How and why to include a call to action in every speech

Saying, ‘OK, now go do this,’ won’t resonate with your audience. Consider each of the four primary categories of performers, and appeal to their modus operandi.


A well-constructed, crisply delivered presentation changes minds and ignites action.

Yet, the turning point in every presentation doesn’t get mentioned enough—the call to action (CTA).

Your CTA—offered near the end of your talk—explains the audience’s role after they leave, and it specifies tasks to bring your ideas to fruition. It’s what makes your speech persuasive.

You must make sure your CTA lands with the people hearing it. Unfortunately, one size does not fit all; you’ve got to tailor your calls to action.

People respond to different CTAs based on their temperaments, daily activities and goals, so get to know your audience before you decide how to deliver their post-talk “to-dos.”

Four distinct personae in your audience can help with your CTA: doers, suppliers, influencers, and innovators. To get your audience to act, your CTAs should dovetail with their skills. Audiences have a mix of skills, so appeal to each of them in your presentations.

1. Get doers to do something. These worker bees hear what needs doing, and they get it done. Doers don’t shy away from physical tasks. They rally the troops to inspire action in others, as well. Doers make an organization run. Make sure your CTA specifies what the doers should do—assemble, gather, attempt, respond and so on.

2. Motivate suppliers to share. Suppliers have resources at their disposal, such as money, personnel or materials. Suppliers help people move forward. They might be execs who can provide staff, or maybe they’re potential investors. To appeal to suppliers, use words such as acquire, fund, support or provide. Appeal to their ability to offer a tangible contribution for change.

3. Promote influence on your behalf. Influencers can change the minds of individuals and groups; they mobilize others and can change people’s perceptions and behavior. Some are leaders; some are celebrities or public figures. In this group’s call to action, appeal to their ability to influence other people; use words such as empower, convert, promote.

4. Invite innovation. Innovators dream up strategies, clarify perspectives, invent products and generate something new. They’re often company founders or product creators. They can be engineers, artists or entrepreneurs who shun day-to-day tasks in favor of conceptual work. Appeal to their creative abilities, using such words as invent, discover, pioneer or conceive. Spur them to make something new.

Above all, make taking action sound irresistible.

To make sure your CTA lands, don’t end with it. Nobody wants to be saddled with a to-do list.

Instead, convey what will happen for audience members once they complete the action. Throwing out a CTA creates curiosity for listeners; satisfy that curiosity by telling what will happen after the action is over. That will motivate them to act.

A version of this post first appeared on Duarte’s blog.

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