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Persuasive Speech Outline, with Examples

March 17, 2021 - Gini Beqiri

A persuasive speech is a speech that is given with the intention of convincing the audience to believe or do something. This could be virtually anything – voting, organ donation, recycling, and so on.

A successful persuasive speech effectively convinces the audience to your point of view, providing you come across as trustworthy and knowledgeable about the topic you’re discussing.

So, how do you start convincing a group of strangers to share your opinion? And how do you connect with them enough to earn their trust?

Topics for your persuasive speech

We’ve made a list of persuasive speech topics you could use next time you’re asked to give one. The topics are thought-provoking and things which many people have an opinion on.

When using any of our persuasive speech ideas, make sure you have a solid knowledge about the topic you’re speaking about – and make sure you discuss counter arguments too.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • All school children should wear a uniform
  • Facebook is making people more socially anxious
  • It should be illegal to drive over the age of 80
  • Lying isn’t always wrong
  • The case for organ donation

Read our full list of  75 persuasive speech topics and ideas .

Ideas for a persuasive speech

Preparation: Consider your audience

As with any speech, preparation is crucial. Before you put pen to paper, think about what you want to achieve with your speech. This will help organise your thoughts as you realistically can only cover 2-4 main points before your  audience get bored .

It’s also useful to think about who your audience are at this point. If they are unlikely to know much about your topic then you’ll need to factor in context of your topic when planning the structure and length of your speech. You should also consider their:

  • Cultural or religious backgrounds
  • Shared concerns, attitudes and problems
  • Shared interests, beliefs and hopes
  • Baseline attitude – are they hostile, neutral, or open to change?

The factors above will all determine the approach you take to writing your speech. For example, if your topic is about childhood obesity, you could begin with a story about your own children or a shared concern every parent has. This would suit an audience who are more likely to be parents than young professionals who have only just left college.

Remember the 3 main approaches to persuade others

There are three main approaches used to persuade others:

The ethos approach appeals to the audience’s ethics and morals, such as what is the ‘right thing’ to do for humanity, saving the environment, etc.

Pathos persuasion is when you appeal to the audience’s emotions, such as when you  tell a story  that makes them the main character in a difficult situation.

The logos approach to giving a persuasive speech is when you appeal to the audience’s logic – ie. your speech is essentially more driven by facts and logic. The benefit of this technique is that your point of view becomes virtually indisputable because you make the audience feel that only your view is the logical one.

  • Ethos, Pathos, Logos: 3 Pillars of Public Speaking and Persuasion

Ideas for your persuasive speech outline

1. structure of your persuasive speech.

The opening and closing of speech are the most important. Consider these carefully when thinking about your persuasive speech outline. A  strong opening  ensures you have the audience’s attention from the start and gives them a positive first impression of you.

You’ll want to  start with a strong opening  such as an attention grabbing statement, statistic of fact. These are usually dramatic or shocking, such as:

Sadly, in the next 18 minutes when I do our chat, four Americans that are alive will be dead from the food that they eat – Jamie Oliver

Another good way of starting a persuasive speech is to include your audience in the picture you’re trying to paint. By making them part of the story, you’re embedding an emotional connection between them and your speech.

You could do this in a more toned-down way by talking about something you know that your audience has in common with you. It’s also helpful at this point to include your credentials in a persuasive speech to gain your audience’s trust.

Speech structure and speech argument for a persuasive speech outline.

Obama would spend hours with his team working on the opening and closing statements of his speech.

2. Stating your argument

You should  pick between 2 and 4 themes  to discuss during your speech so that you have enough time to explain your viewpoint and convince your audience to the same way of thinking.

It’s important that each of your points transitions seamlessly into the next one so that your speech has a logical flow. Work on your  connecting sentences  between each of your themes so that your speech is easy to listen to.

Your argument should be backed up by objective research and not purely your subjective opinion. Use examples, analogies, and stories so that the audience can relate more easily to your topic, and therefore are more likely to be persuaded to your point of view.

3. Addressing counter-arguments

Any balanced theory or thought  addresses and disputes counter-arguments  made against it. By addressing these, you’ll strengthen your persuasive speech by refuting your audience’s objections and you’ll show that you are knowledgeable to other thoughts on the topic.

When describing an opposing point of view, don’t explain it in a bias way – explain it in the same way someone who holds that view would describe it. That way, you won’t irritate members of your audience who disagree with you and you’ll show that you’ve reached your point of view through reasoned judgement. Simply identify any counter-argument and pose explanations against them.

  • Complete Guide to Debating

4. Closing your speech

Your closing line of your speech is your last chance to convince your audience about what you’re saying. It’s also most likely to be the sentence they remember most about your entire speech so make sure it’s a good one!

The most effective persuasive speeches end  with a  call to action . For example, if you’ve been speaking about organ donation, your call to action might be asking the audience to register as donors.

Practice answering AI questions on your speech and get  feedback on your performance .

If audience members ask you questions, make sure you listen carefully and respectfully to the full question. Don’t interject in the middle of a question or become defensive.

You should show that you have carefully considered their viewpoint and refute it in an objective way (if you have opposing opinions). Ensure you remain patient, friendly and polite at all times.

Example 1: Persuasive speech outline

This example is from the Kentucky Community and Technical College.

Specific purpose

To persuade my audience to start walking in order to improve their health.

Central idea

Regular walking can improve both your mental and physical health.

Introduction

Let’s be honest, we lead an easy life: automatic dishwashers, riding lawnmowers, T.V. remote controls, automatic garage door openers, power screwdrivers, bread machines, electric pencil sharpeners, etc., etc. etc. We live in a time-saving, energy-saving, convenient society. It’s a wonderful life. Or is it?

Continue reading

Example 2: Persuasive speech

Tips for delivering your persuasive speech

  • Practice, practice, and practice some more . Record yourself speaking and listen for any nervous habits you have such as a nervous laugh, excessive use of filler words, or speaking too quickly.
  • Show confident body language . Stand with your legs hip width apart with your shoulders centrally aligned. Ground your feet to the floor and place your hands beside your body so that hand gestures come freely. Your audience won’t be convinced about your argument if you don’t sound confident in it. Find out more about  confident body language here .
  • Don’t memorise your speech word-for-word  or read off a script. If you memorise your persuasive speech, you’ll sound less authentic and panic if you lose your place. Similarly, if you read off a script you won’t sound genuine and you won’t be able to connect with the audience by  making eye contact . In turn, you’ll come across as less trustworthy and knowledgeable. You could simply remember your key points instead, or learn your opening and closing sentences.
  • Remember to use facial expressions when storytelling  – they make you more relatable. By sharing a personal story you’ll more likely be speaking your truth which will help you build a connection with the audience too. Facial expressions help bring your story to life and transport the audience into your situation.
  • Keep your speech as concise as possible . When practicing the delivery, see if you can edit it to have the same meaning but in a more succinct way. This will keep the audience engaged.

The best persuasive speech ideas are those that spark a level of controversy. However, a public speech is not the time to express an opinion that is considered outside the norm. If in doubt, play it safe and stick to topics that divide opinions about 50-50.

Bear in mind who your audience are and plan your persuasive speech outline accordingly, with researched evidence to support your argument. It’s important to consider counter-arguments to show that you are knowledgeable about the topic as a whole and not bias towards your own line of thought.

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How to Write an Outline for a Persuasive Speech, with Examples

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Jim Peterson has over 20 years experience on speech writing. He wrote over 300 free speech topic ideas and how-to guides for any kind of public speaking and speech writing assignments at My Speech Class.

How to Write an Outline for a Persuasive Speech, with Examples intro image

Persuasive speeches are one of the three most used speeches in our daily lives. Persuasive speech is used when presenters decide to convince their presentation or ideas to their listeners. A compelling speech aims to persuade the listener to believe in a particular point of view. One of the most iconic examples is Martin Luther King’s ‘I had a dream’ speech on the 28th of August 1963.

In this article:

What is Persuasive Speech?

Here are some steps to follow:, persuasive speech outline, final thoughts.

Man Touches the Word Persuasion on Screen

Persuasive speech is a written and delivered essay to convince people of the speaker’s viewpoint or ideas. Persuasive speaking is the type of speaking people engage in the most. This type of speech has a broad spectrum, from arguing about politics to talking about what to have for dinner. Persuasive speaking is highly connected to the audience, as in a sense, the speaker has to meet the audience halfway.

Persuasive Speech Preparation

Persuasive speech preparation doesn’t have to be difficult, as long as you select your topic wisely and prepare thoroughly.

1. Select a Topic and Angle

Come up with a controversial topic that will spark a heated debate, regardless of your position. This could be about anything. Choose a topic that you are passionate about. Select a particular angle to focus on to ensure that your topic isn’t too broad. Research the topic thoroughly, focussing on key facts, arguments for and against your angle, and background.

2. Define Your Persuasive Goal

Once you have chosen your topic, it’s time to decide what your goal is to persuade the audience. Are you trying to persuade them in favor of a certain position or issue? Are you hoping that they change their behavior or an opinion due to your speech? Do you want them to decide to purchase something or donate money to a cause? Knowing your goal will help you make wise decisions about approaching writing and presenting your speech.

3. Analyze the Audience

Understanding your audience’s perspective is critical anytime that you are writing a speech. This is even more important when it comes to a persuasive speech because not only are you wanting to get the audience to listen to you, but you are also hoping for them to take a particular action in response to your speech. First, consider who is in the audience. Consider how the audience members are likely to perceive the topic you are speaking on to better relate to them on the subject. Grasp the obstacles audience members face or have regarding the topic so you can build appropriate persuasive arguments to overcome these obstacles.

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4. Build an Effective Persuasive Argument

Once you have a clear goal, you are knowledgeable about the topic and, have insights regarding your audience, you will be ready to build an effective persuasive argument to deliver in the form of a persuasive speech. 

Start by deciding what persuasive techniques are likely to help you persuade your audience. Would an emotional and psychological appeal to your audience help persuade them? Is there a good way to sway the audience with logic and reason? Is it possible that a bandwagon appeal might be effective?

5. Outline Your Speech

Once you know which persuasive strategies are most likely to be effective, your next step is to create a keyword outline to organize your main points and structure your persuasive speech for maximum impact on the audience.

Start strong, letting your audience know what your topic is, why it matters and, what you hope to achieve at the end of your speech. List your main points, thoroughly covering each point, being sure to build the argument for your position and overcome opposing perspectives. Conclude your speech by appealing to your audience to act in a way that will prove that you persuaded them successfully. Motivation is a big part of persuasion.

6. Deliver a Winning Speech

Select appropriate visual aids to share with your audiences, such as graphs, photos, or illustrations. Practice until you can deliver your speech confidently. Maintain eye contact, project your voice and, avoid using filler words or any form of vocal interference. Let your passion for the subject shine through. Your enthusiasm may be what sways the audience. 

Close-Up of Mans Hands Persuading Someone

Topic: What topic are you trying to persuade your audience on?

Specific Purpose:  

Central idea:

  • Attention grabber – This is potentially the most crucial line. If the audience doesn’t like the opening line, they might be less inclined to listen to the rest of your speech.
  • Thesis – This statement is used to inform the audience of the speaker’s mindset and try to get the audience to see the issue their way.
  • Qualifications – Tell the audience why you are qualified to speak about the topic to persuade them.

After the introductory portion of the speech is over, the speaker starts presenting reasons to the audience to provide support for the statement. After each reason, the speaker will list examples to provide a factual argument to sway listeners’ opinions.

  • Example 1 – Support for the reason given above.
  • Example 2 – Support for the reason given above.

The most important part of a persuasive speech is the conclusion, second to the introduction and thesis statement. This is where the speaker must sum up and tie all of their arguments into an organized and solid point.

  • Summary: Briefly remind the listeners why they should agree with your position.
  • Memorable ending/ Audience challenge: End your speech with a powerful closing thought or recommend a course of action.
  • Thank the audience for listening.

Persuasive Speech Outline Examples

Male and Female Whispering into the Ear of Another Female

Topic: Walking frequently can improve both your mental and physical health.

Specific Purpose: To persuade the audience to start walking to improve their health.

Central idea: Regular walking can improve your mental and physical health.

Life has become all about convenience and ease lately. We have dishwashers, so we don’t have to wash dishes by hand with electric scooters, so we don’t have to paddle while riding. I mean, isn’t it ridiculous?

Today’s luxuries have been welcomed by the masses. They have also been accused of turning us into passive, lethargic sloths. As a reformed sloth, I know how easy it can be to slip into the convenience of things and not want to move off the couch. I want to persuade you to start walking.

Americans lead a passive lifestyle at the expense of their own health.

  • This means that we spend approximately 40% of our leisure time in front of the TV.
  • Ironically, it is also reported that Americans don’t like many of the shows that they watch.
  • Today’s studies indicate that people were experiencing higher bouts of depression than in the 18th and 19th centuries, when work and life were considered problematic.
  • The article reports that 12.6% of Americans suffer from anxiety, and 9.5% suffer from severe depression.
  • Present the opposition’s claim and refute an argument.
  • Nutritionist Phyllis Hall stated that we tend to eat foods high in fat, which produces high levels of cholesterol in our blood, which leads to plaque build-up in our arteries.
  • While modifying our diet can help us decrease our risk for heart disease, studies have indicated that people who don’t exercise are at an even greater risk.

In closing, I urge you to start walking more. Walking is a simple, easy activity. Park further away from stores and walk. Walk instead of driving to your nearest convenience store. Take 20 minutes and enjoy a walk around your neighborhood. Hide the TV remote, move off the couch and, walk. Do it for your heart.

Thank you for listening!

Topic: Less screen time can improve your sleep.

Specific Purpose: To persuade the audience to stop using their screens two hours before bed.

Central idea: Ceasing electronics before bed will help you achieve better sleep.

Who doesn’t love to sleep? I don’t think I have ever met anyone who doesn’t like getting a good night’s sleep. Sleep is essential for our bodies to rest and repair themselves.

I love sleeping and, there is no way that I would be able to miss out on a good night’s sleep.

As someone who has had trouble sleeping due to taking my phone into bed with me and laying in bed while entertaining myself on my phone till I fall asleep, I can say that it’s not the healthiest habit, and we should do whatever we can to change it.

  • Our natural blue light source is the sun.
  • Bluelight is designed to keep us awake.
  • Bluelight makes our brain waves more active.
  • We find it harder to sleep when our brain waves are more active.
  • Having a good night’s rest will improve your mood.
  • Being fully rested will increase your productivity.

Using electronics before bed will stimulate your brainwaves and make it more difficult for you to sleep. Bluelight tricks our brains into a false sense of daytime and, in turn, makes it more difficult for us to sleep. So, put down those screens if you love your sleep!

Thank the audience for listening

A persuasive speech is used to convince the audience of the speaker standing on a certain subject. To have a successful persuasive speech, doing the proper planning and executing your speech with confidence will help persuade the audience of your standing on the topic you chose. Persuasive speeches are used every day in the world around us, from planning what’s for dinner to arguing about politics. It is one of the most widely used forms of speech and, with proper planning and execution, you can sway any audience.

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How to Write and Structure a Persuasive Speech

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The purpose of a persuasive speech is to convince your audience to agree with an idea or opinion that you present. First, you'll need to choose a side on a controversial topic, then you will write a speech to explain your position, and convince the audience to agree with you.

You can produce an effective persuasive speech if you structure your argument as a solution to a problem. Your first job as a speaker is to convince your audience that a particular problem is important to them, and then you must convince them that you have the solution to make things better.

Note: You don't have to address a real problem. Any need can work as the problem. For example, you could consider the lack of a pet, the need to wash one's hands, or the need to pick a particular sport to play as the "problem."

As an example, let's imagine that you have chosen "Getting Up Early" as your persuasion topic. Your goal will be to persuade classmates to get themselves out of bed an hour earlier every morning. In this instance, the problem could be summed up as "morning chaos."

A standard speech format has an introduction with a great hook statement, three main points, and a summary. Your persuasive speech will be a tailored version of this format.

Before you write the text of your speech, you should sketch an outline that includes your hook statement and three main points.

Writing the Text

The introduction of your speech must be compelling because your audience will make up their minds within a few minutes whether or not they are interested in your topic.

Before you write the full body you should come up with a greeting. Your greeting can be as simple as "Good morning everyone. My name is Frank."

After your greeting, you will offer a hook to capture attention. A hook sentence for the "morning chaos" speech could be a question:

  • How many times have you been late for school?
  • Does your day begin with shouts and arguments?
  • Have you ever missed the bus?

Or your hook could be a statistic or surprising statement:

  • More than 50 percent of high school students skip breakfast because they just don't have time to eat.
  • Tardy kids drop out of school more often than punctual kids.

