Build your persuasive speeches around the huge power of What, Why and How and you'll never go wrong.

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Have you ever considered the human predisposition toward persuading is most likely encoded in our DNA?

How else can you explain how children learn how to negotiate while building logical arguments long before they learn to tie their shoes. You might even get some negotiation and argument around “why do I gotta tie my shoes” as well.

The proclivity to persuade probably dates back to the first person to step up with an idea for organizing a tribe or convincing people to try something new.

“Hey everybody, instead of wrestling the sabre tooth tiger, maybe we could try poking it with a really sharp stick. A lot. All of us at the same time. I know Stumpy thinks it’s a good idea.” Not that I was there, but I’ve heard rumors.

For leaders and speakers, the ability to persuade through language is a fundamental aspect of their job. Persuasive speaking is a skill that, depending on the speaker’s objective, may use one of several distinct organizational patterns. But at its fundamental level, persuasion requires connection. Connection of the speaker to the needs of their audience, their current mindset and their exhibited behavior.

People can be moved to change by three influencers; what inspires them, why it motivates them, and how it can transform them. The surest way for you to connect your audience to your ideas is to build a pathway for them and share the What, Why, and How of your objective.

Let’s look at each of these influencers.


When a speaker or leader desires to persuade, they must first detail a clear vision of the reason for the change they seek.

When you concentrate your initial comments on the What, you have opportunities to identify a host of conditions such as current state, short falls, expectations, disappointments, promise lost, etc.

This is where you can “shake up” your audience and begin to get them thinking about the ideas or solutions you will share. Taking the opportunity to tell your audience what is “broken” is the first step that inspires them to seek change.

The What section of your speech sets the stage for the Why and How sections that will follow by clearly aligning the expectations of your content with your audiences’ connection to your supporting points.


Lots of people hear lots of good advice every day, but never act on it. Why is that?

Most likely it happens because the good advice is not connected to a compelling reason to follow it. People need to feel there is a compelling reason to take action, to embrace change.

It is not enough to tell your audience they should follow your advice, you must detail for them the benefits your advice will deliver to them. Telling your audience about the best way to lose weight because it worked for you is a start. But telling them how it will change their lives by sharing with them how it will feel, how they will look, how their self-image will increase, etc.

Using a story or example that motivates is an effective way to visualize what your desired change can bring. Essentially, this is a great time to use imagination language. Phrases like What if or Imagine you are… can help you begin to guide your audience towards the shifts you are seeking.

Watch most any infomercial and you will see this strategy deftly delivered.


I have listened to a lot of motivational talks in my life. In many cases I am left with the same feeling. Emptiness.

While the speakers have been passionate, energetic, insightful and a host of other adjectives, many of them fall short of having the one thing I believe makes persuasive speaking effective - connection.

Many speakers simply forget to connect the What and Why to an executable How.

Advice is great, but without a strategy for implementation the receiver is left with trying to figure out the “How” by themselves.

Persuasive speaking is done to bring about change. Change is the pathway to a destination. The destination is Transformation.

Transformation is the object of every persuasive speaker whether they know it or not. And, if your goal is to lead or influence others, you’d be well served to master the transformative elements of any persuasive speech you plan to give.


If you’re skeptical about this, all you need do is look at two of history’s greatest persuasive speeches, Patrick Henry’s Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death and Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream.

Both speakers clearly detail for their audience the What (current state of things), the Why (a compelling reason for change) and the How (next steps to follow).

Perhaps this is why these two speeches are held in such high esteem by historians, educators and the public.


A few blogs ago (Mar. 12 ’18) I wrote about WIIFM – What’s In It For Me?

Every audience member has a reason for being there. As a speaker and leader, it would serve you well to understand what these interests are before you start speaking. No matter how clever your idea is or how revolutionary your strategy may be, if you fail to connect to your audiences’ interests you will struggle bringing about the change and momentum you desire.

Follow the simple formula of the three influencers:

  1. Tell them What the current state is to inspire them to change.
  2. Help them to see Why this appeals to their interest with a compelling reason
  3. Share with them the next step on How they can achieve your desired change and transformation.

The next time you need to energize your “tribe” remember interest trumps intellect. Connecting to your audience’s interest is the key to getting them to embrace yours.

Please feel free to share this post with a friend or colleague. As always, share your comments on this post or suggestions in the comments section below.

To Your Speaking Success.
The Speech Wiz