The Secret to Writing a Call to Action in A Persuasive Speech
By Nancy Duarte
A well constructed and delivered presentation changes minds and ignites action.
Yet, there’s a key part of a presentation that doesn’t get mentioned enough—the call to action or CTA—and, a clear CTA creates a critical turning point in your presentation (or any other form of persuasive communications too).
The call to action which comes right before the end of a persuasive speech is where you clearly tell the audience a role they can play after they leave your talk. The CTA gives audience members concrete tasks to tackle, and these tasks are ones that must be completed in order to bring your ideas to fruition. And, it’s a key part of what makes your speech persuasive.
An audience might be thoroughly gripped by your narrative and convinced to believe what you do–but if they leave not knowing what they are supposed to do with your ideas, your presentation will have been–essentially–fruitless.
Because CTAs are such an important part of a presentation, it’s essential to make sure that the one you deliver lands with the people hearing it. The way to ensure that you write a call to action that persuades is to keep in mind that one size does NOT fit all—and you’ve got to tailor your CTAs.
People respond to different types of calls to action based on their temperaments, daily activities, goals, and more. So, it’s important to get to know who is in your audience before you decide how you’re going to deliver their post-talk “to-dos.” Once you do, you can ensure your call actually gets a response.
Who’s in Your Audience, and What Makes them Tick?
There are four distinct skills your audience brings to help with your CTA: Doers, Suppliers, Influencers, and Innovators. To get your audience to act, your CTAs have to strike a chord and make sense with the skills they bring to the table. Taking action will seem natural for them when they can respond with an action that resonates with them. Audiences have a mix of all these skills, and you should appeal to each of them in your presentations.
Getting “Doers“ to Do Something
Doers are the worker bees of an organization. They are the ones that hear what needs to get done – and then do it. Doers don’t shy away from physical tasks, and have the ability to round up the troops to inspire action in others, as well. Doers make an organization run, day in and day out.
If you’re speaking to doers, you’ll want to craft your CTA so that it includes action words that clearly explain what the doers should do. You may want to ask them to assemble, gather, attempt, or respond.
Motivating Suppliers to Share
Suppliers are usually not as action-oriented as doers. However, they have a lot of resources at their disposal – like money, manpower, materials, etc. Because of the amount of resources they have, suppliers have the means to help people move forward. They can get you what you resources you don’t have yourself.
Suppliers in your audience may be execs who could give you staff–or, investors who are trying to decide whether they want to put their money into a venture – or not.
To appeal to suppliers, you need to use different words than you did with the doers, since they’re not the ones that are going to be hitting the ground running to complete tasks. Instead, you’ll want to ask them to share their resources. You may want to use words like acquire, fund, support, or provide. These can help to appeal to the fact that they have something to give in order to make a change happen.
Influencing on Your Behalf
Influencers have the power to sway. They can change the minds of individuals and groups – large or small. Influencers are the people who mobilize others. They also evangelize ideas, and they know how to get people to change their beliefs and behavior.
Many influencers are leaders and others look up to them and follow their advice. Influencers can also be people in the spotlight, who people tend to be examples–like celebrities or public figures.
When you craft a call to action for an audience of influencers, you want to appeal to their ability to appeal to other people. Great call to action phrases for influencers include empower, convert, or promote. Many have social channels where they can share with others what you need for your idea to become reality.
Inviting others to Innovate
The last type of audience member is the innovator. Innovators are people who can think outside of the box when they hear an idea, then think of ways to modify that idea. Innovators have outstanding brains in their heads. They can dream up strategies, clarify perspectives, and invent products. These people can generate something new where nothing existed before.
Anybody can be an innovator. But, often, innovators are founders of companies or creators of new products. They can be engineers, artists, or entrepreneurs; they handle fewer day-to-day tasks and more of the conceptual work.
To get support from an innovator, appeal to their ability to create things. The best call to action phrases for innovators include offers to invent, discover, pioneer, or create. You want to spur an audience of innovators to leave ready to make something new.
Make Taking Action Sound Irresistible
Appealing to what motivates various audience members is important to inspire action. However, to make sure your well-tailored CTAs lands, you shouldn’t end with your call to action. Nobody ever wants to simply be saddled with a lengthy to-do list.
Instead, after you deliver your CTA, paint a picture of what is going to happen for audience members once they complete the requested action. Throwing out a CTA creates curiosity for listeners; they want that curiosity satisfied by understanding what will happen after the action is over. This satisfaction – and a picture of what the future could look like – will inspire people to act.
Alfred Chuang, founder and CEO of Magnet Systems, recently delivered a UC Davis Commencement speech that contained an example of powerful a CTA that describes what will happen if listeners choose to act. Chuang encouraged the audience of engineering graduates to keep working on innovative projects and to accept the power of an immigrant-rick workforce. He ended:
A new world is on the horizon. And it will be more incredible than any of us can possibly imagine. Our greatest innovations are ahead of us, not behind. But we need great engineers to build that world for us. And that’s you. We need you to not give up. Ever. We need you to finish your projects. Done, done, done. We need you to leverage the power of an immigrant-rich workforce. And we need you all to be a little insane.
If you deliver a presentation that is gripping and empathetic, you’ve almost delivered the perfect presentation. All that’s left is including a CTA that clearly explains what listeners could do to help push your idea forward –and an ending that paints a picture of what the world will look like if they help. Then, you can leave your presentation knowing that you’ve delivered a talk that’s going to move people to act.