Once you have the attention of your audience, follow through to define the topic/problem and introduce your solution. Here's an example of what you might have so far:

Good afternoon, class. Some of you know me, but some of you may not. My name is Frank Godfrey, and I have a question for you. Does your day begin with shouts and arguments? Do you go to school in a bad mood because you've been yelled at, or because you argued with your parent? The chaos you experience in the morning can bring you down and affect your performance at school.

Add the solution:

You can improve your mood and your school performance by adding more time to your morning schedule. You can accomplish this by setting your alarm clock to go off one hour earlier.

Your next task will be to write the body, which will contain the three main points you've come up with to argue your position. Each point will be followed by supporting evidence or anecdotes, and each body paragraph will need to end with a transition statement that leads to the next segment. Here is a sample of three main statements:

  • Bad moods caused by morning chaos will affect your workday performance.
  • If you skip breakfast to buy time, you're making a harmful health decision.
  • (Ending on a cheerful note) You'll enjoy a boost to your self-esteem when you reduce the morning chaos.

After you write three body paragraphs with strong transition statements that make your speech flow, you are ready to work on your summary.

Your summary will re-emphasize your argument and restate your points in slightly different language. This can be a little tricky. You don't want to sound repetitive but will need to repeat what you have said. Find a way to reword the same main points.

Finally, you must make sure to write a clear final sentence or passage to keep yourself from stammering at the end or fading off in an awkward moment. A few examples of graceful exits:

  • We all like to sleep. It's hard to get up some mornings, but rest assured that the reward is well worth the effort.
  • If you follow these guidelines and make the effort to get up a little bit earlier every day, you'll reap rewards in your home life and on your report card.

Tips for Writing Your Speech

  • Don't be confrontational in your argument. You don't need to put down the other side; just convince your audience that your position is correct by using positive assertions.
  • Use simple statistics. Don't overwhelm your audience with confusing numbers.
  • Don't complicate your speech by going outside the standard "three points" format. While it might seem simplistic, it is a tried and true method for presenting to an audience who is listening as opposed to reading.
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8 Effective Introductions and Powerful Conclusions

Learning objectives.

  • Identify the functions of introductions and conclusions.
  • Understand the key parts of an introduction and a conclusion.
  • Explore techniques to create your own effective introductions and conclusions.

introduction for a persuasive speech

Introductions and conclusions can be challenging. One of the most common complaints novice public speakers have is that they simply don’t know how to start or end a speech. It may feel natural to start crafting a speech at the beginning, but it can be difficult to craft an introduction for something which doesn’t yet exist. Many times, creative and effective ideas for how to begin a speech will come to speakers as they go through the process of researching and organizing ideas. Similarly, a conclusion needs to be well considered and leave audience members with a sense of satisfaction.

In this chapter, we will explore why introductions and conclusions are important, and we will identify various ways speakers can create impactful beginnings and endings. There is not a “right” way to start or end a speech, but we can provide some helpful guidelines that will make your introductions and conclusions much easier for you as a speaker and more effective for your audience.

The Importance of an Introduction

introduction for a persuasive speech

The introduction of a speech is incredibly important because it needs to establish the topic and purpose, set up the reason your audience should listen to you and set a precedent for the rest of the speech.  Imagine the first day of a semester long class.  You will have a different perception of the course if the teacher is excited, creative and clear about what is to come then if the teacher recites to you what the class is about and is confused or disorganized about the rest of the semester.  The same thing goes for a speech. The introduction is an important opportunity for the speaker to gain the interest and trust of the audience.

Overall, an effective introduction serves five functions. Let’s examine each of these.

Gain Audience Attention and Interest

The first major purpose of an introduction is to gain your audience’s attention and get them interested in what you have to say. While your audience may know you, this is your speeches’ first impression! One common incorrect assumption beginning speakers make that people will naturally listen because the speaker is speaking. While many audiences may be polite and not talk while you’re speaking, actually getting them to listen and care about what you are saying is a completely different challenge. Think to a time when you’ve tuned out a speaker because you were not interested in what they had to say or how they were saying it.  However, I’m sure you can also think of a time someone engaged you in a topic you wouldn’t have thought was interesting, but because of how they presented it or their energy about the subject, you were fascinated. As the speaker, you have the ability to engage the audience right away.

State the Purpose of Your Speech

The second major function of an introduction is to reveal the purpose of your speech to your audience. Have you ever sat through a speech wondering what the basic point was? Have you ever come away after a speech and had no idea what the speaker was talking about? An introduction is critical for explaining the topic to the audience and justifying why they should care about it. The speaker needs to have an in-depth understanding of the specific focus of their topic and the goals they have for their speech. Robert Cavett, the founder of the National Speaker’s Association, used the analogy of a preacher giving a sermon when he noted, “When it’s foggy in the pulpit, it’s cloudy in the pews.” The specific purpose is the one idea you want your audience to remember when you are finished with your speech. Your specific purpose is the rudder that guides your research, organization, and development of main points. The more clearly focused your purpose is, the easier it will be both for you to develop your speech and your audience to understand your core point. To make sure you are developing a specific purpose, you should be able to complete the sentence: “I want my audience to understand…” Notice that your specific speech purpose is phrased in terms of expected audience responses, not in terms of your own perspective.

Establish Credibility

One of the most researched areas within the field of communication has been Aristotle’s concept of ethos or credibility. First, and foremost, the idea of credibility relates directly to audience perception. You may be the most competent, caring, and trustworthy speaker in the world on a given topic, but if your audience does not perceive you as credible, then your expertise and passion will not matter to them. As public speakers, we need to communicate to our audiences why we are credible speakers on a given topic. James C. McCroskey and Jason J. Teven have conducted extensive research on credibility and have determined that an individual’s credibility is composed of three factors: competence, trustworthiness, and caring/goodwill (McCroskey & Teven, 1999). Competence is the degree to which a speaker is perceived to be knowledgeable or expert in a given subject by an audience member.

The second factor of credibility noted by McCroskey and Teven is trustworthiness or the degree to which an audience member perceives a speaker as honest. Nothing will turn an audience against a speaker faster than if the audience believes the speaker is lying. When the audience does not perceive a speaker as trustworthy, the information coming out of the speaker’s mouth is automatically perceived as deceitful.

Finally, caring/goodwill is the last factor of credibility noted by McCroskey and Teven. Caring/goodwill refers to the degree to which an audience member perceives a speaker as caring about the audience member. As indicated by Wrench, McCroskey, and Richmond, “If a receiver does not believe that a source has the best intentions in mind for the receiver, the receiver will not see the source as credible. Simply put, we are going to listen to people who we think truly care for us and are looking out for our welfare” (Wrench, McCroskey & Richmond, 2008). As a speaker, then, you need to establish that your information is being presented because you care about your audience and are not just trying to manipulate them. We should note that research has indicated that caring/goodwill is the most important factor of credibility. This understanding means that if an audience believes that a speaker truly cares about the audience’s best interests, the audience may overlook some competence and trust issues.

Credibility relates directly to audience perception. You may be the most competent, caring, and trustworthy speaker in the world on a given topic, but if your audience does not perceive you as credible, then your expertise and passion will not matter to them.

Trustworthiness is the degree to which an audience member perceives a speaker as honest.

Caring/goodwill is the degree to which an audience member perceives a speaker as caring about the audience member.

Provide Reasons to Listen

The fourth major function of an introduction is to establish a connection between the speaker and the audience, and one of the most effective means of establishing a connection with your audience is to provide them with reasons why they should listen to your speech. The idea of establishing a connection is an extension of the notion of caring/goodwill. In the chapters on Language and Speech Delivery, we’ll spend a lot more time talking about how you can establish a good relationship with your audience. This relationship starts the moment you step to the front of the room to start speaking.

Instead of assuming the audience will make their own connections to your material, you should explicitly state how your information might be useful to your audience. Tell them directly how they might use your information themselves. It is not enough for you alone to be interested in your topic. You need to build a bridge to the audience by explicitly connecting your topic to their possible needs.

Preview Main Ideas

The last major function of an introduction is to preview the main ideas that your speech will discuss. A preview establishes the direction your speech will take. We sometimes call this process signposting because you’re establishing signs for audience members to look for while you’re speaking. In the most basic speech format, speakers generally have three to five major points they plan on making. During the preview, a speaker outlines what these points will be, which demonstrates to the audience that the speaker is organized.

A study by Baker found that individuals who were unorganized while speaking were perceived as less credible than those individuals who were organized (Baker, 1965). Having a solid preview of the information contained within one’s speech and then following that preview will help a speaker’s credibility. It also helps your audience keep track of where you are if they momentarily daydream or get distracted.

Putting Together a Strong Introduction

introduction for a persuasive speech

Now that we have an understanding of the functions of an introduction, let’s explore the details of putting one together.  As with all aspects of a speech, these may change based on your audience, circumstance, and topic.  But this will give you a basic understanding of the important parts of an intro, what they do, and how they work together.

Attention Getting Device

An attention-getter is the device a speaker uses at the beginning of a speech to capture an audience’s interest and make them interested in the speech’s topic. Typically, there are four things to consider in choosing a specific attention-getting device:

  • Topic and purpose of the speech
  • Appropriateness or relevance to the audience

First, when selecting an attention-getting device is considering your speech topic and purpose. Ideally, your attention-getting device should have a relevant connection to your speech. Imagine if a speaker pulled condoms out of his pocket, yelled “Free sex!” and threw the condoms at the audience.  This act might gain everyone’s attention, but would probably not be a great way to begin a speech about the economy. Thinking about your topic because the interest you want to create needs to be specific to your subject.  More specifically, you want to consider the basic purpose of your speech. When selecting an attention getter, you want to make sure that you select one that corresponds with your basic purpose. If your goal is to entertain an audience, starting a speech with a quotation about how many people are dying in Africa each day from malnutrition may not be the best way to get your audience’s attention. Remember, one of the goals of an introduction is to prepare your audience for your speech . If your attention-getter differs drastically in tone from the rest of your speech the disjointedness may cause your audience to become confused or tune you out completely.

Possible Attention Getters

These will help you start brainstorming ideas for how to begin your speech.  While not a complete list, these are some of the most common forms of attention-getters:

  • Reference to Current Events
  • Historical Reference
  • Startling Fact
  • Rhetorical Question
  • Hypothetical Situation
  • Demonstration
  • Personal Reference
  • Reference to Audience
  • Reference to Occasion

Second, when selecting an attention-getting device, you want to make sure you are being appropriate and relevant to your specific audience. Different audiences will have different backgrounds and knowledge, so you should keep your audience in mind when determining how to get their attention. For example, if you’re giving a speech on family units to a group of individuals over the age of sixty-five, starting your speech with a reference to the television show Gossip Girl may not be the best idea because the television show may not be relevant to that audience.

Finally, the last consideration involves the speech occasion. Different occasions will necessitate different tones or particular styles or manners of speaking. For example, giving a eulogy at a funeral will have a very different feel than a business presentation. This understanding doesn’t mean certain situations are always the same, but rather taking into account the details of your circumstances will help you craft an effective beginning to your speech.  When selecting an attention-getter, you want to make sure that the attention-getter sets the tone for the speech and situation.

Tones are particular styles or manners of speaking determined by the speech’s occasion.

Link to Topic

The link to the topic occurs when a speaker demonstrates how an attention-getting device relates to the topic of a speech. This presentation of the relationship works to transition your audience from the attention getter to the larger issue you are discussing.  Often the attention-getter and the link to the topic are very clear. But other times, there may need to be a more obvious connection between how you began your attention-getting device and the specific subject you are discussing.  You may have an amazing attention-getter, but if you can’t connect it to the main topic and purpose of your speech, it will not be as effective.

Significance

Once you have linked an attention-getter to the topic of your speech, you need to explain to your audience why your topic is important and why they should care about what you have to say. Sometimes you can include the significance of your topic in the same sentence as your link to the topic, but other times you may need to spell out in one or two sentences why your specific topic is important to this audience.

Thesis Statement

A thesis statement is a short, declarative sentence that states the purpose, intent, or main idea of a speech. A strong, clear thesis statement is very valuable within an introduction because it lays out the basic goal of the entire speech. We strongly believe that it is worthwhile to invest some time in framing and writing a good thesis statement. You may even want to write a version of your thesis statement before you even begin conducting research for your speech in order to guide you. While you may end up rewriting your thesis statement later, having a clear idea of your purpose, intent, or main idea before you start searching for research will help you focus on the most appropriate material.

Preview of Speech

The final part of an introduction contains a preview of the major points to be covered by your speech. I’m sure we’ve all seen signs that have three cities listed on them with the mileage to reach each city. This mileage sign is an indication of what is to come. A preview works the same way. A preview foreshadows what the main body points will be in the speech. For example, to preview a speech on bullying in the workplace, one could say, “To understand the nature of bullying in the modern workplace, I will first define what workplace bullying is and the types of bullying, I will then discuss the common characteristics of both workplace bullies and their targets, and lastly, I will explore some possible solutions to workplace bullying.” In this case, each of the phrases mentioned in the preview would be a single distinct point made in the speech itself. In other words, the first major body point in this speech would examine what workplace bullying is and the types of bullying; the second major body point in this speech would discuss the characteristics of both workplace bullies and their targets; and lastly, the third body point in this speech would explore some possible solutions to workplace bullying.

Putting it all together

The importance of introductions often leads speakers to work on them first, attending to every detail. While it is good to have some ideas and notes about the intro, specifically the thesis statement, it is often best to wait until the majority of the speech is crafted before really digging into the crafting of the introduction.  This timeline may not seem intuitive, but remember, the intro is meant to introduce your speech and set up what is to come.  It is difficult to introduce something that you haven’t made yet.  This is why working on your main points first can help lead to an even stronger introduction.

Why Conclusions Matter

A puzzle with one missing piece

Willi Heidelbach – Puzzle2 – CC BY 2.0.

As public speaking professors and authors, we have seen many students give otherwise good speeches that seem to fall apart at the end. We’ve seen students end their three main points by saying things such as “OK, I’m done”; “Thank God that’s over!”; or “Thanks. Now what? Do I just sit down?” It’s understandable to feel relief at the end of a speech, but remember that as a speaker, your conclusion is the last chance you have to drive home your ideas. When a speaker opts to end the speech with an ineffective conclusion, or no conclusion at all, the speech loses the energy that’s been created, and the audience is left confused and disappointed. Instead of falling prey to emotional exhaustion, remind yourself to keep your energy up as you approach the end of your speech, and plan ahead so that your conclusion will be an effective one.

Of course, a good conclusion will not rescue a poorly prepared speech. Thinking again of the chapters in a novel, if one bypasses all the content in the middle, the ending often isn’t very meaningful or helpful. So to take advantage of the advice in this chapter, you need to keep in mind the importance of developing a speech with an effective introduction and an effective body. If you have these elements, you will have the foundation you need to be able to conclude effectively. Just as a good introduction helps bring an audience member into the world of your speech, and a good speech body holds the audience in that world, a good conclusion helps bring that audience member back to the reality outside of your speech.

In this section, we’re going to examine the functions fulfilled by the conclusion of a speech. A strong conclusion serves to signal the end of the speech and helps your listeners remember your speech.

Signals the End

The first thing a good conclusion can do is to signal the end of a speech. You may be thinking that showing an audience that you’re about to stop speaking is a “no brainer,” but many speakers don’t prepare their audience for the end. When a speaker just suddenly stops speaking, the audience is left confused and disappointed. Instead, we want to make sure that audiences are left knowledgeable and satisfied with our speeches. In the next section, we’ll explain in great detail about how to ensure that you signal the end of your speech in a manner that is both effective and powerful.

Aids Audience’s Memory of Your Speech

The second reason for a good conclusion stems out of some research reported by the German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus back in 1885 in his book Memory: A Contribution to Experimental Psychology (Ebbinghaus, 1885). Ebbinghaus proposed that humans remember information in a linear fashion, which he called the serial position effect. He found an individual’s ability to remember information in a list (e.g. a grocery list, a chores list, or a to-do list) depends on the location of an item on the list. Specifically, he found that items toward the top of the list and items toward the bottom of the list tended to have the highest recall rates. The serial position effect finds that information at the beginning of a list (primacy) and information at the end of the list (recency) are easier to recall than information in the middle of the list.

So what does this have to do with conclusions? A lot! Ray Ehrensberger wanted to test Ebbinghaus’ serial position effect in public speaking. Ehrensberger created an experiment that rearranged the ordering of a speech to determine the recall of information (Ehrensberger, 1945). Ehrensberger’s study reaffirmed the importance of primacy and recency when listening to speeches. In fact, Ehrensberger found that the information delivered during the conclusion (recency) had the highest level of recall overall.

