minimalist photography of three crank phones

Top Ten Things Every Presenter Needs To Know About People: #9 — If You Want People To Act You Have To Call Them To Action




Recently I attended a fund raiser. The speaker got up and gave a pretty good speech (I think he could have used a speech coach!), but at the end he didn’t have a call to action. There were people walking around with jars so you could donate, but no one had actually asked for the money.

In most presentations the reason you are giving the presentation is because you want people to take some kind of action. It might be to donate money, or time. Perhaps you are hoping they will think about a particular issue or topic in a different way. Maybe you want them to do something simple, such as attend a meeting the next day, or make a phone call to a colleague.

The best presentations always have a call to action — One reason is that the call to action gives structure and a “plot” to the rest of the presentation. In my book, 100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About People I show how to build the structure of the presentation around the call to action.

If you know what you want people to do, then you can figure out what it is you should say and present to them —  What is it that you can ask your audience to do after your talk is over? Where are they at now, where do you want them to be, and what action can you realistically ask them to take?

Consider having more than one call to action (but no more than 3 or 4) — For example, if you are preparing a presentation in order to persuade people to donate to a charity, then the call to action will likely be something like writing out a check for $100 to the charity.

You can have more than one call to action, for example, you could have:

*      Write out a check for $100 or fill out a credit card form

*      Get three friends to donate as well

*      Volunteer to help at the next fund-raising event

At the end of your presentations be very specific about what you want them to do — this is not the time to be vague. Be very specific about what they should do.

What do you think? Have you tried out using various calls to actions in your presentations?


2 responses to “Top Ten Things Every Presenter Needs To Know About People: #9 — If You Want People To Act You Have To Call Them To Action”

  1. Bob Rowell Avatar

    Excellent point! If you want action, you better make it very clear what you want.

    Including other elements will increase your success. Being specific, as you suggest, is one.

    Making the action as easy as possible is another. The speaker you cite in your example was on to this with the people on hand with the donation jars.

    Another element that encourages behavioral buy-in is committment. When people make some agreement to do something, this significantly increases the likelihood that they will. I recently saw a speaker do this by asking for two hand claps from the audience if they would commit to shun texting while driving.

    Two other powerful factors in getting people to take action are social norms and modeling. People are much more likely to do something when they recognize that their peer group and someone they admire are doing it.

Leave a Reply

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