The “Laser Talk”: A Tool for Speaking

The ability to speak issues clearly and concisely is a key skill for effective action. Whether you are speaking to a member of Congress, a congressional aide, or a member of the media, the ability to communicate information in a powerful yet brief manner will make a difference.

RESULTS* uses a special method for teaching and learning which they call “laser talks”–short summaries of information, usually 1 or 2 minutes in length. They call them “laser talks” because they are focused, powerful, and very direct, just like a laser beam. They are very useful when you have only a minute or two of someone’s attention and you want to get a point across. And they’re easy to create and to learn!

Four-step Process to Creating a Laser Talk

Step 1: The Problem

Choose some data to highlight the issue or “problem.” Using local data is especially powerful. Reference the Statistics on Violence for more data samples.

Example: “In California, we spend on average $100,000 annually to incarcerate one youth.”

Step 2: The Solution

Describe how the legislation or issue will contribute to solving the problem.

Example: “Right now, there are programs that are proven to reduce gang involvement that cost an average of $250 per student per year. Having a Youth PROMISE Act would ensure that we are investing in those successful programs and replicating them all around the country. The cost savings are just staggering to consider.”

Step 3: Make it Real

Bring your heart and experience into the conversation to create that personal connection. Add more factual data to support your position.

Example: “As a single woman I want to walk down the street and feel safe. I don’t want to spend my tax dollars training young people to be career criminals–which is what they learn to become in prison–when for a fraction of the cost, I could invest in building contributing members of society.”

Step 4: Specific Request

Ask, ask, ask, ask! Make your specific request of what you want the person to do.

Example: “That’s why I’m involved with The Peace Alliance. Won’t you also join our grassroots effort and help us save our young people?”

Department of Peace Laser Talk Examples

These samples represent just the first two steps. Add your own experience to complete them.

Sample 1

The federal government spends about $400 billion per year on the Department of Defense yet only a small fraction on education. Of all the money we spend each year on our defense and war machine, we only spend about $5 billion on foreign aid. The Department of Peace would cost the equivalent of 2% of the budget of the Department of Defense, and will create a Peace Academy, similar to the concept of a military services academy, which will be a five-year training in proven techniques in conflict mediation and conflict resolution. So we’ll have people just as skilled at winning the peace as we have people skilled at winning the war, for only a fraction of the cost.


Sample 2

On average in the United States, a women is battered every 15 seconds, and as many as 70% of children who witness domestic violence are also victims of abuse themselves because about two-thirds of men who abuse their wives also abuse their children. One is too many. (Information taken from: Journal of the American Medical Association/ Stark & Craft). The Department of Peace will provide effective solutions to problems that are both domestic and international in scope, stopping violence at its source.


Sample 3

In reported school violence alone there are an estimated 4,170 accounts of rape or sexual battery, including 7,150 robberies and 10,950 attacks or fighting amongst students with a weapon. In addition, 98,490 acts of vandalism, 115,500 counts of theft larceny and an astonishing 187,890 physical attacks or fighting without a weapon. (Information taken from: U.S. Department of Education National Center for Education Status). The Department of Peace would work with educators to equip students to become skilled in achieving peace through reflection, and facilitate instruction in the ways of peaceful conflict resolution.

Teaching and Learning Laser Talks

To teach a talk to others (and learn it yourself), try the following format:

  • Introduce the talk and explain that you’ll give people the opportunity to write their own. If you can, provide some written statistics on violence people can choose from.
  • Walk people through the three-step process, giving several different examples
  • Give people about five minutes to write their own Laser Talk.
  • Have people pair up and practice, giving one another feedback on the effectiveness of the talk. Give no more than 5 minutes for each person to deliver their talk and get feedback, then switch.
  • Take some examples in the larger group and give feedback on their effectiveness.

You can also teach a general talk to everyone. For example, a talk might begin “The United States government spends over 300 billion dollars a year on the military and almost none on psychologically sound principles of conflict resolution and peace education.”

Then, deliver the talk again, leaving out key facts and figures, and ask listeners to fill in the blanks. For example: You ask: “According to UNICEF, the number of children who die each year in war is ________?” Listeners respond: “350,000”When the talk is complete, repeat the talk and questions, but allow people to think the answer silently for a moment and then give the answer out loud. When you’re finished presenting the talk, those who are learning the talk pair up and practice.

* We would like to thank Results U.S.A. and Common Cause for their templates used here for grassroots campaigning. Lasertalk is news advisory which is short but powerful. Concept designed by RESULTS.