Steps of a Conclusion

Old concrete steps

Matthew Culnane – Steps – CC BY-SA 2.0.

In the previous sections, we discussed the importance a conclusion has on a speech. In this section, we’re going to examine the three steps to building an effective conclusion.

Restatement of the Thesis

Restating a thesis statement is the first step to a powerful conclusion. As we explained earlier, a thesis statement is a short, declarative sentence that states the purpose, intent, or main idea of a speech. When we restate the thesis statement at the conclusion of our speech, we’re attempting to reemphasize what the overarching main idea of the speech has been. Suppose your thesis statement was, “I will analyze Barack Obama’s use of lyricism in his July 2008 speech, ‘A World That Stands as One.’” You could restate the thesis in this fashion at the conclusion of your speech: “In the past few minutes, I have analyzed Barack Obama’s use of lyricism in his July 2008 speech, ‘A World That Stands as One.’” Notice the shift in tense. The statement has gone from the future tense (this is what I will speak about) to the past tense (this is what I have spoken about). Restating the thesis in your conclusion reminds the audience of the main purpose or goal of your speech, helping them remember it better.

Review of Main Points

After restating the speech’s thesis, the second step in a powerful conclusion is to review the main points from your speech. One of the biggest differences between written and oral communication is the necessity of repetition in oral communication. When we preview our main points in the introduction, effectively discuss and make transitions to our main points during the body of the speech, and review the main points in the conclusion, we increase the likelihood that the audience will retain our main points after the speech is over.

In the introduction of a speech, we deliver a preview of our main body points, and in the conclusion, we deliver a review . Let’s look at a sample preview:

In order to understand the field of gender and communication, I will first differentiate between the terms biological sex and gender. I will then explain the history of gender research in communication. Lastly, I will examine a series of important findings related to gender and communication.

In this preview, we have three clear main points. Let’s see how we can review them at the conclusion of our speech:

Today, we have differentiated between the terms biological sex and gender, examined the history of gender research in communication, and analyzed a series of research findings on the topic.
In the past few minutes, I have explained the difference between the terms “biological sex” and “gender,” discussed the rise of gender research in the field of communication, and examined a series of groundbreaking studies in the field.

Notice that both of these conclusions review the main points initially set forth. Both variations are equally effective reviews of the main points, but you might like the linguistic turn of one over the other. Remember, while there is a lot of science to help us understand public speaking, there’s also a lot of art as well. You are always encouraged to choose the wording that you think will be most effective for your audience.

Concluding Device

The final part of a powerful conclusion is the concluding device. A concluding device is a final thought you want your audience members to have when you stop speaking. It also provides a definitive sense of closure to your speech. One of the authors of this text often makes an analogy between a gymnastics dismount and the concluding device in a speech. Just as a gymnast dismounting the parallel bars or balance beam wants to stick the landing and avoid taking two or three steps, a speaker wants to “stick” the ending of the presentation by ending with a concluding device instead of with, “Well, umm, I guess I’m done.” Miller observed that speakers tend to use one of ten concluding devices when ending a speech (Miller, 1946). The rest of this section is going to examine these ten concluding devices and one additional device that we have added.

Conclude with a Challenge

The first way that Miller found that some speakers end their speeches is with a challenge. A challenge is a call to engage in some activity that requires a special effort. In a speech on the necessity of fund-raising, a speaker could conclude by challenging the audience to raise 10 percent more than their original projections. In a speech on eating more vegetables, you could challenge your audience to increase their current intake of vegetables by two portions daily. In both of these challenges, audience members are being asked to go out of their way to do something different that involves effort on their part.

Conclude with a Quotation

A second way you can conclude a speech is by reciting a quotation relevant to the speech topic. When using a quotation, you need to think about whether your goal is to end on a persuasive note or an informative note. Some quotations will have a clear call to action, while other quotations summarize or provoke thought. For example, let’s say you are delivering an informative speech about dissident writers in the former Soviet Union. You could end by citing this quotation from Alexander Solzhenitsyn: “A great writer is, so to speak, a second government in his country. And for that reason, no regime has ever loved great writers” (Solzhenitsyn, 1964). Notice that this quotation underscores the idea of writers as dissidents, but it doesn’t ask listeners to put forth the effort to engage in any specific thought process or behavior. If, on the other hand, you were delivering a persuasive speech urging your audience to participate in a very risky political demonstration, you might use this quotation from Martin Luther King Jr.: “If a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live” (King, 1963). In this case, the quotation leaves the audience with the message that great risks are worth taking, that they make our lives worthwhile, and that the right thing to do is to go ahead and take that great risk.

Conclude with a Summary

When a speaker ends with a summary, they are simply elongating the review of the main points. While this may not be the most exciting concluding device, it can be useful for information that was highly technical or complex or for speeches lasting longer than thirty minutes. Typically, for short speeches (like those in your class), this summary device should be avoided.

Conclude by Visualizing the Future

The purpose of a conclusion that refers to the future is to help your audience imagine the future you believe can occur. If you are giving a speech on the development of video games for learning, you could conclude by depicting the classroom of the future where video games are perceived as true learning tools and how those tools could be utilized. More often, speakers use visualization of the future to depict how society would be, or how individual listeners’ lives would be different if the speaker’s persuasive attempt worked. For example, if a speaker proposes that a solution to illiteracy is hiring more reading specialists in public schools, the speaker could ask her or his audience to imagine a world without illiteracy. In this use of visualization, the goal is to persuade people to adopt the speaker’s point of view. By showing that the speaker’s vision of the future is a positive one, the conclusion should help to persuade the audience to help create this future.

Conclude with an Appeal for Action

Probably the most common persuasive concluding device is the appeal for action or the call to action. In essence, the appeal for action occurs when a speaker asks their audience to engage in a specific behavior or change in thinking. When a speaker concludes by asking the audience “to do” or “to think” in a specific manner, the speaker wants to see an actual change. Whether the speaker appeals for people to eat more fruit, buy a car, vote for a candidate, oppose the death penalty, or sing more in the shower, the speaker is asking the audience to engage in action.

One specific type of appeal for action is the immediate call to action. Whereas some appeals ask for people to engage in behavior in the future, an immediate call to action asks people to engage in behavior right now. If a speaker wants to see a new traffic light placed at a dangerous intersection, he or she may conclude by asking all the audience members to sign a digital petition right then and there, using a computer the speaker has made available ( http://www.petitiononline.com ). Here are some more examples of immediate calls to action:

  • In a speech on eating more vegetables, pass out raw veggies and dip at the conclusion of the speech.
  • In a speech on petitioning a lawmaker for a new law, provide audience members with a prewritten e-mail they can send to the lawmaker.
  • In a speech on the importance of using hand sanitizer, hand out little bottles of hand sanitizer and show audience members how to correctly apply the sanitizer.
  • In a speech asking for donations for a charity, send a box around the room asking for donations.

These are just a handful of different examples we’ve seen students use in our classrooms to elicit an immediate change in behavior. These immediate calls to action may not lead to long-term change, but they can be very effective at increasing the likelihood that an audience will change behavior in the short term.

Conclude by Inspiration

By definition, the word inspire means to affect or connect with someone emotionally. Both affect and arouse have strong emotional connotations. The ultimate goal of an inspiration concluding device is similar to an “appeal for action,” but the ultimate goal is more lofty or ambiguous. The goal is to stir someone’s emotions in a specific manner. Maybe a speaker is giving an informative speech about the prevalence of domestic violence in our society today. That speaker could end the speech by reading Paulette Kelly’s powerful poem “I Got Flowers Today.” “I Got Flowers Today” is a poem that evokes strong emotions because it’s about an abuse victim who received flowers from her abuser every time she was victimized. The poem ends by saying, “I got flowers today… Today was a special day. It was the day of my funeral. Last night he killed me” (Kelly, 1994).

Conclude with Advice

The next concluding device is one that should be used primarily by speakers who are recognized as expert authorities on a given subject. Advice is a speaker’s opinion about what should or should not be done. The problem with opinions is that everyone has one, and one person’s opinion is not necessarily any more correct than another’s. There needs to be a really good reason for your opinion. Your advice should matter to your audience. If, for example, you are an expert in nuclear physics, you might conclude a speech on energy by giving advice about the benefits of nuclear energy.

Conclude by Proposing a Solution

Another way a speaker can conclude a speech powerfully is to offer a solution to the problem discussed within a speech. For example, perhaps a speaker has been discussing the problems associated with the disappearance of art education in the United States. The speaker could then propose a solution for creating more community-based art experiences for school children as a way to fill this gap. Although this can be a compelling conclusion, a speaker must ask themselves whether the solution should be discussed in more depth as a stand-alone main point within the body of the speech so that audience concerns about the proposed solution may be addressed.

Conclude with a Question

Another way you can end a speech is to ask a rhetorical question that forces the audience to ponder an idea. Maybe you are giving a speech on the importance of the environment, so you end the speech by saying, “Think about your children’s future. What kind of world do you want them raised in? A world that is clean, vibrant, and beautiful—or one that is filled with smog, pollution, filth, and disease?” Notice that you aren’t asking the audience to verbally or nonverbally answer the question. The goal of this question is to force the audience into thinking about what kind of world they want for their children.

Conclude with a Reference to Audience

The last concluding device discussed by Miller (1946) was a reference to one’s audience. This concluding device is when a speaker attempts to answer the audience question, “What’s in it for me?” The goal of this concluding device is to spell out the direct benefits a behavior or thought change has for audience members. For example, a speaker talking about stress reduction techniques could conclude by listing all the physical health benefits stress reduction offers (e.g. improved reflexes, improved immune system, improved hearing, reduction in blood pressure). In this case, the speaker is spelling out why audience members should care. They’re telling the audience what’s in it for them!

Connect to your Introduction

Finally, one tactic a speaker often uses is to link the introduction of the speech to the conclusion.  For example, if you began your speech with a quotation, your conclusion may refer back to that person’s words in respect to what your audience has learned throughout your speech.  While not always necessary, linking back to your introduction can provide a feeling of coming full circle for your audience.  The repetitive nature can also help aid in remembering your speech and topic.  However, you don’t want to just repeat. Instead, you want to utilize similar aspects of your attention getter to illustrate growth or movement from the beginning of your speech to the end.

A concluding device is a final thought you want your audience members to have when you stop speaking.

A challenge is a call to engage in some activity that requires special effort.

An  appeal for action occurs when a speaker asks their audience to engage in a specific behavior or change in thinking.

An immediate call to action asks people to engage in behavior right now.

Inspire means to affect or connect with someone emotionally.

Advice is a speaker’s opinion about what should or should not be done.

Informative versus Persuasive Conclusions

As you read through the ten possible ways to conclude a speech, hopefully, you noticed that some of the methods are more appropriate for persuasive speeches and others are more appropriate for informative speeches. To help you choose appropriate conclusions for informative, persuasive, or entertaining speeches, we’ve created a table to help you quickly identify suitable concluding devices.

Your Speech Purpose and Concluding Devices

Ebbinghaus, H. (1885). Memory: A contribution to experimental psychology [Online version]. Retrieved from http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Ebbinghaus/index.htm .

Ehrensberger, R. (1945). An experimental study of the relative effectiveness of certain forms of emphasis in public speaking. Speech Monographs, 12 , 94–111. doi: 10.1080/03637754509390108.

Kelly, P. (1994). I got flowers today. In C. J. Palmer & J. Palmer, Fire from within . Painted Post, NY: Creative Arts & Science Enterprises.

King, M. L. (1963, June 23). Speech in Detroit. Cited in Bartlett, J., & Kaplan, J. (Eds.), Bartlett’s familiar quotations (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Little, Brown & Co., p. 760.

Miller, E. (1946). Speech introductions and conclusions. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 32 , 181–183.

Solzhenitsyn, A. (1964). The first circle. New York: Harper & Row. Cited in Bartlett, J., & Kaplan, J. (Eds.), Bartlett’s familiar quotations (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Little, Brown & Co., p. 746.

Stand up, Speak out Copyright © 2017 by Josh Miller; Marnie Lawler-Mcdonough; Megan Orcholski; Kristin Woodward; Lisa Roth; and Emily Mueller is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Module 10: Persuasive Speaking

Structure of a persuasive speech, learning objectives.

Identify characteristic structures of a persuasive speech.

In many ways, a persuasive speech is structured like an informative speech. It has an introduction with an attention-getter and a clear thesis statement. It also has a body where the speaker presents their main points and it ends with a conclusion that sums up the main point of the speech.

The biggest difference is that the primary purpose of an informative speech is to explain whereas the primary purpose of a persuasive speech is to advocate the audience adopt a point of view or take a course of action. A persuasive speech, in other words, is an argument  supported by well-thought-out reasons and relevant, appropriate, and credible supporting evidence.

We can classify persuasive speeches into three broad categories:

  • The widely used pesticide Atrazine is extremely harmful to amphibians.
  • All house-cats should  be kept indoors to protect the songbird population.
  • Offshore tax havens, while legal, are immoral and unpatriotic .

The organizational pattern we select and the type of supporting material we use should support the overall argument we are making.

The informative speech organizational patterns we covered earlier can work for a persuasive speech as well. In addition, the following organization patterns are especially suited to persuasive speeches (these are covered in more detail in Module 6: Organizing and Outlining Your Speech):

  • Causal : Also known as cause-effect, the causal pattern describes some cause and then identifies what effects resulted from the cause. This can be a useful pattern to use when you are speaking about the positive or negative consequences of taking a particular action.
  • Problem-solution : With this organizational pattern, you provide two main points. The first main point focuses on a problem that exists and the second details your proposed solution to the problem. This is an especially good organization pattern for speeches arguing for policy changes.
  • Problem-cause-solution: This is a variation of the problem-solution organizational pattern. A three-step organizational pattern where the speaker starts by explaining the problem, then explains the causes of the problem, and lastly proposes a solution to the problem.
  • Comparative advantage : A speaker compares two or more things or ideas and explains why one of the things or ideas has more advantages or is better than the other.
  • Monroe’s motivated sequence : An organizational pattern that is a more elaborate variation of the problem-cause-solution pattern.  We’ll go into more depth on Monroe’s motivated sequence on the next page.
  • Structure of a Persuasive Speech. Authored by : Mike Randolph with Lumen Learning. License : CC BY: Attribution

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How to Write a Persuasive Speech

Last Updated: December 10, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Patrick Muñoz . Patrick is an internationally recognized Voice & Speech Coach, focusing on public speaking, vocal power, accent and dialects, accent reduction, voiceover, acting and speech therapy. He has worked with clients such as Penelope Cruz, Eva Longoria, and Roselyn Sanchez. He was voted LA's Favorite Voice and Dialect Coach by BACKSTAGE, is the voice and speech coach for Disney and Turner Classic Movies, and is a member of Voice and Speech Trainers Association. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 1,523,296 times.

A persuasive speech is a speech intended to convince the audience to do something. Whether you want to get people to vote, stop littering, or change their minds about an important issue, persuasive speeches are an effective way to sway an audience. There are many elements that go into a successful persuasive speech. But, with some preparation and practice, you can deliver a powerful speech.

Preparing to Write

Step 1 Learn about your topic.

  • Especially if your topic is a controversial one, it's a good idea to know the arguments on all sides of the issue. [1] X Research source Whatever argument you are making, you'll be more persuasive if you can address the views of the opposing side.
  • Spend some time reading books or articles about your topic. You can go to the library and ask a librarian for help finding books, or just go online and find some articles. Make sure to use reliable sources, like major news organizations, or academic books or articles.
  • Opinion-oriented sources, like editorials, talk radio, or partisan cable news, can be valuable for finding out what other people think about your topic. But, don't rely on them as your only source of information. They can be very biased. If you use them at all, make sure to read a variety of viewpoints on the matter, not just one side.

Step 2 Know your goal.

  • For example, if your topic is recycling, it's important to know a lot about recycling. But, your speech will need to reflect exactly what you hope the audience will do. Are you trying to get people to vote in favor of a citywide recycling program? Or are you trying to convince them to sort out their glass and cans and put them in a separate bin? These will be different speeches, so having the goal spelled out early will help you craft your message.

Step 3 Understand your audience.

  • An audience that knows little about your topic will need more background information and simpler language. An audience made up of experts on the topic would likely find such a simple speech boring.
  • Likewise, an audience that already supports your view on a topic will be easier to persuade to take some action. You won't need to convince them you are right, but only that they need to do something. By contrast, an audience that does not agree with you will need persuasion to even consider your point of view.
  • For example, imagine you want to convince your audience to support a city-wide recycling program. If they already think recycling is important, you only need to convince them of the value of this specific program. But, if they don't care about recycling or oppose it, you will need to first convince them that recycling is worthwhile.

