How to motivate an audience to change their actions and attitudes

..............................Back to HOME

You need to bring your listeners through 5 levels to motivate them. You must make sure they are through each level before they can reach the final level - to "do".

1. Listen: make sure they're listening. Once you have them listening, you can bring them to the next level …

2. Understand: which is to present in such a way that they will understand.

3. Believe: get them to believe you …

4. Retain: make sure that you deliver your presentation in such a format that they can retain it long enough to go on to …

5. Act or Do: which is to do, and to act.

Five levels: Listen, Understand, Believe, Retain, and Act. Let's take them one at a time to see how you can more easily bring your listeners successfully through each level.


Why people don't listen

How do you ensure your audience is going to listen? First, let's look at why they don't listen. In the textbook "Looking Out, Looking In," authored by Ronald Alder, there are nine reasons people don't listen.

1. Message overload:
When you spend most of the day listening, listening, listening, you simply input too much information into your brain to retain all of it.

2 Preoccupation:
Perhaps they had a fight with their spouse, they are hungry, or have pressing business at work they wish they were getting accomplished.

3. Rapid thinking:
We think at about 600 words per minute. On an average, people talk at about 140. So, you say a few words … their minds have just raced ahead of you to something else.
My sister Jeanine, a college speech coach, says you need to find ways to keep pulling their thoughts back to you every 15 seconds.
Zig Ziglar, uses unusual body movement to bring his listeners attention back to his topic. He squats down low, then stand ups, he moves around the stage. It's an interesting method. As one of the highest paid sales speakers in the world, he is unquestionably effective.

4. Effort:
Active listening is just hard work. When you're actively listening, your respiration rate goes up. Your heart starts to beat faster. People can't keep it up for a long time.

5. External noise:
Noise is anything that distracts. You could even classify "noise" in this sense as a distracting appearance which is created if the presenter wears a glaring hot color, such as hot pink or orange.

6. Hearing problems:
Fifty percent of people have hearing problems. 50%!

7. Faulty assumptions:
They assume you said something that you didn't.

8. Lack of apparent advantage:
The listener does not recognize the benefits.

9. Lack of training:
Did you ever take a course in school called "Listening 101," or "Beginning Listening?" No, most of us didn't. Yet, statistics show we spend 32% of our time doing mass listening, and 21% of it in face-to-face listening. So 53% of our time is spent in listening, yet we've never had any training in it.

"Bright eyed college students in a lecture hall, aren't necessarily listening to the professor, the American Psychological Association was told yesterday. If you shot off a gun at sporadic intervals and asked the student to encode their thoughts and moods at that moment, you would discover that about 20% of the students, men and women, are pursuing erotic thoughts.
Another 20% are reminiscing about something. Only 20% are actually paying attention to the lecture, 12% are actually listening, the others are worrying, daydreaming, thinking about lunch or, surprise, religion. This confirmation of the lecturer's worst fears were recorded by Paul Cameron;, 28, assistant Professor at Wayne State University, Detroit.
You grab their attention by …

… being enthusiastic.
A Stanford University study on sales success showed that only 15% of success in sales was due to knowledge, whereas 85% was from enthusiasm.

… speaking on a subject of importance to them.
It's always clear why a topic is important to you. Really think this through and find the benefit to them.

They will remember the first 30 seconds. So say the mission of your presentation and the main points you want them to remember then. In my talk on presentation skills I say, "When you leave today you will have several whys and hows to create passion and compassion with a purpose." Now I can go on and make a joke, and do some housekeeping.
A good opening should
1. Grap their attention.
2. Make them think about your presentation
3. Let them subtley (almost sublimary) know you are an expert and an important person.)

Other openers
• Ask a question
"Were you there when …"

• Historical reference
"Fourscore and seven years ago …"

• Dictionary definations:
often insitefull and are a great way to open.

• Famous or unusal quotes:
If you are lucky you will find a great quote that tells the mission of your talk that you can repeat over and over.

• Songs often have a famous lyric that you can use.
For time management, "If I could save time in a bottle …"

• Poem or rhyme
For my mothers (Dottie Walters) sales talk she often uses:
"Why does the Lamb love Mary so?
The eagar children cry.
"Because Mary loves the Mary you know,
The teacher doth reply."

• Music or other unusual sound they would not be expecting
Michael Aun re-wrote the opening of "I've Been Working On The Railroad" and uses this to open his presentation.

