Motivational Appeals

Motivating Listeners

Motivational appeals arouse the audience to take action toward a desired goal to satisfy unmet needs or desires.

Learning Objectives

Explain the steps that make up Alan Monroe's motivated sequence for organizing persuasive speeches, and how Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs serves as a method for motivating listeners

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • We can divide our motives into two basic types: internal, intrinsic and external or extrinsic motives. Some are more intrinsic than others, but basically a motive or motivator is external if someone controls the means for you to satisfy the need or desire.
  • It is important to understand the current state of unfulfilled desires or need states that exist in your audience in order to select the appropriate motives for your appeal.
  • You can use Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs to select an unsatisfied need for your motivational appeals. The lower level needs such as Physiological and Safety needs will have to be satisfied before higher level needs, such as achievement or self-actualization can be addressed.
  • Monroe's Motivated Sequence is one method to organize your appeal to the listeners. The five steps in order are: Get Attention, Explain Need, Satisfaction (how your solution will met the need), Visualization (picture audience living with solution in place), and Action (what audience can do now).

Key Terms

  • Motivated sequence: a technique for organizing persuasive speeches that inspires people to take action, developed by Alan Monroe. Includes five steps—attention, need, satisfaction, visualization, and action.
  • motive: An incentive to act; a reason for doing something; anything that prompted a choice of action.
  • motivation: Willingness of action especially in behavior

Motivating Listeners

Motivation arouses us to action toward a desired goal

Motivation is the psychological feature that arouses us to action toward a desired goal and prompts us to want to continue behaviors toward the goal. If you have not eaten, then you are motivated by your hunger and you respond by seeking out food and eating. Motivation may be rooted in a basic need to minimize physical pain and maximize pleasure and it may also include specific physical, cognitive, and emotional needs or desires, too.

Internal, Intrinsic, and External Motives vs. Extrinsic Motives

We can divide our motives into two basic types: internal, intrinsic and external or extrinsic motives. There is no a clear cut distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motives. Some are more intrinsic than others, but basically, a motive or motivator is extrinsic if someone controls the means or directs you to satisfy the need or desire. For example, if you are motivated to study because a professor says you will fail the class if you do not, then you are extrinsically motivated and passing the class is the desired reward.

An image of a man chasing a carrot. The man has a stick (baseball bat) behind him as motivation.

Motivation: External motivation (the stick) directs one's action to get the reward (the carrot).

Sixteen Basic Motivators

Here are sixteen basic desires that motivate our actions and define our personalities:

  • Acceptance: the need for approval;
  • Curiosity: the need to learn;
  • Eating: the need for food;
  • Family: the need to raise children;
  • Honor: the need to be loyal to the traditional values of one's clan/ethnic group;
  • Idealism: the need for social justice;
  • Independence: the need for individuality;
  • Order: the need for organized, stable, predictable environments;
  • Physical activity: the need for exercise;
  • Power: the need for influence of will;
  • Romance: the need for sex;
  • Saving: the need to collect;
  • Social contact: the need for friends (peer relationships);
  • Social status: the need for social standing/importance;
  • Tranquility: the need to be safe;
  • Vengeance: the need to strike back.

Unsatisfied Needs or Desires Can Motivate the Listener

It is important to remember that only an unsatisfied need or desire can be used to motivate the listener. You need to understand the current state of the audience to select the appropriate motives for your appeal.

Abraham H. Maslow developed a Hierarchy of Needs, consisting of five hierarchic classes that can be a useful method to selecting needs for motivational appeals. The lower level physiological and safety needs must be satisfied before higher level needs can be addressed. According to Maslow, if you are trying to motivate your listeners to satisfy a particular need, you want to make sure the lower level needs are being met before you can motivate them to address an upper level need. The basic requirements build on the first step in his pyramid. If there is any deficit on this level, the whole behavior of a human will be oriented to satisfy this deficit. The second level awakens a need for security; it is oriented on a future need for security. After securing those two levels, the motives shift to the social sphere, which form the third stage. Psychological requirements comprise the fourth level, while the top of the hierarchy is the need for self-realization. The needs, listed from basic (lowest-earliest) to most complex (highest-latest) are as follows:


Hierarchy of Needs: Employees are often motivated by their needs.

  • Physiology (hunger, thirst, sleep, etc.)
  • Safety/Security/Shelter/Health
  • Belongingness/Love/Friendship
  • Self-esteem/Recognition/Achievement
  • Self actualization—realizing one's full potential

Monroe's Motivated Sequence

Now we can apply this knowledge to motivate our listeners. This is a strategy for organizing a speech using motives. Alan Monroe's motivated sequence is a method for organizing persuasive speeches. It consists of these steps on how to organize a motivational appeal to the audience:

  • Attention: get the attention of your audience using a detailed story, shocking example, dramatic statistic, quotations, etc.
  • Need: show how the topic applies to the psychological need of the audience members; audience needs are what motivates action. Go beyond establishing that there is a significant problem. Show the need will not go away by itself. Use statistics, examples, etc. Convince your audience that they each have a personal need to take action.
  • Satisfaction: you need to solve the issue. Provide specific and viable solutions that the government or communities can implement to solve the problem.
  • Visualization: tell the audience what will happen if the solution is implemented or does not take place. Picture the audience in the new world with the solution in place. Be visual and detailed.
  • Action: tell the audience what action they can take personally to solve the problem.

The advantage of Monroe's Motivated Sequence is that it emphasizes what the audience can do. Too often the audience feels like a situation is hopeless; Monroe's motivated sequence emphasizes the action the audience can take.

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