How to Move People to Action with Your Words

Public speaking is not always about informing or entertaining people. Many times, we use our words to move people to action. Perhaps you want the audience to do something specific — support a cause, sign a petition, buy a product or service. Other times you might want to ignite a particular emotion that helps them build empathy or see a new perspective, and then take a specific action.

How to Move People to Action with Your Words

Moving someone to action is about connecting with them at a deep level, and when you understand how to do this with your words, you can unlock new potential with your speaking skills.

Stories Move People

The most powerful speeches are those that humanize the problem, put us in the middle of the drama, and create a sense of urgency by showing us how this influences real people’s lives. Information is great, but it is how this topic affects the world and the living beings who live in it that will move people to action.

Stories need details, and using sensory words is the best way to create a moving story. Tell us what it sounds like, feels like, smells like; then we will know what you want us to know and care about what you want us to care about. Sensory words give us the human factor, the flavor, that makes a good story great.

Stories can be grand, or they can be small. The point of using a story is to evoke an experience that illustrates your point and moves your audience from where they are to where you want them to be. For example, let’s say you want your audience to hire you to work with them. Perhaps it is to hire you as a coach, join a mastermind or engage your done-for-you services. The best kind of story to use is to share a case study of someone who has worked with you and is now in a better position because of it. If you’re offering something new and don’t have a case study yet, you can use an “imagine this” story that is like a case study told through an imaginary crystal ball.

Stories like these follow a similar structure:

  1. You set up the problem or challenge. What is the pain your real or imaginary client is experiencing? Use words that will make your audience feel this pain.
  2. Present a summary of the solution you offer. What did this client hire you to do?
  3. Describe the “after” story of this client and how much their life is better.

Repeat a Short and Memorable Message

Think of the best orators, the people who are really good at moving their audiences. These speakers, politicians, artists, and preachers all know one thing. If you want people to listen, you must keep it simple. And if you want to move people to action, boiling your message down to a simple phrase that you can say more than once, is better than any complex argument.

Figure out your tagline, your short message that you want people to walk away thinking about all day. Repeat this message many times throughout your speech or conversation. Weave it into your story, your facts, and whatever else you have to say. Keep it short and use action words that energize the listener.

Memorable messages become memes. “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” “Got milk?” “No pain, no gain.” “What does the fox say?” “Yes, we can.” These are all memorable catchphrases. They communicate a core point in a few words. What catchphrase or tagline can you weave repeatedly into your speech that will help underscore your main message?

Use Positive Words

If you want people to walk away with a positive emotion or to act positively, you should use lots of positive words. Using optimistic or upbeat words leaves people feeling more positive after you are finished talking with them, and those positive feelings can spur them to action.

When you use these types of words, they serve as a primer for the listener once your talk is over. When they have heard words like “action” or “hope” throughout your speech, they are more likely to walk away feeling hopeful and to be more willing to act upon your conversation.

You can use your words to activate the positive emotions and actions that you are seeking from your audience, Using words like cooperate, collaborate, and trust helps people feel good about working with others, and using words like rise, rally, and launch can spur people to do something for your cause.

Here are a few more positive words you can use:


You can find even more here.

Work on Your Delivery

All the great words in the world will not help if your delivery falls flat. Again, think of great speakers you have heard recently. They have a particular delivery style. They use rhythm, silence, tone, and volume to guide their narrative, to take you on a journey with their words.

Preachers are particularly good at this, as are some politicians. Watching videos of really great speakers can help here. You can see how to use your delivery to improve your speech and make it more powerful. You are trying to become a better storyteller, so watching someone orally tell a story can also be helpful. Here are some videos you might consider studying:

Steve Jobs, “2005 Stanford Commencement Address”
John F. Kennedy, “We choose to go to the Moon”
Ronald Reagan, “Normandy Speech: Ceremony Commemorating the 40th Anniversary of D-Day”
Martin Luther King, “I Have A Dream”
Fred Rogers, “Life Time Achievement Award Acceptance Speech”

As you can see, some of these speeches are long, some are short. It is not the length that makes them impactful. It is the choice of words that moves the emotional needle of the audience.

What does it take to move people to action?

Ultimately, it is a combination of the words you chose and your presence while presenting them. However, without the right words, your presence really doesn’t matter. Focus these strategies for choosing and weaving the right words into your speeches to create interest, bring the room to levels of excitement, and evoke emotion from your listeners. Then they will be more likely to take that action you wish them to take.

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About the author

Carma Spence, is author of Public Speaking Super Powers. She is fiercely committed to guiding women to Owning their Superpowers and turning their knowledge and interests into a profitable business. She is masterful at helping her clients see what is possible for them and supporting them on the journey from where they are to where they want to be, releasing the Mind Goblins of self-doubt, self-sabotage and second-guessing that keep them stuck.

With 20+ years experience in marketing communications and public relations, natural intuitive skills and certification in using some of the most effective transformational coaching tools available, Carma’s mission and commitment is to unleash the inner power every woman entrepreneur possesses so they can boldly go out into the world, transforming the fabric of people’s lives in meaningful and positive ways.

You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Her website is