• Show the benefits by stating a promise
"When you leave today, you will have the solution to …"

I open with, "Have you even been in prison? I have." Then I go on to explain how situations in your life can create a prison and how I've escaped.
– W Mitchell

What To Say

My talk has only three points. This does two things. First, it keeps the talk organized, secon, it gives you hope.
– Unknown (supplied by Jeff Dewar)

Hello, my name is Gene and I'm an alcoholic! Oops, wrong meeting.
– Gene Mitchener, The Wheelchair Comic

That was the strangest introduction I have had since five years ago at a convention where the introducer said, "many of you may have heard Mr. Linkletter before; others will have something to look forward to."
– Art Linkletter

I haven't decided what I am going to do. That's neither a plus nor a minus. It's just a fact. I'm just going to take the time to kind of size you up. And you sir, (point to someone in the front row) look like about a 44-long.
– Steve Allen


What happens if listeners don't understand? They go right back to level one. They're not listening, and you need to start over.
Let's work on some techniques to insure your audiences will understand what you are saying.

The listeners are more likely to understand you if the material is …

… clearly organized:
If you have clearly defined your mission,
Have a simple and easily remembered theme,
Only use three - 4 main points,
Hang the whole picture on a simple clear structure
… delivered it in digestible amounts:
Dr. Albert Mehrabian's, research found they're going to listen to you for 90 minutes, but they'll only listen with retention for 20.

"So simpify the information as much as possible, and use audio vidual aids to speeed up the process."
– Dr. Albert Mehrabian, internationally recognized for his pioneering research in non-verbal communication
… encourages and responds to feedback,
At least every 20 minutes, break for an audience interaction of sometype: Q & A, a discussion session,etc.
… uses simple and easy to understand illustrations.
Melvin Belli, he famous trial attorney, said one of the secrets of his success was using simple illustrations. When he was a child, he read the Book of Knowledge series. He loved the way the books explained things. Instead of saying the Empire State building is "so many" feet high, it would would say, it's as big as putting 30 (or however many) railroad cars, end to end up to the sky! This method made the concept so clear to him as a child, that he used that technique is all of his trials to make the juries understand the concepts he was attempting to convey.

… gets the audience to experience the concepts themselves through audience participation.
Audience participation is - in my humble opinion - the best learning tool. They really remember explicitly the things you have them do themselves. That's the good news. The bad news is it would take a book twice as long as this one to do "Audience Participation" justice. Luckily, there are many excellent books on the topic. Jeff Dewar, and I also produced a two hour video called, "Games Presenters Play - How To Design Audience Participation Experiences." The book by the same title is in progress.


Once you get them first to listen, and second to understand, you need to bring them to the third level - to accept and believe you. Of course they may understand you, but simply disagree.

The listener is more receptive to accepting and believing what you have to say when you add the "three proofs", an old Greek philosophy from Aristotle …
… Ethos
which means your ethics, likability, and credibility, courage. This is where you, your honor and personality are judged.
… Pathos
which is the passion, the touching of the heart strings. Tell the stories that make them laugh and cry.
… Logos
The logic behind it all. You need to answer concerns and objections, and give facts and details to prove and substantiate your position.

You always need all three ingredients - Ethos, Pathos, and Logos - if you intend to bring the audience to accept or believe you. However, the personality type you present for will determine the "mix" you use of these three ingredients. If you're presenting mainly to analyticals (see the personality analysis in Step 2), you want more of the logos, and less of the pathos and ethos. If you're got relationship oriented types in your audience, such teachers and counselors, you'll want to add more pathos.
What famous story used all three attributes in their purest form, Ethos, Pathos, and Logos to make up each of it's main characters as caricatures? Give up? I'll give you a hint …

"If the Wizard is a Wizard who will serve …
Then we're sure to get
a brain, a heart, the nerve."

That's it. They went Over the Rainbow to the Emerald City and met the Wizard of Oz. The Logos character was the Scarecrow, the Pathos was the Tin Woodsman, the Ethos was the Cowardly Lion.
Combine all the ingredients as successful as L. Frank Baum did and your presentations may be remembered for as long as his classic tale.

"In my presentation 'The Secrets of Motivation', I give three little simple truths about life: You are what you think. You are what you go for. You are what you do. It doesn't sound very profound, but millions of people today don't know these simple little thoughts that can change your life!"
– Bob Richards


If your listeners accept and believe you, you can bring them on to the next level - get them to retain the information. Retention is only partially applicable during the presentation because most of it happens afterwards.