Step 4 Choose the right persuasive approach.

  • Ethos. These are appeals to the audience's ethics or morals. For example: "Recycling is the right thing to do. Wasting our limited resources steals from future generations, which is immoral."
  • Pathos. These are appeals to the audience's emotions. For example: "Think of the animals that lose their homes every day because of trees being chopped down. If we recycled more, we could save these beautiful forests."
  • Logos. These are appeals to the audiences logic or intellect. For example: "We know that there is a limited supply of natural resources. We can make this supply last longer by recycling."
  • You can rely on any one or some combination.

Step 5 Outline your main points.

  • The number of points you can make to support your position will be determined by how much time you have to speak.
  • As a rule of thumb, three to four supporting points is usually a good number. [2] X Research source
  • For example, in the speech about recycling, your three main points might be: 1. Recycling saves resources, 2. Recycling reduces the amount of garbage, and 3. Recycling is cost-effective.

Writing your Speech

Step 1 Write a strong opening.

  • An attention grabber. This could be a statement (or sometimes a visual) that gets your audience's attention. It can be a good idea to be a little startling or dramatic at the opening of your speech. For example, you might start with information (or pictures) showing how a nearby landfill is nearly full to capacity.
  • A link to the audience. This is a means of showing that you have something in common with the audience. Show that you have a similar background or share an emotional connection of some kind. This will really depend on knowing your audience. For example, if you are a parent, speaking to other parents, you might emphasize the concern for your own children's future. If you share a common interest or ideological position with your audience, you can emphasize that.
  • Your credentials. This is a means of showing that you are knowledgeable or an authority on the topic of the speech. Highlight the research you've done on your topic. If you have any personal or professional experience with the topic, be sure to emphasize that, too. In the recycling example, you might say "I've invested many hours studying the recycling issue and the types of programs available in other cities."
  • Your goal. Explain to the audience what you hope the speech will accomplish. For example: "I hope by the end of my talk that you will agree that we need a city wide recycling program."
  • A road map. Finally, tell the audience what the main points of the speech will be. For example, "I believe we must start a recycling program for these three reasons...."

Step 2 Offer persuasive evidence.

  • Arrange these points logically. Don't jump from one point to the next, and then back again. Instead, complete an argument, then move on to another that flows logically from it. [4] X Research source
  • Use credible sources from your research to back the points you are making. Even if your point is more emotional (pathos), introducing some factual information will make your argument stronger. For example "Each year, 40,000 acres of beautiful forests are destroyed to make paper, according to a study from the American Recycling Institute."
  • Use real life examples that the audience can relate to. Even an argument based on facts and logic (logos) should relate to the audience's lives and interests. For example: "In these hard economic times, I know many of you are afraid that a recycling program will mean a costly increase in taxes. But, the city of Springfield started a program like this one three years ago. So far they've seen an increase in revenue as a result of the program. Many residents have seen a decrease in their taxes as a result."

Step 3 Address the counter-argument.

  • Make sure that you describe opposing views fairly and objectively. Consider whether someone who actually holds that view would approve of the way you are describing their position. If you aren't sure, find someone who thinks that way and ask!
  • For example, you would not want to say: "opponents of recycling just don't care if we waste our precious resources, or our money." That's not a fair description of their opinion.
  • Instead, you might say: "opponents of recycling are concerned that the cost might be much higher than just using new materials," and then go on to offer an argument about why recycling might be the more cost-effective option.

Step 4 Conclude with a call to action.

  • Don't just restate, verbatim, what you've already said. Instead, use this as an opportunity to reinforce the way your main points support your call to action. For example: "To sum up, I've shown you (points a, b, and c). These three undeniable facts point to a city-wide recycling program as the most sensible and ethical step we can take in helping create a more sustainable future. Please, join me in voting 'yes' on this program in November."

Delivering your Speech

Step 1 Practice your speech.

  • Try practicing in front of a mirror, so that you can see how you are delivering the speech. This can help you notice your facial expressions and body language. These can help or hinder your ability to get your message across.
  • For example, you might notice you are slouching, or that that you fidget with your collar. These actions suggest to an audience that you aren't confident.
  • Better still, record yourself with a video camera and watch the tape afterwards. This can help you see (and hear) where your delivery needs improvement. [5] X Research source It has the benefit of providing audio, and also won't distract you as much as a mirror when you're speaking.
  • Once you've practiced on your own a few times, try giving the speech to a small group of friends or family members. Ask for their feedback on your message and delivery.

Step 2 Dress appropriately.

  • Generally speaking, this will mean dressing professionally. But, the degree of formality will vary. A speech to a film club to convince them to show your film won't require the same degree of formality as speaking to the executives of a movie distribution company. For the executives, you would want to wear a suit. For the film club, that might be overdoing it.

Step 3 Relax.

  • Be friendly and make eye contact with the audience.
  • Move around, where appropriate, but don't fidget or pick at your clothes or hair.
  • Don't read the speech. It's okay to use a few notes to keep yourself on track, but your speech should be mostly memorized.
  • Roll with the punches. If you make a mistake, don't let it derail your whole speech. This might be an opportunity to use a little humor. Then, move on.

Step 4 Involve your audience.

  • For example, if you want them to contact the mayor, demanding a recycling program, don't just ask them to do it. Give them stamped, addressed envelopes to send a letter, or cards with the mayor's phone number and email address. If you do this, many more people are likely to follow through.

Patrick Muñoz

Patrick Muñoz

Speak from your heart and connect with your audience. Look them in the eyes and really talk to them. Make sure you're comfortable delivering your speech and that you use a warm, confident tone.

Sample Template

introduction for a persuasive speech

Community Q&A

Community Answer

  • Look around at the audience, making eye contact, especially during pauses in your speech. If you're feeling nervous about this, pick out a single person in the audience and pretend you are speaking only to them. After a little while, pick someone else, and repeat. [6] X Research source Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Speak forward, projecting your voice toward the audience with confidence. Do not speak down toward the floor. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Try to cite sources for statistics and use credible, non-biased sources. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

introduction for a persuasive speech

  • Avoid being confrontational, when possible. Don't be sarcastic or mocking when discussing viewpoints other than your own. This can be alienating to your audience, even those who may agree with you. Thanks Helpful 55 Not Helpful 17
  • Don't be pompous or arrogant during your speech. Be humble, and be open to questions, suggestions, and feedback. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 1

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Write an Informative Speech

  • ↑ http://grammar.yourdictionary.com/style-and-usage/steps-for-writing-a-persuasive-speech.html
  • ↑ http://www.best-speech-topics.com/writing-a-persuasive-speech.html
  • ↑ https://www.speechanddebate.org/wp-content/uploads/Tips-for-Writing-a-Persuasive-Speech.pdf
  • ↑ https://www.comm.pitt.edu/structuring-speech
  • ↑ https://www.leonardoenglish.com/blog/recording-yourself-in-english
  • ↑ https://www.zenbusiness.com/blog/eyecontact/

About This Article

Patrick Muñoz

To write a persuasive speech, start with a strong opening that will make your reader want to pay attention, including an attention grabber, your credentials, the essay's goal, and a road map for the essay. Next, offer persuasive evidence or reasons why the reader should support your viewpoint. Arrange these points logically, use credible sources, and employ some real life examples. Additionally, address counter-arguments to show that you’re looking at the topic from all sides. Finally, conclude by clearly letting the audience know how to put your ideas into action. To learn how to involve your audience when you deliver your speech, keep reading. Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Intro and Conclusion

Learning objectives.

  • Identify the objectives and components of a speech introduction.
  • Identify the objectives and components of a speech conclusion.

Introduction

  • A speaker should do the following in the introduction of a speech: get the audience’s attention, introduce the topic, establish credibility and relevance, and preview the main points.

» Watch this video at 1.25x playback speed: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/writing-speeches/writing-the-introduction?u=2212217

We all know that first impressions matter. First impressions are quickly formed, sometimes spontaneous, and involve little to no cognitive effort. Your introduction is only a fraction of your speech, but in that first minute or so, your audience decides whether or not they are interested in listening to the rest of the speech. There are four objectives that you should accomplish in your introduction. They include getting your audience’s attention, introducing your topic, establishing credibility and relevance, and previewing your main points.

Step 1 of Introduction: Getting Your Audience’s Attention

There are several strategies you can use to get your audience’s attention. Ensure your attention-getter is appropriate, meaning that it’s unusual enough to get people interested—but not over the top—and relevant to your speech topic. Here are some common ways to grab the audience’s attention in a persuasive speech.

Cite a Startling Fact or Statistic

As you research your topic, take note of any information that defies your expectations or surprises you. If you have a strong reaction to something you learn, your audience may, too. When using a startling fact or statistic as an attention getter, it’s important to get the most bang for your buck. You can do this by sharing more than one fact or statistic that builds up the audience’s interest. When using numbers, it’s also good to repeat and/or repackage the statistics so they stick in the audience’s mind, which you can see in the following example:

“In 1994, sixteen states reported that 15–19 percent of their population was considered obese. Every other state reported obesity rates less than that. In 2010, every single state had at least a 20 percent obesity rate. In just six years, we went from no states with an obesity rate higher than 19 percent, to fifty.”

Use a Quotation

Some quotations are attention getting and some are boring. Some quotations are relevant and moving and some are abstract and stale. If you choose to open your speech with a quotation, choose one that is attention getting, relevant, and moving. The following example illustrates some tips for using a quote to start a speech: “‘The most important question in the world is ‘Why is the child crying?’’ This quote from author Alice Walker is at the heart of my speech today. Too often, people see children suffering at the hands of bullies and do nothing about it until it’s too late. That’s why I believe that all public schools should adopt a zero-tolerance policy on bullying.”

Notice that the quote is delivered first in the speech, then the source of the quote is cited. Since the quote, like a starting fact or statistic just discussed, is the attention-getting part, it’s better to start with that than the citation. Next, the speaker explains why the quote is relevant to the speech. Just because a quote seems relevant to you doesn’t mean the audience will also pick up on that relevance.

Ask a Question

A rhetorical question is different from a direct question. When a speaker asks a direct question, they actually want a response from their audience. A rhetorical question is designed to elicit a mental response from the audience, not a verbal or nonverbal one. In short, a rhetorical question makes an audience think. Asking a direct question of your audience is warranted only if the speaker plans on doing something with the information they get from the audience. For example, you might ask “By a show of hands, how many people have taken public transportation in the past week?” The speaker will then incorporate the responses into the speech by pointing out that public transportation is important.

A safer bet is to ask a rhetorical question that elicits only a mental response. A good rhetorical question can get the audience primed to think about the content of the speech. The following is a series of rhetorical questions used in a speech against the testing of cosmetics on animals: “Was the toxicity of the shampoo you used this morning tested on the eyes of rabbits? Would you let someone put a cosmetic in your dog’s eye to test its toxicity level? Have you ever thought about how many products that you use every day are tested on animals?” Make sure you pause after your rhetorical question to give the audience time to think.

Tell a Story

When you tell a story, whether in the introduction to your speech or not, you should aim to paint word pictures in the minds of your audience members. You might tell a story from your own life or recount a story you found in your research. You may also use a hypothetical story, which has the advantage of allowing you to use your creativity and help place your audience in unusual situations that neither you nor they have actually experienced. When using a hypothetical story, you should let your audience know it’s not real, and you should present a story that the audience can relate to. Speakers often let the audience know a story is not real by starting with the word imagine . As I noted, a hypothetical example can allow you to speak beyond the experience of you and your audience members by having them imagine themselves in unusual circumstances. For example, “Think of someone you really care about. Visualize that person in your mind. Now, imagine that days and weeks go by and you haven’t heard from that person. Weeks turn into months and years, and you have no idea if they are alive or dead.” The speaker could go on to compare that scenario to the experiences of friends and family of prisoners of war. While we may not be able to imagine being held captive for years, we all know what it’s like to experience uncertainty regarding the safety of a loved one.

Step 2 of Introduction: Introducing the Topic

Introducing the topic  of your speech is the most obvious objective of an introduction, but speakers sometimes forget to do this or do not do it clearly. Sometimes a speech topic doesn’t become obvious until the middle of a speech. By that time, however, it’s easy to lose an audience that didn’t get clearly told the topic of the speech in the introduction.  The following example introduces an argument about childhood obesity: “Childhood obesity is a serious problem facing our country and today I’ll persuade you that childhood obesity is a problem that can no longer be ignored.”

Step 3 of Introduction: Establishing Credibility

The way you write and deliver your introduction makes an important first impression on your audience. But you can also take a moment in your introduction to explicitly set up your credibility in relation to your speech topic. If you have training, expertise, or credentials (e.g., a degree, certificate, etc.) relevant to your topic, you can share that with your audience. It may also be appropriate to mention firsthand experience, previous classes you have taken, or even a personal interest related to your topic.

Step 4 of Introduction: Thesis and Preview of Main Points

Begin by stating your thesis clearly and directly. The preview of main points is usually the last sentence of your introduction and serves as a map of what’s to come in the speech.  Your preview should be one sentence, should include wording that is parallel to the key wording of your main points in the body of your speech, and should preview your main points in the same order you discuss them in your speech. The following example previews the main points for a speech on childhood obesity: “Today I’ll convey the seriousness of the obesity epidemic among children by reviewing common health problems associated with the disease, pinpoint the key cause of obesity, and outline steps we can take to combat this issue.”

Conclusions

How you conclude a speech leaves an impression on your audience. There are three important objectives to accomplish in the conclusion of a persuasive speech. They include restating your thesis, a call-to-action, and closing with a “clincher.”

» Watch this video at 1.25x playback speed: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/writing-speeches/finishing-with-a-strong-ending?u=2212217

Restatement of the Thesis

Restating a thesis statement is the first step in a powerful conclusion. When we restate the thesis statement at the conclusion of our speech, we’re attempting to reemphasize what the overarching main idea of the speech has been. Suppose your thesis statement was, “Childhood obesity is a serious problem and we must regulate the fast food industry to protect our children.’” You could restate the thesis in this fashion at the conclusion of your speech: “In the past few minutes, I have shown that the fast food industry must be regulated in order to protect our children from rising obesity rates.”  Restating the thesis in your conclusion reminds the audience of the major purpose or goal of your speech, helping them remember it better.

Call-to-Action

Probably the most common persuasive concluding device is the appeal for action or the call-to-action. In essence, the appeal for action occurs when a speaker asks the audience to engage in a specific behavior. Whether the speaker appeals for people to eat more fruit, buy a car, vote for a candidate, oppose the death penalty, or sing more in the shower, the speaker is asking the audience to engage in action.

One specific type of appeal for action is the immediate call to action . Whereas some appeals ask for people to engage in behavior in the future, the immediate call to action asks people to engage in behavior right now. If a speaker wants to see a new traffic light placed at a dangerous intersection, he or she may conclude by asking all the audience members to sign a digital petition right then and there. Here are some more examples of immediate calls to action:

  • In a speech on petitioning a lawmaker for a new law, provide audience members with a pre-written e-mail they can send to the lawmaker.
  • In a speech asking for donations for a charity, send a box around the room asking for donations.

These immediate calls to action may not lead to long-term change, but they can be very effective at increasing the likelihood that an audience will change their behavior.

Closing Your Speech with a “Clincher”

Like the attention-getter, your closing statement is an opportunity for you to exercise your creativity as a speaker. Many students have difficulty wrapping up the speech with a sense of closure and completeness. In terms of closure, a well-written and well-delivered closing line signals to your audience that your speech is over, which cues their applause. The closing line should relate to the overall speech and should provide some “take-away” message that may leave an audience thinking or propel them to action. A sample closing line could be “For your health, for our children’s health, and for our country’s health, we must take steps to address childhood obesity today.” You can also bring your audience full-circle by referring back to the introduction in the closing of your speech. For example, you may finish an illustration or answer a rhetorical question you started in the introduction.

Key Takeaways

  • A speaker should do the following in the conclusion of a persuasive speech: restate the thesis, add an urgent call-to-action, and provide closure.
  • Draft the opening and closing lines of your speech. Remember to tap into your creativity to try to engage the audience. Is there any way you can tie the introduction and conclusion together to create a “ribbon and bow” for your speech?

Lass-Hennemann, J., Linn K. Kuehl, André Schulz, Melly S. Oitzl, and Hartmut Schachinger, “Stress Strengthens Memory of First Impressions of Others’ Positive Perosnality Traits,” PLoS ONE 6, no. 1 (2011): 1.

Laws, E. L., Jennifer M. Apperson, Stephanie Buchert, and Norman J. Bregman, “Student Evaluations of Instruction: When Are Enduring First Impressions Formed?” North American Journal of Psychology 12, no. 1 (2010): 81.

