should have a zero tolerance policy for hate speech.

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Main points:

  1. Show that there is mistrust between different groups on campus, which has led to unnecessary confrontations and violence.
  2. Show that the clashes and violence are the result of hate speech that occurred before the events.
  3. Explain how establishing a campus-wide zero-tolerance policy against hate speech can prevent unnecessary confrontation and violence.

In this speech, you want to persuade people to support a new campus-wide policy that calls for zero tolerance for hate speech. After showing the problem, explain to your audience that the root cause of unnecessary confrontation and violence is past incidents of hate speech. Finally, you argue that a campus-wide zero-tolerance policy could help prevent future unnecessary confrontations and violence. Again, this method of organizing a speech is as simple as its name: problem-cause-solution.

comparable benefits

The final method of organizing a persuasive speech is called a comparative advantage language format. The purpose of this talk is to compare the items side by side and show why one is more beneficial than the other. For example, let's say you're giving a talk about which ebook reader is better: Amazon.com's Kindle or Barnes and Noble's Nook. Here's how you can organize that speech:

Specific purpose:To convince my audience that the Nook is better than the Kindle.

Main points:

  1. The Nook allows owners to trade and lend books to other owners or people who have downloaded the Nook software, whereas the Kindle does not.
  2. The Nook has a color touchscreen, while the Kindle's screen is black and gray and non-interactive.
  3. The Nook's storage can be expanded via microSD, while the Kindle's storage cannot be upgraded.

As you can see from the organization of this speech, the simple purpose of this speech is to show why one thing has more good points than another. Of course, in demonstrating comparative advantage, the items being compared must be functionally equivalent—or, as the saying goes, you can't compare apples and oranges.

The central theses

  • There are three common patterns that persuaders can use to organize their speeches effectively: Motivated Monroe Sequence, Problem-Cause-Solution, and Comparative Advantage. Each of these patterns can be effective in helping a speaker reflect on their thoughts and organize them in a way that is most likely to persuade an audience.
  • Alan H. Monroe's Motivated Sequence (1935) is a common language format used by many people to effectively organize persuasive messages. The pattern consists of five basic stages: Attention, Need, Satisfaction, Visualization, and Action. In the first phase, a speaker captures the attention of the audience. In the second step, the speaker shows the audience that there is a need. In the third stage, the speaker shows how his persuasive suggestion can fill the need. The fourth step shows what the future will look like whether the compelling proposal is accepted or not. Finally, the speaker urges the audience to act to implement the speaker's persuasive suggestion.
  • The problem-cause-solution proposition is a three-part language pattern. The speaker begins by explaining the problem the speaker sees. The speaker then explains what he or she sees as the underlying causes of the problem. Finally, the speaker proposes a solution to the problem that addresses the underlying causes.
  • The comparative advantage language format is used when a speaker compares two or more things or ideas and shows why one of the things or ideas has more advantages than the other(s).


  1. Create a speech using Monroe's Motivated Sequence to get people to recycle.
  2. Create a problem-cause-solution speech for a problem you see on your college or university campus.
  3. Create a comparative merit speech by comparing two brands of toothpaste.


German, K.M., Gronbeck, B.E., Ehninger, D., & Monroe, A.H. (2010).Public Speaking Principles(17. Aufl.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, p. 236.

(Video) Christopher Payne, The Benefits of Climate Change, JPSpeakOut

Micciche T, Pryor B & Butler J (2000). A test of Monroe's motivated streak for its impact on news organization ratings and attitude change.Psychological reports, 86, 1135–1138.

Monroe, AH (1935).principles and expressions. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chicago, IL: Scott Foresman.


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