However, one crucial component that sometimes gets neglected is a strong call to action. Many speakers end with a call-to-action that is wishy-washy, hypothetical, or ill-constructed. Even worse, some speakers omit the call-to-action entirely.
A poor call-to-action undermines the effectiveness of your speech while a great one stirs your audience to act enthusiastically. It encourages them to do something because of what they heard you say, and it can range from something as literal as “Buy this product” to something as abstract as “Try using this idea at work.”
In this article, we reveal the qualities of a strong call-to-action which will lead your audience to act.
1. Make your call-to-action clear and direct.
Do not hint, imply or suggest.
It is not a whisper-to-think-about-action, it is a call-to-action.
Use direct language and eliminate wishy-washy phrases.
For example, rather than saying “Maybe you can think about joining…”, say “Join…”. Instead of “It would be good to practice writing great proposals…”, say “Practice writing great proposals”.
Presenters make the mistake of assuming that the audience will “figure out” what needs to be done. However, if members of your audience walk out of the room thinking “Wow, this sounds great, but I am not sure what to do next”, then your call-to-action was not clear enough.
2. Compel your audience to act quickly.
If you have been persuasive during your presentation and your audience is emotionally invested, the best time for action is now. The longer it takes to initiate the action, the more likely that your audience will lose motivation.
An ideal call-to-action involves asking your audience to act immediately, perhaps even before they leave the room. If this is not feasible, then aim for reasonable actions which can be completed (or at least started) within hours or a couple of days.
3. Lower barriers to action.
To help your audience act quickly, eliminate as many trivial and non-trivial barriers as you can.
For example, ask the following questions about your audience.
Do they need to sign up?
Bring forms and pens and pass them out.
Do they need to read additional information?
Bring handouts, copies of books, or website references.
Do they need approval before they can act?
As a first call-to-action, ask to organize a meeting with stakeholders.
Do they need to pay?
Accept as many forms of payment as possible.
A common psychological barrier is the perception that the suggested action is too big or too risky. This is a legitimate concern, and is often best handled by dividing the call-to-action into several smaller and less risky actions.
For example, “train for a marathon”. This may be a difficult call-to-action for a non-runner. A better call-to-action is to join a running club or train for a shorter race.
4. Focus on benefits for your audience.
As I have mentioned above, a poor call-to-action undermines the effectiveness of your speech whereas a great call-to-action stirs your audience to act enthusiastically.
Always frame your call-to-action in the best interest of the audience, not yours.
For example, avoid using the statements below:
- What I really want you to do is…
- It will make me so happy if you…
- My foundation has set a target of X that we can reach with your help…
Making you (the speaker) happy is probably not particularly motivating for your audience.
Rather, try to reinforce your call-to-action with the statements below:
- Build your financial wealth by…
- When you volunteer, you will build your skills and gain valuable experience…
Surround the call-to-action with a description of how their lives will be improved when they act. Paint a prosperous picture.
5. Customize your call-to-action for each person.
Audiences do not act; individuals act. Rather than addressing the group as a whole, focus your call-to-action on each individual in your audience.
For example, suppose your goal is to have a new business process adopted. Each individual in the room may play a different role in accomplishing this.
Therefore, for the person who controls the budget, the call-to-action is to allocate the necessary funds. For the personnel manager, the call-to-action is to delegate staff to work on the initiative. For others, the call-to-action may be to attend in-depth training about the new process.
Audience analysis is critical. When you know who makes up your audience, and understand their ambitions and proficiencies, you will be able to personalize the call-to-action for them.
By working on the planning and execution of the call-to-action in your speeches, you will become a more persuasive and effective speaker. Making your call-to-action direct compels your audience to act quickly and lowers barriers to action. Customize your call-to-action to each audience member and focus on the benefits for them.
When you put these tips into action, you will have a more powerful ending to your presentation.