Monroe, A. H., and Douglas Ehninger, Principles of Speech , 5th brief ed. (Chicago, IL: Scott, Foresman, 1964).

Winans, J. A., Public Speaking (New York: Century, 1917), 411.

Rhetoric and Persuasion Copyright © by cwilliams1 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

Persuasive Speeches — Types, Topics, and Examples

Daniel Bal

What is a persuasive speech?

In a persuasive speech, the speaker aims to convince the audience to accept a particular perspective on a person, place, object, idea, etc. The speaker strives to cause the audience to accept the point of view presented in the speech.

The success of a persuasive speech often relies on the speaker’s use of ethos, pathos, and logos.

Success of a persuasive speech

Ethos is the speaker’s credibility. Audiences are more likely to accept an argument if they find the speaker trustworthy. To establish credibility during a persuasive speech, speakers can do the following:

Use familiar language.

Select examples that connect to the specific audience.

Utilize credible and well-known sources.

Logically structure the speech in an audience-friendly way.

Use appropriate eye contact, volume, pacing, and inflection.

Pathos appeals to the audience’s emotions. Speakers who create an emotional bond with their audience are typically more convincing. Tapping into the audience’s emotions can be accomplished through the following:

Select evidence that can elicit an emotional response.

Use emotionally-charged words. (The city has a problem … vs. The city has a disease …)

Incorporate analogies and metaphors that connect to a specific emotion to draw a parallel between the reference and topic.

Utilize vivid imagery and sensory words, allowing the audience to visualize the information.

Employ an appropriate tone, inflection, and pace to reflect the emotion.

Logos appeals to the audience’s logic by offering supporting evidence. Speakers can improve their logical appeal in the following ways:

Use comprehensive evidence the audience can understand.

Confirm the evidence logically supports the argument’s claims and stems from credible sources.

Ensure that evidence is specific and avoid any vague or questionable information.

Types of persuasive speeches

The three main types of persuasive speeches are factual, value, and policy.

Types of persuasive speeches

A factual persuasive speech focuses solely on factual information to prove the existence or absence of something through substantial proof. This is the only type of persuasive speech that exclusively uses objective information rather than subjective. As such, the argument does not rely on the speaker’s interpretation of the information. Essentially, a factual persuasive speech includes historical controversy, a question of current existence, or a prediction:

Historical controversy concerns whether an event happened or whether an object actually existed.

Questions of current existence involve the knowledge that something is currently happening.

Predictions incorporate the analysis of patterns to convince the audience that an event will happen again.

A value persuasive speech concerns the morality of a certain topic. Speakers incorporate facts within these speeches; however, the speaker’s interpretation of those facts creates the argument. These speeches are highly subjective, so the argument cannot be proven to be absolutely true or false.

A policy persuasive speech centers around the speaker’s support or rejection of a public policy, rule, or law. Much like a value speech, speakers provide evidence supporting their viewpoint; however, they provide subjective conclusions based on the facts they provide.

How to write a persuasive speech

Incorporate the following steps when writing a persuasive speech:

Step 1 – Identify the type of persuasive speech (factual, value, or policy) that will help accomplish the goal of the presentation.

Step 2 – Select a good persuasive speech topic to accomplish the goal and choose a position .

How to write a persuasive speech

Step 3 – Locate credible and reliable sources and identify evidence in support of the topic/position. Revisit Step 2 if there is a lack of relevant resources.

Step 4 – Identify the audience and understand their baseline attitude about the topic.

Step 5 – When constructing an introduction , keep the following questions in mind:

What’s the topic of the speech?

What’s the occasion?

Who’s the audience?

What’s the purpose of the speech?

Step 6 – Utilize the evidence within the previously identified sources to construct the body of the speech. Keeping the audience in mind, determine which pieces of evidence can best help develop the argument. Discuss each point in detail, allowing the audience to understand how the facts support the perspective.

Step 7 – Addressing counterarguments can help speakers build their credibility, as it highlights their breadth of knowledge.

Step 8 – Conclude the speech with an overview of the central purpose and how the main ideas identified in the body support the overall argument.

How to write a persuasive speech

Persuasive speech outline

One of the best ways to prepare a great persuasive speech is by using an outline. When structuring an outline, include an introduction, body, and conclusion:

Introduction

Attention Grabbers

Ask a question that allows the audience to respond in a non-verbal way; ask a rhetorical question that makes the audience think of the topic without requiring a response.

Incorporate a well-known quote that introduces the topic. Using the words of a celebrated individual gives credibility and authority to the information in the speech.

Offer a startling statement or information about the topic, typically done using data or statistics.

Provide a brief anecdote or story that relates to the topic.

Starting a speech with a humorous statement often makes the audience more comfortable with the speaker.

Provide information on how the selected topic may impact the audience .

Include any background information pertinent to the topic that the audience needs to know to understand the speech in its entirety.

Give the thesis statement in connection to the main topic and identify the main ideas that will help accomplish the central purpose.

Identify evidence

Summarize its meaning

Explain how it helps prove the support/main claim

Evidence 3 (Continue as needed)

Support 3 (Continue as needed)

Restate thesis

Review main supports

Concluding statement

Give the audience a call to action to do something specific.

Identify the overall importan ce of the topic and position.

Persuasive speech topics

The following table identifies some common or interesting persuasive speech topics for high school and college students:

Persuasive speech examples

The following list identifies some of history’s most famous persuasive speeches:

John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address: “Ask Not What Your Country Can Do for You”

Lyndon B. Johnson: “We Shall Overcome”

Marc Antony: “Friends, Romans, Countrymen…” in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

Ronald Reagan: “Tear Down this Wall”

Sojourner Truth: “Ain’t I a Woman?”

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The Art of Persuasion: Writing a Compelling Speech

Coach Mike

Discover the art of persuasion and learn how to write a compelling speech that captivates your audience. This blog post provides expert insights and practical tips for crafting an impactful persuasive speech.

Understanding the Power of Persuasion

Understanding the power of persuasion is crucial when it comes to writing a persuasive speech. Persuasion is the art of influencing and convincing others to adopt your point of view or take a specific action. By understanding the principles behind persuasion, you can effectively communicate your ideas and sway your audience.

One key aspect of persuasion is understanding the psychological factors that influence decision-making. People are often motivated by emotions, personal beliefs, and social influences. By tapping into these factors, you can tailor your speech to resonate with your audience and increase the likelihood of them being persuaded by your arguments.

Additionally, understanding the power dynamics at play can also enhance your persuasive abilities. Recognizing the authority or expertise you possess on the topic can lend credibility to your arguments, while acknowledging and addressing counterarguments can help you anticipate and overcome potential objections.

In summary, understanding the power of persuasion involves recognizing the psychological factors and power dynamics that influence decision-making. By leveraging these insights, you can effectively craft a persuasive speech that resonates with your audience and achieves your intended goals.

Analyzing Your Audience

Analyzing your audience is a crucial step in writing a persuasive speech. By understanding who your audience is, their beliefs, values, and attitudes, you can tailor your arguments to appeal to their specific needs and interests.

Start by conducting research or surveys to gather information about your audience. Consider their demographics, such as age, gender, education, and socioeconomic background. This information can provide valuable insights into their preferences and perspectives.

Furthermore, analyze your audience's psychographics, which include their interests, values, and motivations. What are their concerns and aspirations? What do they care about? By understanding their psychographics, you can identify common ground and frame your arguments in a way that resonates with their values.

Remember, effective persuasion requires connecting with your audience on an emotional level. By tailoring your speech to address their specific concerns and interests, you can create a compelling case that is more likely to persuade them.

In conclusion, analyzing your audience is essential for writing a persuasive speech. By understanding their demographics and psychographics, you can tailor your arguments to resonate with their needs and interests, increasing the chances of persuading them.

Selecting a Relevant and Timely Topic

Selecting a relevant and timely topic is crucial for capturing your audience's attention and maintaining their interest throughout your persuasive speech.

Firstly, consider the current issues and trends that are relevant to your audience. What are the pressing concerns or debates in their lives? By choosing a topic that is timely, you can tap into their existing interests and create a sense of urgency.

Additionally, selecting a topic that is relevant to your audience's lives or experiences can make your speech more relatable and engaging. Consider their needs, challenges, and aspirations. How can your speech address these aspects and provide valuable insights or solutions?

Furthermore, it is important to choose a topic that aligns with your own expertise and interests. By selecting a topic that you are passionate about and knowledgeable in, you can deliver a more authentic and compelling speech.

In summary, selecting a relevant and timely topic involves considering the current issues and trends that are relevant to your audience, as well as their needs and interests. By choosing a topic that aligns with your expertise and resonates with your audience, you can create a persuasive speech that captures their attention and maintains their interest.

Crafting a Strong Thesis Statement

Crafting a strong thesis statement is essential for creating a persuasive speech that effectively communicates your main argument or point of view.

A thesis statement serves as the foundation of your speech, providing a clear and concise statement of your main idea. It should be specific, debatable, and focused on the main argument you want to make.

To craft a strong thesis statement, start by clearly stating your position on the topic. Avoid vague or general statements and strive for clarity and precision. Additionally, ensure that your thesis statement is debatable, meaning that there are valid arguments on both sides of the issue.

Furthermore, consider the structure of your thesis statement. It should be concise and to the point, capturing the essence of your argument in a single sentence or two.

In conclusion, crafting a strong thesis statement involves clearly stating your position on the topic, ensuring that it is debatable, and structuring it in a concise and focused manner. A strong thesis statement sets the tone for your persuasive speech and guides your audience in understanding your main argument.

Using Emotional Appeals

Using emotional appeals is a powerful technique for persuading your audience and eliciting a strong response to your persuasive speech.

Emotions play a significant role in decision-making, and by tapping into your audience's emotions, you can create a deeper connection and increase the likelihood of them being persuaded.

To effectively use emotional appeals, start by identifying the emotions that are relevant to your topic and your audience. Consider the desired emotional response you want to evoke, whether it's empathy, excitement, fear, or hope. By understanding your audience's emotional triggers, you can tailor your speech to generate the desired emotional response.

Additionally, use storytelling and personal anecdotes to make your speech more relatable and emotionally engaging. Humanizing your arguments and connecting them to real-life experiences can create a powerful emotional impact.

However, it is important to use emotional appeals ethically and responsibly. Avoid manipulating or exploiting your audience's emotions, and ensure that your emotional appeals are supported by logical arguments and evidence.

In summary, using emotional appeals involves identifying the relevant emotions for your topic and audience, using storytelling and personal anecdotes to make your speech more relatable, and maintaining ethical standards in your use of emotional appeals. By effectively using emotional appeals, you can create a persuasive speech that resonates with your audience on an emotional level.

Supporting Your Arguments with Evidence

Supporting your arguments with evidence is essential for building credibility and persuasiveness in your speech.

Evidence can take various forms, including statistics, research findings, expert opinions, and real-life examples. By incorporating relevant and reliable evidence, you can strengthen your arguments and make them more convincing.

When selecting evidence, ensure that it is up-to-date, accurate, and relevant to your topic. Use credible sources and cite them appropriately to maintain credibility.

Additionally, consider the counterarguments and potential objections that your audience may have. Anticipate these objections and address them with counter-evidence or logical reasoning. By acknowledging and refuting opposing viewpoints, you can strengthen your overall argument.

Furthermore, use clear and concise language when presenting your evidence. Avoid jargon or complex terminology that may confuse or alienate your audience. Present the evidence in a logical and organized manner, making it easy for your audience to follow and understand.

In conclusion, supporting your arguments with evidence involves incorporating relevant, reliable, and up-to-date evidence to strengthen your persuasive speech. By addressing potential objections and presenting the evidence in a clear and organized manner, you can build credibility and persuade your audience effectively.

Structuring an Engaging Speech

Structuring your speech in an engaging manner is crucial for capturing and maintaining your audience's attention throughout your persuasive speech.

Start by organizing your speech into a clear introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction should grab your audience's attention, provide a brief overview of your topic, and present your thesis statement. The body should be structured logically, with each main point supported by evidence and examples. The conclusion should summarize your main arguments and leave a lasting impression on your audience.

Additionally, consider incorporating storytelling, anecdotes, or rhetorical questions to make your speech more engaging and interactive. These techniques can help create a connection with your audience and enhance their overall experience.

Furthermore, use transitions and signposts to guide your audience through your speech. Clear and concise transitions help your audience follow your thoughts and maintain a sense of flow.

Lastly, consider the use of visual aids, such as slides or props, to enhance your speech and make it more visually appealing. Visual aids can help illustrate your points and make complex ideas more accessible to your audience.

In summary, structuring an engaging speech involves organizing it into a clear introduction, body, and conclusion, incorporating storytelling and rhetorical techniques, using transitions to guide your audience, and considering the use of visual aids. By structuring your speech effectively, you can capture and maintain your audience's attention throughout your persuasive speech.

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introduction for a persuasive speech

Make A Speech Introduction That Grabs Audience Attention

Speech introduction

The speech introduction is the first part of a speech and the first opportunity to grab the audience’s attention. The speaker should state the topic, make it relatable to the audience, establish credibility and preview the main points. You should write or finalize your introduction at the end so that it reflects what you actually said.

Listen up, audience!

No matter whether you are giving an informative speech to enlighten an audience about a certain topic or a persuasive speech aims to convince the crowd to adopt a particular viewpoint. But whichever type of speech you’re writing or delivering, one thing is true:  You must create an attention-grabbing speech introduction.

Table of Contents

What Is The Best Way To Start A Speech?

Whether in speech writing or public speaking, the role of a good intro cannot be understated.  It is your best chance to captivate your audience’s attention and entice them to be with you until the rest of your speech. 

It’s also your opportunity to introduce the topic and thesis statement and set up the points you’ll discuss later.  So, keep in mind that you emphasize the relevance of your subject matter to the audience and contextualize it properly. 

These are some of the best ways to make a compelling introduction speech. 

  • State a quote or use a historical event reference.  Analyze your target audience and look for a powerful quote from a relevant figure or a historical event that will resonate with listeners and relate it to your topic. A notable quotation can immediately establish a strong connection. On the other hand, an important event will help you illustrate your point or paint a scenario better. 
  • Share a personal story.  Sometimes, you don’t have to search far and wide to demonstrate a point. You can tap into your personal experience and share something about yourself. Generally, audience members enjoy hearing stories as they pique their interest and get a glimpse of who the speaker is. Your anecdotes will also make you more human and accessible.
  • Start with an “Imagine” or “What if?” scenario.  Want to make your audience engaged? Let their imagination run. In many speeches over the years, some of the most successful ones used this technique. Speakers transport the audience to the future or a scenario wherein their proposed idea or belief reigns. For example, “What if we live in a world where everyone can access healthcare?”
  • Count on a video or any other visual aids.  If you’re a public speaker keen to use technology, you may also want to commence your speech with visual aids. For instance, you can show a pre-prepared video to draw the crowd’s attention right before you speak. If you’re talking about hunger and food security, you can show footage of how such issues take a toll in many third-world countries.
  • Tell surprising statistics.  One of the most effective ways to shock — and, ultimately, grab your audience’s attention is by telling real, hard facts. If you’re looking for a good attention-getter, you can rely on surprising statistics about your topic. For instance, if your topic is bullying, you can mention that in the US,  around 3 million students are victims of bullying.
  • Ask the audience a question.  Another way to hook your audience is by asking them a question. It can be a direct one (e.g., “Who among here are…” then ask for a show of hands). It can also be a rhetorical question (e.g., “What is the meaning of life?”). The key is interacting with the crowd to get their attention and effectively introducing your subject matter. 

Liven up speech introduction with a quote

What Should You Include In the Introduction?

When you look at intro samples and templates on the web,  you’ll find that effective speech introductions contain key elements. And one of the most important is your attention-grabber, which will compel your audience to listen to your speech and narrative.

You must also introduce your speech topic and indicate why it matters to your audience. You should also share something about yourself, especially your credibility, to discuss a particular subject matter. 

Once you’ve laid out these foundations,  state your central idea or thesis statement.  Tell the audience members the point of view you want them to adopt, and  give them a preview of the main points you’re discussing if you’re giving a persuasive speech.  If you’re writing or delivering an informative one, you can provide them with a brief speech outline or the key points you’ll touch upon throughout the body of the speech.

What Are The Best Lines To Introduce A Speech?

One of the most common public speaking tips you’ll encounter is to have a good introduction. To help you capture the audience’s attention, here are some ideas you can use in your speech.

