Urgency and Scarcity in Speaking

This summer my wife and I drove to Erie, Pennsylvania for a wedding. While on Rt. 70 for quite a while, we saw a huge sign that read as follows:

Last Place for Fuel and Food for 122 miles”

Guess what we did? We stopped at that rest-stop/restaurant park.  

Why did we stop? It’s because of the influence that scarcity and urgency had on us. We didn’t necessarily plan to stop there but we definitely didn’t want to go another 122 miles before we could stop for food and fuel.

Whoever put up that sign knew something very important about influencing others and that’s that scarcity and urgency are huge factors.

Why Getting them to Take Action is Not Enough

I’ve seen lots of speakers give a call to action, but many of them are missing scarcity and urgency. It’s not enough to influence people to take action, you must influence them to take action now. Why? Because if they don’t take action now, chances are they never will. Life will get in the way and block the view they had of your initial suggestion.

Here’s one way I have used scarcity and urgency in my speeches. I’ve said something like:

“If you don’t write down your perfect day within the next 48 hours, you most likely never will.”

When selling one of my products, listen to what I say at the end of the offer (Clip is 38 seconds):

[audio:https://craigvalentine.com/wp-content/uploads/TenOfThem.mp3|titles=Scarcity ]

Guess what happens when I let my audience know I only have 10 courses with me? People suddenly find a reason to act now.

In fact, a few months ago in Seattle, I only had 18 courses on me and I let my audience know it. As soon as I made my offer (I hadn’t even finished my speech yet), audience members started leaving. I thought, “Uh oh, what did I do? Did I say something that upset them?” Then I overheard one of them say, “I have to be one of the first 18!” That’s when I realized they weren’t leaving. They were heading towards my product table to be first in line. That’s what scarcity and urgency do for you. They prompt your audience to act now.

My wife said, "When will we ever be back at Rick's Cafe in Jamaica? Just jump!"

Scarcity and Urgency work for Marketing Too 

By the way, just as a side note, scarcity and urgency are also very good for marketing. For example, Mitch Meyerson and I run the World Class Speaking Coach Certification Course each June and we make sure to let our site’s visitors know that the course ONLY HAPPENS ONCE PER YEAR. That provides urgency because we have a limited number of spots available.

So make sure you find ways to put urgency and/or scarcity behind each call to action you give in your speech whether it involves a product or simply a next step.

 How can You Apply This?

Let’s look at a process for implementation.

The process I use is simply to ask myself the following questions about the actions I suggest my audience members take. 

  1. What results can they expect if they act on my message (or invest in this product/program)?
  2. Why should they do it now?
  3. What happens to most people who don’t do it?
  4. What happens to most people who wait to do it?
  5. How can they separate themselves from the pack of most people?

 When I ask myself these questions, it becomes immediately apparent what I need to say to my audience to get them to act and to act now.

 Here are some of the scarcity/urgency-related statements I have made to influence them to take action now:

  • “Most people won’t act…” Note: This works great because of one of the truths I’ve uncovered, which is “Most people don’t want to be most people.”
  • “Most people procrastinate…”
  • “If you don’t do it within the next 48 hours, chances are you won’t ever do it…”
  • “You get a $$ discount today only…”
  • “There are only 10 (or 18 or however many products or spaces) left…”

 Another Powerful Tool for Getting them to Act Now 

What you’ve read above will work. However, there is another very effective way to get audience members to take action now. It’s to sell the belief. Get your audience to buy-into the belief that procrastination (in general) is destructive and acting now is constructive. You can do this throughout your speech and also at the end.

For example, years ago I used to end my speeches by talking about how most people live their lives on “get-set.” By getting my audience involved in this belief, they are more apt to accept it and act now. Listen to how I used to end one of my keynote speeches by selling this belief (clip is 7 minutes).

[audio:https://craigvalentine.com/wp-content/uploads/Getset.mp3|titles=Living on Get-set]

Getting my audience to see the problem and then understand the solution (i.e. “Go!”) gets them at least half-way across the bridge to taking an action. This belief, in combination with the other scarcity and urgency tools, usually helps push, pull, and influence my audience to take action now. The same will happen with your audiences…if you find a way to integrate these tools into your very next speech. After all, if you don’t do it for the next speech…[well, you know the rest]

Your Turn

Can you share some of the ways your use urgency and scarcity in your speeches so that your audiences take action now? I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Thanks in advance.

Craig Valentine

As a motivational speaker I've been fortunate to have spoken in over 20 countries, and back in 1999 Toastmasters International awarded me the World Champion of Public Speaking.

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