Listeners are more likely to retain information when you…
•… use visuals to play a great part.

… Repeat the information.
Another study quoted:

Number of repeats Amount of Retention
1 <10%
6 >90%

"Tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em. Tell 'em.
Tell 'em what you told 'em."
– Unknown

Also use workbooks, quizzes, and/or group discussions as methods to repeat the information.
… Give them time to absorb what you say.
It's much more powerful to make the point, and then just be silent and let them think about and process the information.
… let them reach the conclusion by themselves.
Just point them in the right direction and let them go. "People don't argue with their own data, but they can and do argue with yours." Joseph Joubert , a French Moralist said, "We can convince others by our own arguments, but we can only persuade them by their own." or as Ben Franklin, said, "A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still."
Audience participation exercises are an excellent method to allow your audience to experience the learning. Edgar Dale, a researcher, developed what is now known as "Dale's Cone of Experience" He says people will remember …
20% of what they hear
30% of what they see
50% of what they see and hear
80% of what they hear, see and do.
… Teach with the use of humor and heart stories.
You may not remember the exact information, but chances are you'll remember the joke or the story. These are largely graphic images, and images are more easily remembered than abstract information.
Learning takes place when you kick them into a higher attention level. Touch their hearts, their minds will follow.


Listeners are more likely to take action from a presentation …
… if it's just not too much trouble.
If you're asking them to solve all the famine problems in the world tomorrow, chances are they're not going to do it. But if call them to one little action they can do, like "Please donate $20 at the door as you go out", or "Join the association - you have forms at your seat!" You've got a good chance of success.
… if their ideas are incorporated into it.
People will often talk themselves into your point of view. Create audience participation experiences that allow them to come to the conclusion on their own. They can argue with your conclusions. They rarely argue with their own.
When you conclude a session, reword your remarks using the terms they have come up with in discussions.

"How the heart listened while he pleading spoke!
While on the enlightened mind, with winning art,
His gentle reason so persuasive stole,
That the charmed hearer thought it was his own."
— Thomson, The Seasons
… the presenter gives an altar call.

Rev. Bob Richards , is an Olympic Gold Medalist in the Polevault and a National Decathlon Champion. He often speaks to High School kids on motivation and the Olympic Games. He told me he would often conclude a presentation by saying, "Who knows, but there is an Olympic Champion right here in this auditorium! One of you may be willing to pay the price -- You can if you'll work, if you'll dream! You know who you are. Thank you." -- and he'd walk off the stage.

"After many speeches, some little, least-likely to succeed, fat, short or skinny, underdeveloped kid would come up and say to me, "Mr. Richards, I'm going to be an Olympic Champion!" Or, "I'm going to win a Gold Medal in four years. I'm the one!" And many of those unlikely kids were 'the ones'. They believed they could do it. They answered the call and went on to become Olympic Champions."
– Rev. Bob Richards

At the end of your presentation, what are you calling them to do? Are you asking for the sale? Are you calling them to pick of the fruit on your tree?

"Every change is not an improvement,
but every improvement is by change."
– Unknown

"Give examples of other's success stories. Inspire them to taste the results and to realize that the value of the change is greater than the way things have been."
– Terry Cole-Whittaker

"Presenters are salespeople. If you want your audience to buy your idea you must SELL IT, AND SELL IT WELL."
"Use Dougie's 4-A Rule
You must get their Attention
You must Arouse their interest.
You must Appeal to their emotions
and you will get some Action!"
– Doug Malouf

Before you can motivate an audience to change, you need to get them in your meeting room! Develop an exciting title to draw them in. Once they are there, bring them through the five levels :
1) Listen 2) Understand 3) Believe 4) Retain 5) Do

"Secrets of Successful Speakers - How You Can Motivate, Captivate and Persuade", by Lilly Walters, has been chosen as a major selection by the Book-of-the-Month Club, Fortune Books Club and Business Week Book Club. As a speakers bureau and lecture agent that also speaks on "Secrets of Successful Speakers" Lilly used her own secrets to make a greatr presentation and then went to over 60 top speakers - celebrities, entertainers, trainers and keynoters, and asked them give you their best tips, strategies and "Secrets". Great orators and Masters of the spoken word, like Norman Vincent Peale, Steve Allen, Anthony Robbins, Zig Ziglar, Ken Blanchard, Jack Anderson, Zig Ziglar and Alan Pease. In that secret spot in your heart have you wanted to be as good as that wonderful speaker you heard as a child?