  • A famous quote (For example, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower” by Steve Jobs)
  • A song lyric (“Imagine there’s no countries/ It isn’t hard to do/ Nothing to kill or die for/ And no religion, too,” from “Imagine by John Lennon)
  • A line from a poem (“You may write me down in history With your bitter, twisted lies, You may trod me in the very dirt But still, like dust, I’ll rise,” from “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou)
  • A line from a movie (“Greed, for a lack of a better word, is good,” from “Wall Street”)
  • Reference to a historical event (“Two hundred years ago, one of the most important proclamations was made. Through the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln, the enslaved Black people were given freedom.”
  • Reference to a notable figure (“Stan Lee, the man behind iconic Marvel characters, was hired as an editorial assistant at a comics company after graduating high school.”).
  • A bold statement (“Prostitution must be legalized.”)
  • A serious statement (“Climate change is a pressing issue.”)
  • A humorous line (“Don’t underestimate me. That’s the job of my mom.”)
  • A shocking statistic (“If you’re consuming too much fast food and baked goods, did you know that you are 51% more likely to be depressed?”)
  • A direct question (“Who among here plays violent video games?”)
  • A rhetorical question (“Is there a more powerful feeling than love?”)
  • A personal story (“Back when I was a fresh college graduate, I busied myself applying to the top multi-national companies.”)
  • An anecdote (“Long ago, there was a man — an old but healthy man — who dared climb Mount Everest. He was 80, and he succeeded.”)
  • A what-if scenario (“What if there were no poor people?”)

How Do You Introduce Yourself In A Speech?

Whether you’re a first-time speaker or a veteran, how you approach introducing yourself in a speech is important in establishing your credibility. To avoid getting called boring, you might want to shy away from the usual “Hi, everyone. I’m (your name). I (your credentials), and today I will be talking about (points of the speech).”

Usually, someone else may have given your name and background. This gives you the liberty to begin your speech more interestingly. 

You can start by stating any of the introduction lines listed above, then transition to why listening to you will matter to them. For example, if you’re talking about mental health and depression, you can follow up a surprising statistic with something like, “I know because I was a part of that statistic. Now, I’ve studied to become a therapist myself.”

To further create an air of authority, you must be mindful of your body language  (taking a deep breath before speaking can help you shake off your nervousness and tension).  Additionally, you must make eye contact and speak words clearly. 

How Do You Introduce A Speaker?

Now, if you’re tasked to introduce the one who will deliver the speech, it’s your responsibility to set the right atmosphere and build excitement. 

One of the first things to do is know how to pronounce the speaker’s name and ensure that what you’ll say about the speaker’s credibility is factual.  Since you’re only introducing the speaker, keep things simple and concise. If you want to enrich your introduction, you can ask the speaker what they want to be highlighted (Do they have a new book? Which prestigious groups are they affiliated with?). 

Like what the speaker would do, you must also make eye contact to engage the audience. Practice and have a run-through before you take the stage to guarantee a smooth delivery. 

Introduce a speaker

What Is An Example Of A Speech Introduction?

Speakers and speech writers know how challenging it is to grab an audience’s attention.  Here’s a good example of an introductory speech that uses statistics. This is from English restaurateur  Jamie Oliver  who delivered a TED Talk about food:

“Sadly, in the next 18 minutes when I do our chat, four Americans that are alive will be dead from the food that they eat. 

My name’s Jamie Oliver. I’m 34 years old. I’m from Essex in England, and for the last seven years, I’ve worked fairly tirelessly to save lives in my own way. I’m not a doctor; I’m a chef, I don’t have expensive equipment or medicine. I use information, education.”

What Is The Introduction For A Speech On Bully

Looking for inspiration for a good introduction where your topic is bullying? Check out this sample intro from actress and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador  Millie Bobby Brown  during World Children’s Day in 2019:

“In world capitals — in buildings like this — adults talk about children’s rights. But today, young people don’t want to be talked about. They want to do the talking.

 Millions of people responded to UNICEF surveys and petitions about what the Convention on the Rights of the Child meant to them. In the words of one young person: ‘Be an active voice. Don’t let things go unnoticed. So today, I want to talk about an issue that is very personal to me. Something that so often goes unnoticed — but causes real suffering. Bullying.”

What Are Some Other Examples Of Speech Introductions?

Below are some more speech introduction examples you can take inspiration from. 

  • “Three things I learned while my plane crashed” by Ric Elias : “Imagine a big explosion as you climb through 3,000 ft. Imagine a plane full of smoke. Imagine an engine going clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack. It sounds scary. Well, I had a unique seat that day. I was sitting in 1D.”
  • “How to find and do work you love” by Scott Dinsmore : “8 years ago, I got the worst career advice of my life.”

“How great leaders inspire action” by Simon Sinek : “How do you explain when things don’t go as we assume? Or better, how do you explain when others are able to achieve things that seem to defy all of the assumptions?”

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11.2 Persuasive Speaking

Learning objectives.

  • Explain how claims, evidence, and warrants function to create an argument.
  • Identify strategies for choosing a persuasive speech topic.
  • Identify strategies for adapting a persuasive speech based on an audience’s orientation to the proposition.
  • Distinguish among propositions of fact, value, and policy.
  • Choose an organizational pattern that is fitting for a persuasive speech topic.

We produce and receive persuasive messages daily, but we don’t often stop to think about how we make the arguments we do or the quality of the arguments that we receive. In this section, we’ll learn the components of an argument, how to choose a good persuasive speech topic, and how to adapt and organize a persuasive message.

Foundation of Persuasion

Persuasive speaking seeks to influence the beliefs, attitudes, values, or behaviors of audience members. In order to persuade, a speaker has to construct arguments that appeal to audience members. Arguments form around three components: claim, evidence, and warrant. The claim is the statement that will be supported by evidence. Your thesis statement is the overarching claim for your speech, but you will make other claims within the speech to support the larger thesis. Evidence , also called grounds, supports the claim. The main points of your persuasive speech and the supporting material you include serve as evidence. For example, a speaker may make the following claim: “There should be a national law against texting while driving.” The speaker could then support the claim by providing the following evidence: “Research from the US Department of Transportation has found that texting while driving creates a crash risk that is twenty-three times worse than driving while not distracted.” The warrant is the underlying justification that connects the claim and the evidence. One warrant for the claim and evidence cited in this example is that the US Department of Transportation is an institution that funds research conducted by credible experts. An additional and more implicit warrant is that people shouldn’t do things they know are unsafe.

Figure 11.2 Components of an Argument

image

The quality of your evidence often impacts the strength of your warrant, and some warrants are stronger than others. A speaker could also provide evidence to support their claim advocating for a national ban on texting and driving by saying, “I have personally seen people almost wreck while trying to text.” While this type of evidence can also be persuasive, it provides a different type and strength of warrant since it is based on personal experience. In general, the anecdotal evidence from personal experience would be given a weaker warrant than the evidence from the national research report. The same process works in our legal system when a judge evaluates the connection between a claim and evidence. If someone steals my car, I could say to the police, “I’m pretty sure Mario did it because when I said hi to him on campus the other day, he didn’t say hi back, which proves he’s mad at me.” A judge faced with that evidence is unlikely to issue a warrant for Mario’s arrest. Fingerprint evidence from the steering wheel that has been matched with a suspect is much more likely to warrant arrest.

As you put together a persuasive argument, you act as the judge. You can evaluate arguments that you come across in your research by analyzing the connection (the warrant) between the claim and the evidence. If the warrant is strong, you may want to highlight that argument in your speech. You may also be able to point out a weak warrant in an argument that goes against your position, which you could then include in your speech. Every argument starts by putting together a claim and evidence, but arguments grow to include many interrelated units.

Choosing a Persuasive Speech Topic

As with any speech, topic selection is important and is influenced by many factors. Good persuasive speech topics are current, controversial, and have important implications for society. If your topic is currently being discussed on television, in newspapers, in the lounges in your dorm, or around your family’s dinner table, then it’s a current topic. A persuasive speech aimed at getting audience members to wear seat belts in cars wouldn’t have much current relevance, given that statistics consistently show that most people wear seat belts. Giving the same speech would have been much more timely in the 1970s when there was a huge movement to increase seat-belt use.

Many topics that are current are also controversial, which is what gets them attention by the media and citizens. Current and controversial topics will be more engaging for your audience. A persuasive speech to encourage audience members to donate blood or recycle wouldn’t be very controversial, since the benefits of both practices are widely agreed on. However, arguing that the restrictions on blood donation by men who have had sexual relations with men be lifted would be controversial. I must caution here that controversial is not the same as inflammatory. An inflammatory topic is one that evokes strong reactions from an audience for the sake of provoking a reaction. Being provocative for no good reason or choosing a topic that is extremist will damage your credibility and prevent you from achieving your speech goals.

You should also choose a topic that is important to you and to society as a whole. As we have already discussed in this book, our voices are powerful, as it is through communication that we participate and make change in society. Therefore we should take seriously opportunities to use our voices to speak publicly. Choosing a speech topic that has implications for society is probably a better application of your public speaking skills than choosing to persuade the audience that Lebron James is the best basketball player in the world or that Superman is a better hero than Spiderman. Although those topics may be very important to you, they don’t carry the same social weight as many other topics you could choose to discuss. Remember that speakers have ethical obligations to the audience and should take the opportunity to speak seriously.

You will also want to choose a topic that connects to your own interests and passions. If you are an education major, it might make more sense to do a persuasive speech about funding for public education than the death penalty. If there are hot-button issues for you that make you get fired up and veins bulge out in your neck, then it may be a good idea to avoid those when speaking in an academic or professional context.

11.2.1N

Choose a persuasive speech topic that you’re passionate about but still able to approach and deliver in an ethical manner.

Michael Vadon – Nigel Farage – CC BY-SA 2.0.

Choosing such topics may interfere with your ability to deliver a speech in a competent and ethical manner. You want to care about your topic, but you also want to be able to approach it in a way that’s going to make people want to listen to you. Most people tune out speakers they perceive to be too ideologically entrenched and write them off as extremists or zealots.

You also want to ensure that your topic is actually persuasive. Draft your thesis statement as an “I believe” statement so your stance on an issue is clear. Also, think of your main points as reasons to support your thesis. Students end up with speeches that aren’t very persuasive in nature if they don’t think of their main points as reasons. Identifying arguments that counter your thesis is also a good exercise to help ensure your topic is persuasive. If you can clearly and easily identify a competing thesis statement and supporting reasons, then your topic and approach are arguable.

Review of Tips for Choosing a Persuasive Speech Topic

  • Not current. People should use seat belts.
  • Current. People should not text while driving.
  • Not controversial. People should recycle.
  • Controversial. Recycling should be mandatory by law.
  • Not as impactful. Superman is the best superhero.
  • Impactful. Colleges and universities should adopt zero-tolerance bullying policies.
  • Unclear thesis. Homeschooling is common in the United States.
  • Clear, argumentative thesis with stance. Homeschooling does not provide the same benefits of traditional education and should be strictly monitored and limited.

Adapting Persuasive Messages

Competent speakers should consider their audience throughout the speech-making process. Given that persuasive messages seek to directly influence the audience in some way, audience adaptation becomes even more important. If possible, poll your audience to find out their orientation toward your thesis. I read my students’ thesis statements aloud and have the class indicate whether they agree with, disagree with, or are neutral in regards to the proposition. It is unlikely that you will have a homogenous audience, meaning that there will probably be some who agree, some who disagree, and some who are neutral. So you may employ all of the following strategies, in varying degrees, in your persuasive speech.

When you have audience members who already agree with your proposition, you should focus on intensifying their agreement. You can also assume that they have foundational background knowledge of the topic, which means you can take the time to inform them about lesser-known aspects of a topic or cause to further reinforce their agreement. Rather than move these audience members from disagreement to agreement, you can focus on moving them from agreement to action. Remember, calls to action should be as specific as possible to help you capitalize on audience members’ motivation in the moment so they are more likely to follow through on the action.

There are two main reasons audience members may be neutral in regards to your topic: (1) they are uninformed about the topic or (2) they do not think the topic affects them. In this case, you should focus on instilling a concern for the topic. Uninformed audiences may need background information before they can decide if they agree or disagree with your proposition. If the issue is familiar but audience members are neutral because they don’t see how the topic affects them, focus on getting the audience’s attention and demonstrating relevance. Remember that concrete and proxemic supporting materials will help an audience find relevance in a topic. Students who pick narrow or unfamiliar topics will have to work harder to persuade their audience, but neutral audiences often provide the most chance of achieving your speech goal since even a small change may move them into agreement.

When audience members disagree with your proposition, you should focus on changing their minds. To effectively persuade, you must be seen as a credible speaker. When an audience is hostile to your proposition, establishing credibility is even more important, as audience members may be quick to discount or discredit someone who doesn’t appear prepared or doesn’t present well-researched and supported information. Don’t give an audience a chance to write you off before you even get to share your best evidence. When facing a disagreeable audience, the goal should also be small change. You may not be able to switch someone’s position completely, but influencing him or her is still a success. Aside from establishing your credibility, you should also establish common ground with an audience.

11.2.2N

Build common ground with disagreeable audiences and acknowledge areas of disagreement.

Chris-Havard Berge – Shaking Hands – CC BY-NC 2.0.

Acknowledging areas of disagreement and logically refuting counterarguments in your speech is also a way to approach persuading an audience in disagreement, as it shows that you are open-minded enough to engage with other perspectives.

Determining Your Proposition

The proposition of your speech is the overall direction of the content and how that relates to the speech goal. A persuasive speech will fall primarily into one of three categories: propositions of fact, value, or policy. A speech may have elements of any of the three propositions, but you can usually determine the overall proposition of a speech from the specific purpose and thesis statements.

Propositions of fact focus on beliefs and try to establish that something “is or isn’t.” Propositions of value focus on persuading audience members that something is “good or bad,” “right or wrong,” or “desirable or undesirable.” Propositions of policy advocate that something “should or shouldn’t” be done. Since most persuasive speech topics can be approached as propositions of fact, value, or policy, it is a good idea to start thinking about what kind of proposition you want to make, as it will influence how you go about your research and writing. As you can see in the following example using the topic of global warming, the type of proposition changes the types of supporting materials you would need:

  • Proposition of fact. Global warming is caused by increased greenhouse gases related to human activity.
  • Proposition of value. America’s disproportionately large amount of pollution relative to other countries is wrong .
  • Proposition of policy. There should be stricter emission restrictions on individual cars.

To support propositions of fact, you would want to present a logical argument based on objective facts that can then be used to build persuasive arguments. Propositions of value may require you to appeal more to your audience’s emotions and cite expert and lay testimony. Persuasive speeches about policy usually require you to research existing and previous laws or procedures and determine if any relevant legislation or propositions are currently being considered.

“Getting Critical”

Persuasion and Masculinity

The traditional view of rhetoric that started in ancient Greece and still informs much of our views on persuasion today has been critiqued for containing Western and masculine biases. Traditional persuasion has been linked to Western and masculine values of domination, competition, and change, which have been critiqued as coercive and violent (Gearhart, 1979).

Communication scholars proposed an alternative to traditional persuasive rhetoric in the form of invitational rhetoric. Invitational rhetoric differs from a traditional view of persuasive rhetoric that “attempts to win over an opponent, or to advocate the correctness of a single position in a very complex issue” (Bone et al., 2008). Instead, invitational rhetoric proposes a model of reaching consensus through dialogue. The goal is to create a climate in which growth and change can occur but isn’t required for one person to “win” an argument over another. Each person in a communication situation is acknowledged to have a standpoint that is valid but can still be influenced through the offering of alternative perspectives and the invitation to engage with and discuss these standpoints (Ryan & Natalle, 2001). Safety, value, and freedom are three important parts of invitational rhetoric. Safety involves a feeling of security in which audience members and speakers feel like their ideas and contributions will not be denigrated. Value refers to the notion that each person in a communication encounter is worthy of recognition and that people are willing to step outside their own perspectives to better understand others. Last, freedom is present in communication when communicators do not limit the thinking or decisions of others, allowing all participants to speak up (Bone et al., 2008).

Invitational rhetoric doesn’t claim that all persuasive rhetoric is violent. Instead, it acknowledges that some persuasion is violent and that the connection between persuasion and violence is worth exploring. Invitational rhetoric has the potential to contribute to the civility of communication in our society. When we are civil, we are capable of engaging with and appreciating different perspectives while still understanding our own. People aren’t attacked or reviled because their views diverge from ours. Rather than reducing the world to “us against them, black or white, and right or wrong,” invitational rhetoric encourages us to acknowledge human perspectives in all their complexity (Bone et al., 2008).

  • What is your reaction to the claim that persuasion includes Western and masculine biases?
  • What are some strengths and weaknesses of the proposed alternatives to traditional persuasion?
  • In what situations might an invitational approach to persuasion be useful? In what situations might you want to rely on traditional models of persuasion?

Organizing a Persuasive Speech

We have already discussed several patterns for organizing your speech, but some organization strategies are specific to persuasive speaking. Some persuasive speech topics lend themselves to a topical organization pattern, which breaks the larger topic up into logical divisions. Earlier, in Chapter 9 “Preparing a Speech” , we discussed recency and primacy, and in this chapter we discussed adapting a persuasive speech based on the audience’s orientation toward the proposition. These concepts can be connected when organizing a persuasive speech topically. Primacy means putting your strongest information first and is based on the idea that audience members put more weight on what they hear first. This strategy can be especially useful when addressing an audience that disagrees with your proposition, as you can try to win them over early. Recency means putting your strongest information last to leave a powerful impression. This can be useful when you are building to a climax in your speech, specifically if you include a call to action.

11.2.3N

Putting your strongest argument last can help motivate an audience to action.

Celestine Chua – The Change – CC BY 2.0.

The problem-solution pattern is an organizational pattern that advocates for a particular approach to solve a problem. You would provide evidence to show that a problem exists and then propose a solution with additional evidence or reasoning to justify the course of action. One main point addressing the problem and one main point addressing the solution may be sufficient, but you are not limited to two. You could add a main point between the problem and solution that outlines other solutions that have failed. You can also combine the problem-solution pattern with the cause-effect pattern or expand the speech to fit with Monroe’s Motivated Sequence.

As was mentioned in Chapter 9 “Preparing a Speech” , the cause-effect pattern can be used for informative speaking when the relationship between the cause and effect is not contested. The pattern is more fitting for persuasive speeches when the relationship between the cause and effect is controversial or unclear. There are several ways to use causes and effects to structure a speech. You could have a two-point speech that argues from cause to effect or from effect to cause. You could also have more than one cause that lead to the same effect or a single cause that leads to multiple effects. The following are some examples of thesis statements that correspond to various organizational patterns. As you can see, the same general topic area, prison overcrowding, is used for each example. This illustrates the importance of considering your organizational options early in the speech-making process, since the pattern you choose will influence your researching and writing.

Persuasive Speech Thesis Statements by Organizational Pattern

  • Problem-solution. Prison overcrowding is a serious problem that we can solve by finding alternative rehabilitation for nonviolent offenders.
  • Problem–failed solution–proposed solution. Prison overcrowding is a serious problem that shouldn’t be solved by building more prisons; instead, we should support alternative rehabilitation for nonviolent offenders.
  • Cause-effect. Prisons are overcrowded with nonviolent offenders, which leads to lesser sentences for violent criminals.
  • Cause-cause-effect. State budgets are being slashed and prisons are overcrowded with nonviolent offenders, which leads to lesser sentences for violent criminals.
  • Cause-effect-effect. Prisons are overcrowded with nonviolent offenders, which leads to increased behavioral problems among inmates and lesser sentences for violent criminals.
  • Cause-effect-solution. Prisons are overcrowded with nonviolent offenders, which leads to lesser sentences for violent criminals; therefore we need to find alternative rehabilitation for nonviolent offenders.

Monroe’s Motivated Sequence is an organizational pattern designed for persuasive speaking that appeals to audience members’ needs and motivates them to action. If your persuasive speaking goals include a call to action, you may want to consider this organizational pattern. We already learned about the five steps of Monroe’s Motivated Sequence in Chapter 9 “Preparing a Speech” , but we will review them here with an example:

  • Hook the audience by making the topic relevant to them.
  • Imagine living a full life, retiring, and slipping into your golden years. As you get older you become more dependent on others and move into an assisted-living facility. Although you think life will be easier, things get worse as you experience abuse and mistreatment from the staff. You report the abuse to a nurse and wait, but nothing happens and the abuse continues. Elder abuse is a common occurrence, and unlike child abuse, there are no laws in our state that mandate complaints of elder abuse be reported or investigated.
  • Cite evidence to support the fact that the issue needs to be addressed.
  • According to the American Psychological Association, one to two million elderly US Americans have been abused by their caretakers. In our state, those in the medical, psychiatric, and social work field are required to report suspicion of child abuse but are not mandated to report suspicions of elder abuse.
  • Offer a solution and persuade the audience that it is feasible and well thought out.
  • There should be a federal law mandating that suspicion of elder abuse be reported and that all claims of elder abuse be investigated.
  • Take the audience beyond your solution and help them visualize the positive results of implementing it or the negative consequences of not.
  • Elderly people should not have to live in fear during their golden years. A mandatory reporting law for elderly abuse will help ensure that the voices of our elderly loved ones will be heard.
  • Call your audience to action by giving them concrete steps to follow to engage in a particular action or to change a thought or behavior.
  • I urge you to take action in two ways. First, raise awareness about this issue by talking to your own friends and family. Second, contact your representatives at the state and national level to let them know that elder abuse should be taken seriously and given the same level of importance as other forms of abuse. I brought cards with the contact information for our state and national representatives for this area. Please take one at the end of my speech. A short e-mail or phone call can help end the silence surrounding elder abuse.

Key Takeaways

  • Arguments are formed by making claims that are supported by evidence. The underlying justification that connects the claim and evidence is the warrant. Arguments can have strong or weak warrants, which will make them more or less persuasive.
  • Good persuasive speech topics are current, controversial (but not inflammatory), and important to the speaker and society.
  • When audience members agree with the proposal, focus on intensifying their agreement and moving them to action.
  • When audience members are neutral in regards to the proposition, provide background information to better inform them about the issue and present information that demonstrates the relevance of the topic to the audience.
  • When audience members disagree with the proposal, focus on establishing your credibility, build common ground with the audience, and incorporate counterarguments and refute them.
  • Propositions of fact focus on establishing that something “is or isn’t” or is “true or false.”
  • Propositions of value focus on persuading an audience that something is “good or bad,” “right or wrong,” or “desirable or undesirable.”
  • Propositions of policy advocate that something “should or shouldn’t” be done.
  • Persuasive speeches can be organized using the following patterns: problem-solution, cause-effect, cause-effect-solution, or Monroe’s Motivated Sequence.
  • Getting integrated: Give an example of persuasive messages that you might need to create in each of the following contexts: academic, professional, personal, and civic. Then do the same thing for persuasive messages you may receive.
  • To help ensure that your persuasive speech topic is persuasive and not informative, identify the claims, evidence, and warrants you may use in your argument. In addition, write a thesis statement that refutes your topic idea and identify evidence and warrants that could support that counterargument.
  • Determine if your speech is primarily a proposition of fact, value, or policy. How can you tell? Identify an organizational pattern that you think will work well for your speech topic, draft one sentence for each of your main points, and arrange them according to the pattern you chose.

Bone, J. E., Cindy L. Griffin, and T. M. Linda Scholz, “Beyond Traditional Conceptualizations of Rhetoric: Invitational Rhetoric and a Move toward Civility,” Western Journal of Communication 72 (2008): 436.

Gearhart, S. M., “The Womanization of Rhetoric,” Women’s Studies International Quarterly 2 (1979): 195–201.

Ryan, K. J., and Elizabeth J. Natalle, “Fusing Horizons: Standpoint Hermenutics and Invitational Rhetoric,” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 31 (2001): 69–90.

Communication in the Real World Copyright © 2016 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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35 Introduction to Persuasive Speaking

Learning objectives.

  • Define and explain persuasion.
  • Explain the three theories of persuasion discussed in the text: social judgment theory, cognitive dissonance theory, and the elaboration likelihood model.

People are bombarded by persuasive messages in today’s world, so thinking about how to create persuasive messages effectively is very important for modern public speakers. A century (or even half a century) ago, public speakers had to contend only with the words printed on paper for attracting and holding an audience’s attention. Today, public speakers must contend with laptops, netbooks, iPads, smartphones, billboards, television sets, and many other tools that can send a range of persuasive messages immediately to a target audience.

What Is Persuasion?

We made it to the part in the class that most students are excited about. The persuasive speech! There are similarities and important differences between the informative and persuasive speaking styles. This reading will highlight our purpose of persuasive speaking.

To begin though, we need to define persuasion. You are used to experiencing persuasion in many forms, and may have an easy time identifying examples of persuasion, but can you explain how persuasion works? Osborn and Osborn define  persuasion  this way: “the art of convincing others to give favorable attention to our point of view.” [1] There are two components that make this definition a useful one. First, it acknowledges the artfulness, or skill, required to persuade others. Persuasion does not normally just happen. Rather it is planned and executed in a thoughtful manner. Second, this definition delineates the end goal of persuasion—to convince others to think favorably of our point of view. Persuasion “encompasses a wide range of communication activities, including advertising, marketing, sales, political campaigns, and interpersonal relations.” [2]  Because of its widespread utility, persuasion is a pervasive part of our everyday lives.

Persuasive versus Informative Speaking

Informative (or informational) and persuasive speaking are related, but distinct, types of speeches. The difference between the two lies in the speaker’s end goal and what the speaker wants the audience to leave with.

Informative speeches are probably the most prevalent variety of speech. The goal is always to supply information and facts to the audience. This information can come in the form of statistics, facts, or other forms of evidence. Informational speeches do not tell people what to do with the information; their goal is for the audience to have and understand the information. Academic lectures are often informational speeches because the professor is attempting to present facts so the students can understand them.

Like informational speeches, persuasive speeches use information. However, persuasive speeches are designed for the audience to not only hear and understand the information but to use it to be convinced of a viewpoint. The end goal of a persuasive speech is not for the audience to have information, but rather for them to have a certain view or do something specific with the information provided. Persuasive speeches may use some of the same techniques as informational speeches but also will use persuasive strategies to convince and motivate the audience. A sales pitch is one example of a persuasive speech.

Goals of Persuasive Speaking

We typically use persuasive speaking to change or reinforce someone’s attitudes, values, beliefs, and/or behaviors.

Attitude: What do you like or dislike? Attitudes encompass our thoughts and emotions. For instance, if I think running is fun and I feel good when I do it, I am more likely to do it. Attitudes will uncover an individual’s general predisposition toward something as being good or bad, right or wrong, or negative or positive.

Beliefs: What convictions (or assumptions) do you hold? Beliefs are ideas we hold to be true. They may be positions that an individual holds as true or false without positive knowledge or proof. Beliefs can be spiritual, moral, political, or social, just to name a few. You may believe that lying is bad and therefore you refrain from it or feel bad when you do it. While beliefs may not be based on “proof,” they are typically deeply held and influence our attitudes and behaviors in powerful ways.

Value: What drives you? Values are an individual’s judgment of what is important in life. This may include the usefulness or with of something. You may value courage or respect or kindness. We can value a college education or technology or freedom. Values, as a general concept, are fairly ambiguous and tend to be very lofty ideas.

Behaviors: Behaviors, the ways in which someone acts, come in a wide range of forms. Speeches encouraging audiences to vote for a candidate, sign a petition opposing a tuition increase, or adopt a puppy are behavior-oriented persuasive speeches. 

Ultimately, our attitudes, beliefs, and values motivate us to engage in a range of behaviors. For example, if you value technology, you are more likely to seek out new technology or software on your own. On the contrary, if you do not value technology, you are less likely to seek out new technology or software unless someone, or some circumstance, requires you to.

Why Persuasion Matters

When you study and understand persuasion, you will be more successful at persuading others. Do you want to persuade your boss you deserve a raise? Do you want to convince your client to purchase a service? Do you want to change the social landscape of a community? If you want to be a persuasive public speaker, then you need to have a working understanding of how persuasion functions.

When people understand persuasion, they will be better consumers of information. We live in a society where numerous message sources are constantly fighting for our attention and many of those messages are purposeful false. Unfortunately, most people just let messages wash over them like a wave, making little effort to understand or analyze them. As a result, they are more likely to fall for half-truths, illogical arguments, and lies. When you start to understand persuasion, you will have the skill set to actually pick apart the messages being sent to you and see why some of them are good and others are simply not.

Psychology of Persuasion

Understanding how people are persuaded is very important to the discussion of public speaking. Thankfully, a number of researchers have created theories that help explain why people are persuaded. While there are numerous theories that help to explain persuasion, we are only going to examine three here: social judgment theory, cognitive dissonance theory, and the elaboration likelihood model.

Cognitive Dissonance Theory

Cognitive dissonance is an aversive motivational state that occurs when an individual entertains two or more contradictory attitudes, values, beliefs, or behaviors simultaneously. For example, maybe you know you should be working on your speech, but you really want to go to a movie with a friend. In this case, practicing your speech and going to the movie are two cognitions that are inconsistent with one another. These cognitions may cause anxiety or discomfort. The goal of persuasion is to induce enough dissonance in listeners that they will want to change their attitudes, values, beliefs, or behaviors.

Anxiety or discomfort caused by dissonance is typically resolved in one of three ways:

Change: The listener can change beliefs or behaviors to align with one another. The smoker may quit smoking or they may decide that smoking is not harmful and continue to smoke. Either way, they have relieves the anxiety of contradictory beliefs and behaviors.

Acquiring new information: If the listener acquires new information that confirms or contradicts a belief, the anxiety may be reduced. For instance, if the smoker reads a study that indicates that smoking is not harmful, they can continue to smoke and not feel disturbed by it.

Perception shift: Typically anxiety can be reduced by rationalizing our decisions. If the smoker decides that living in the moment and experiencing the pleasure of smoking is worth a potential far-off event, they may continue to smoke rationalizing that life is short and they should enjoy it.

When considering cognitive dissonance as a speaker, you must first create dissonance in your listeners. You want to make them uncomfortable with their beliefs or behaviors. Beware of making them too uncomfortable though. Listeners will tune you out if you make them too anxious. Once you have created dissonance, you can then offer new information to change perceptions and encourage behaviors changes in the direction you are seeking.

Elaboration Likelihood Model

When I was in graduate school, my computer got attacked with the Michelangelo virus. In short, when I turned on my computer on Michelangelo’s birthday, it wiped out everything on my computer. At least that’s what they told me at the computer repair store. I had spent a month of my life researching and writing my persuasion paper and it was gone in an instant. In a moment of what can best be described as a graduate school freak out, I went to the store to buy a new computer. I looked at the salesperson and said, “Quick, show me which computer to buy.” He pointed at one, I bought it, and went home and started writing.

Was I persuaded to buy a computer by the salesperson?  I bought one so clearly, I was persuaded, right?  Which persuasion technique did he use?  Could this even count as an act of persuasion? Sometimes, we just want to decide without putting too much thought into it. You could argue that I didn’t put any thought into it. I didn’t have time to research; I didn’t have the mental capacity to think about which computer was best for me. I trusted the decision to the person in the computer store–he was the one in the red shirt after all. He worked there so he must know about computers.

The next time I bought a computer, I wasn’t in such a stressful situation. I took my time and shopped around. I talked to multiple salespeople, and I read reviews.  I even made a spreadsheet of the features and the prices. I put a lot of thought into picking the right computer. Was I any more or less persuaded to buy? After all, in both cases, I bought a computer.

Petty and Cacioppo developed the Elaboration Likelihood Model as a way to explain how persuasion works in different scenarios–particularly, how sometimes we think a lot about our decisions and how sometimes we look for other ways to be persuaded. They said we go on different persuasion routes. When we are thinking (cognitive elaboration) about our decision, they would say, we are taking the central route. We take this thinking route when there is personal involvement and personal relevance.  When we are not thinking–because of the situation, our mood, our inability to understand, or the fact that it is not a big decision for us– they would say we are taking the peripheral route. The peripheral route can be thought of as deciding based on anything other than deep thought. In my case, my decision was made based on the authority of the person.

Which of the computers do you think I would likely suggest to a friend–the one bought fast because it was recommended or the one bought after much research? Which computer did I think was the best computer? If you guessed the one that I shopped around for, you would be right. That is the computer I would most likely believe was the best one and that is the one I would most likely recommend to a friend.  It makes sense. When we think about our decisions, persuasion is more long-lasting, we are more committed to the decision, and we are more likely to tell others.

What does any of this have to do with you writing a persuasion speech? Knowing that people are persuaded differently can help you design your persuasive arguments. Deciding whether you are going for thoughtful or peripheral persuasion is key.

I used to work for a non-profit and did a lot of fundraising speeches. If I wanted people to be persuaded to give money and have a long-term emotional and financial commitment to the organization, it made sense to persuade them via the central (thinking) route. That meant, I had to tell them what we did and give them facts and details about our organization. I had to build trust and I had to help them believe in the cause.

By contrast, my son was in marching band so there was always a fundraiser where we sold overpriced candy to our friends to support his upcoming trip. The persuasion I used was usually some version of, “My son is selling candy bars for his upcoming band trip, would you help support him.” There was not a lot of thinking when people were buying these candy bars. They were buying because they liked my son, they knew me, or because I bought cookies from their daughter for her fundraiser. This was peripheral persuasion one candy bar at a time.

Elaboration Likelihood Model–What’s the Big Idea?

A picture showing how someond looking at a care via the central route thinks about cost and fuel efficiency and someone via the peripheral route notices the color and sex appeal.

  • If you want your persuasion to be long-lasting, persuade them via the central route. Offer facts, data, and solid information
  • If you want a quick persuasion where they don’t put much thought into it or if your audience is not very knowledgeable, tired, or unmotivated, persuade them by the peripheral route.

Social Judgment Theory

I have a colleague that travels around the country speaking on college campuses and at farmer’s markets telling people why they should not eat meat. He finds the eating of meat completely unethical.

I’ve noticed that when it comes to meat-eating, people have strong opinions on either side.  Think about it, would you eat a horse? dog? goat? rabbit? Some of you have grown up eating meat all your lives and consider it a tasty and healthy way to eat. For others of you, the very thought of eating any animal product seems cruel. Most reading this will fall somewhere in between. Look at the chart below and decide, which of the category best describes you.

As you looked at the list there were some categories you found acceptable, and some you did not. In all honesty, most of you did not think that I was going to suggest eating dogs and horses. When you saw that on the list, most of you didn’t think of those as tasty options. Social Judgement Theory proposed by Sherif, Sherif, and Nebergall suggests that on any topic from diet to abortion and gun control to movie choices, we have an idea of what we like and are willing to accept and what is out of the question. The researchers studied human judgment to understand when persuasive messages are likely to succeed, and it comes down to how we fit into the ranges and how closely that message is to what we already believe. Each of us has a favorite position on any given topic, they call that the anchor position. As you looked on the chart and picked the category that best describes you, you found your anchor position. On the list, you likely found several categories that you would be willing to accept and maybe several categories you reject entirely.

Let’s go back to a colleague of mine, remember, the one who speaks on campuses about veganism. When he looks at this chart, the only position he is willing to accept is to eat no animal products at all.  The researchers would say that he is ego-involved because he has a large group of ideas he rejects. How hard would it be to get him to try eating a dog? a goat? an egg? As you can imagine, if I suggest that he tries eating goat, he will think that position is too extreme and that as individuals we are far apart in what we believe. On the other hand, I might be able to nudge him up the continuum a little. Maybe, I could convince him to try honey. After all, no bees were harmed from making honey and it does not contain any meat. People with extreme views can be moved, but only in small increments. If I want the persuasion to work, I might be able to persuade him to try honey.

Now, think of a friend you might know who hunts, and fishes, and eats deer, rabbit, and squirrel. This friend of yours likes trying different types of jerky-like elk and moose. How hard would it be to convince him to try eating a dog? How about a goat? Since your friend has a large range of ideas he already accepts, adding one more animal to the list of things he eats might not be that hard. He would be much more likely to try a dog than would my vegan friend. It doesn’t matter how good we are at persuading as much as how close that persuasion is to what they already believe.

In any audience, you will have people all up and down the spectrum of beliefs. It is your responsibility to try to find out as much as you can about your audience before your speech, so you will know generally where they are. You will have more luck persuading people if you try to move them a little as opposed to move them a lot.  Every semester, a vegan group comes to the University of Arkansas campus and passes out flyers promoting a vegan lifestyle. I’ve noticed their messages have slowly changed from meat is murder and you should never eat meat because production is hard on the environment to a more palatable message to try eliminating meat one day a week.  Maybe these vegans learned about Social Judgement Theory or maybe they learned by trial and error that moving someone from one extreme to the next is an unlikely feat.

Alexander Edwards Coppock did his dissertation looking at small changes in political opinions, he found the following:

  • When confronted with persuasive messages, individuals update their views in the direction of information. This means, if you give them good information, they are likely to be persuaded by it.
  • People change their minds about political issues in small increments. Like mentioned before, they are more likely to move in small increments.
  • Persuasion in the direction of information occurs regardless of background characteristics, initial beliefs, or ideological position. Translation, good information can be very persuasive regardless of what they believed before.
  • These changes in political attitudes, in most cases, lasted at least 10 days. In other words, good facts help people to change their attitudes and that information can stick.

In summary, if you provide people information and attempt to persuade them in small increments regardless of their prior beliefs, they can change their political attitude and that change will stick.

Social Judgement Theory–What’s the Big Idea?

Neo sign that says "eat what makes you happy"

  • People have preexisting beliefs on topics. Some people have many variations they are willing to accept, and other people are very set in their ways and will only tolerate a narrow set of beliefs.
  • It is nearly impossible to get people to move from one extreme to the next. It is better to get them to move their position a little.
  • If you try to move people with narrow views, they will likely reject your ideas and think you are too extreme.
  • People who have a wide variance of beliefs are more open-minded to change as long as you don’t try to move them too far from their anchor position.

Michael Austin Believes We Should Encourage Open Discussion

Small acts of persuasion matter, because there is much less distance between people’s beliefs than we often suppose. We easily confuse the distance between people’s political positions with the intensity of their convictions about them. It is entirely possible for people to become sharply divided, even hostile, over relatively minor disagreements. Americans have fought epic political battles over things like baking wedding cakes and kneeling during the national anthem. And we once fought a shooting war over a whiskey tax of ten cents per gallon. The ferocity of these battles has nothing to do with the actual distance between different positions, which, when compared to the entire range of opinions possible in the world, is almost negligible.

None of this means that we can persuade our opponents easily. Persuading people to change their minds is excruciatingly difficult. It doesn’t always work, and it rarely works the way we think it will. But it does work, and the fact that it works makes it possible for us to have a democracy. ―  Michael Austin,  We Must Not Be Enemies: Restoring America’s Civic 

Is it personal?

The first reason people are motivated to take the central route or use high elaboration when listening to a persuasive message involves personal relevance and involvement. Personal relevance refers to whether the audience member feels that he or she is actually directly affected by the speech topic. For example, if someone is listening to a speech on why cigarette smoking is harmful, and that listener has never smoked cigarettes, he or she may think the speech topic simply isn’t relevant. Obviously, as a speaker, you should always think about how your topic is relevant to your listeners and make sure to drive this home throughout your speech. Personal involvement, on the other hand, asks whether the individual is actively engaged with the issue at hand: sends letters of support, gives speeches on the topic, has a bumper sticker, and so forth. If an audience member is an advocate who is constantly denouncing tobacco companies for the harm they do to society, then he or she would be highly involved (i.e., would engage in high elaboration) in a speech that attempts to persuade listeners that smoking is harmful.

Am I accountable?

The second condition under which people are likely to process information using the central route is when they feel that they will be held accountable for the information after the fact. With accountability, there is the perception that someone, or a group of people, will be watching to see if the receiver remembers the information later on. Think about what you do as a student when an instructor says “This will be on the test.” You immediately begin to centrally process the message.

Personal Responsibility

When people feel that they are going to be held responsible, without a clear external accounting, for the evaluation of a message or the outcome of a message, they are more likely to critically think through the message using the central route. For example, maybe you’re asked to evaluate fellow students in your public speaking class. Research has shown that if only one or two students are asked to evaluate any one speaker at a time, the quality of the evaluations for that speaker will be better than if everyone in the class is asked to evaluate every speaker. When people feel that their evaluation is important, they take more responsibility and therefore are more critical of the message delivered.

Incongruent Information

Some people are motivated to centrally process information when it does not adhere to their own ideas. Maybe you’re a highly progressive liberal, and one of your peers delivers a speech on the importance of the Tea Party movement in American politics. The information presented during the speech will most likely be in direct contrast to your personal ideology, which causes incongruence because the Tea Party ideology is opposed to a progressive liberal ideology. As such, you are more likely to pay attention to the speech, specifically looking for flaws in the speaker’s argument.

While there are many theories of persuasion that can shed light on why people are persuaded, these two give us a solid foundation to understand what we are up against as speakers. We must understand where our audience is, where we want them to be, and what will motivate them to get there.

Key Takeaways

  • Persuasion is the use of verbal and nonverbal messages to get a person to behave in a manner or embrace a point of view related to values, attitudes, and beliefs that he or she would not have done otherwise. Studying persuasion is important today because it helps us become more persuasive individuals, become more observant of others’ persuasive attempts, and have a more complete understanding of the world around us.
  • The Elaboration Likelihood Model assumes that people are persuaded via a thinking (central) or nonthinking (peripheral) route.
  • Social judgment theory says that persuaders need to be aware of an audience’s latitudes of acceptance, noncommitment, and rejection in order to effectively persuade an audience. Second, cognitive dissonance theory reasons that people do not like holding to ideas in their heads that are contrary and will do what is necessary to get rid of the dissonance caused by the two contrary ideas. Lastly, the elaboration likelihood model posits that persuaders should attempt to get receivers to think about the arguments being made (going through the central route) rather than having receivers pay attention to nonargument related aspects of the speech.

Coppock, A. E. (2016). Positive, small, homogeneous, and durable: Political persuasion in response to information. [Doctoral Dissertation,  Columbian University]. Proquest  https://doi.org/10.7916/D8J966CS  Available https://academiccommons.columbia.edu/doi/10.7916/D8J966CS

Festinger, L. (1957).  A theory of cognitive dissonance . Evanston, IL: Row, Peterson, & Company.

Festinger, L., & Carlsmith, J. M. (1959). Cognitive consequences of forced compliance.  Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 58 , 203–210.

Frankish, K. (1998). Virtual belief. In P. Carruthers & J. Boucher (Eds.),  Language and thought  (pp. 249–269). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Frymier, A. B., & Nadler, M. K. (2007).  Persuasion: Integrating theory, research, and practice . Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt.

Perloff, R. M. (2003).  The dynamics of persuasion: Communication and attitudes in the 21st Century  (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, pp. 5–6.

Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1986). The elaboration likelihood model of persuasion.  Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 19 , 123–205.

Sherif, M., & Hovland, C. I. (1961).  Social judgment: Assimilation and contrast effects in communication and attitude change . New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Sherif, C. W. &  Sherif, M. (1976).  Attitude as the individuals’ own categories: The social judgment-involvement approach to attitude and attitude change. Attitude, ego-involvement, and change.   Greenwood Press.

Public Speaking Copyright © by Dr. Layne Goodman; Amber Green, M.A.; and Various is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Frantically Speaking

15 Powerful Speech Opening Lines (And How to Create Your Own)

Hrideep barot.

  • Public Speaking , Speech Writing

powerful speech opening

Powerful speech opening lines set the tone and mood of your speech. It’s what grips the audience to want to know more about the rest of your talk.

The first few seconds are critical. It’s when you have maximum attention of the audience. And you must capitalize on that!

Instead of starting off with something plain and obvious such as a ‘Thank you’ or ‘Good Morning’, there’s so much more you can do for a powerful speech opening (here’s a great article we wrote a while ago on how you should NOT start your speech ).

To help you with this, I’ve compiled some of my favourite openings from various speakers. These speakers have gone on to deliver TED talks , win international Toastmaster competitions or are just noteworthy people who have mastered the art of communication.

After each speaker’s opening line, I have added how you can include their style of opening into your own speech. Understanding how these great speakers do it will certainly give you an idea to create your own speech opening line which will grip the audience from the outset!

Alright! Let’s dive into the 15 powerful speech openings…

Note: Want to take your communications skills to the next level? Book a complimentary consultation with one of our expert communication coaches. We’ll look under the hood of your hurdles and pick two to three growth opportunities so you can speak with impact!

1. Ric Elias

Opening: “Imagine a big explosion as you climb through 3,000 ft. Imagine a plane full of smoke. Imagine an engine going clack, clack, clack. It sounds scary. Well I had a unique seat that day. I was sitting in 1D.”

How to use the power of imagination to open your speech?

Putting your audience in a state of imagination can work extremely well to captivate them for the remainder of your talk.

It really helps to bring your audience in a certain mood that preps them for what’s about to come next. Speakers have used this with high effectiveness by transporting their audience into an imaginary land to help prove their point.

When Ric Elias opened his speech, the detail he used (3000 ft, sound of the engine going clack-clack-clack) made me feel that I too was in the plane. He was trying to make the audience experience what he was feeling – and, at least in my opinion, he did.

When using the imagination opening for speeches, the key is – detail. While we want the audience to wander into imagination, we want them to wander off to the image that we want to create for them. So, detail out your scenario if you’re going to use this technique.

Make your audience feel like they too are in the same circumstance as you were when you were in that particular situation.

2. Barack Obama

Opening: “You can’t say it, but you know it’s true.”

3. Seth MacFarlane

Opening: “There’s nowhere I would rather be on a day like this than around all this electoral equipment.” (It was raining)

How to use humour to open your speech?

When you use humour in a manner that suits your personality, it can set you up for a great speech. Why? Because getting a laugh in the first 30 seconds or so is a great way to quickly get the audience to like you.

And when they like you, they are much more likely to listen to and believe in your ideas.

Obama effortlessly uses his opening line to entice laughter among the audience. He brilliantly used the setting (the context of Trump becoming President) and said a line that completely matched his style of speaking.

Saying a joke without really saying a joke and getting people to laugh requires you to be completely comfortable in your own skin. And that’s not easy for many people (me being one of them).

If the joke doesn’t land as expected, it could lead to a rocky start.

Keep in mind the following when attempting to deliver a funny introduction:

  • Know your audience: Make sure your audience gets the context of the joke (if it’s an inside joke among the members you’re speaking to, that’s even better!). You can read this article we wrote where we give you tips on how you can actually get to know your audience better to ensure maximum impact with your speech openings
  • The joke should suit your natural personality. Don’t make it look forced or it won’t elicit the desired response
  • Test the opening out on a few people who match your real audience. Analyze their response and tweak the joke accordingly if necessary
  • Starting your speech with humour means your setting the tone of your speech. It would make sense to have a few more jokes sprinkled around the rest of the speech as well as the audience might be expecting the same from you

4. Mohammed Qahtani

Opening: Puts a cigarette on his lips, lights a lighter, stops just before lighting the cigarette. Looks at audience, “What?”

5. Darren Tay

Opening: Puts a white pair of briefs over his pants.

How to use props to begin your speech?

The reason props work so well in a talk is because in most cases the audience is not expecting anything more than just talking. So when a speaker pulls out an object that is unusual, everyone’s attention goes right to it.

It makes you wonder why that prop is being used in this particular speech.

The key word here is unusual . To grip the audience’s attention at the beginning of the speech, the prop being used should be something that the audience would never expect. Otherwise, it just becomes something that is common. And common = boring!

What Mohammed Qahtani and Darren Tay did superbly well in their talks was that they used props that nobody expected them to.

By pulling out a cigarette and lighter or a white pair of underwear, the audience can’t help but be gripped by what the speaker is about to do next. And that makes for a powerful speech opening.

6. Simon Sinek

Opening: “How do you explain when things don’t go as we assume? Or better, how do you explain when others are able to achieve things that seem to defy all of the assumptions?”

7. Julian Treasure

Opening: “The human voice. It’s the instrument we all play. It’s the most powerful sound in the world. Probably the only one that can start a war or say “I love you.” And yet many people have the experience that when they speak people don’t listen to them. Why is that? How can we speak powerfully to make change in the world?”

How to use questions to open a speech?

I use this method often. Starting off with a question is the simplest way to start your speech in a manner that immediately engages the audience.

But we should keep our questions compelling as opposed to something that is fairly obvious.

I’ve heard many speakers start their speeches with questions like “How many of us want to be successful?”

No one is going to say ‘no’ to that and frankly, I just feel silly raising my hand at such questions.

Simon Sinek and Jullian Treasure used questions in a manner that really made the audience think and make them curious to find out what the answer to that question is.

What Jullian Treasure did even better was the use of a few statements which built up to his question. This made the question even more compelling and set the theme for what the rest of his talk would be about.

So think of what question you can ask in your speech that will:

  • Set the theme for the remainder of your speech
  • Not be something that is fairly obvious
  • Be compelling enough so that the audience will actually want to know what the answer to that question will be

8. Aaron Beverley

Opening: Long pause (after an absurdly long introduction of a 57-word speech title). “Be honest. You enjoyed that, didn’t you?”

How to use silence for speech openings?

The reason this speech opening stands out is because of the fact that the title itself is 57 words long. The audience was already hilariously intrigued by what was going to come next.

But what’s so gripping here is the way Aaron holds the crowd’s suspense by…doing nothing. For about 10 to 12 seconds he did nothing but stand and look at the audience. Everyone quietened down. He then broke this silence by a humorous remark that brought the audience laughing down again.

When going on to open your speech, besides focusing on building a killer opening sentence, how about just being silent?

It’s important to keep in mind that the point of having a strong opening is so that the audience’s attention is all on you and are intrigued enough to want to listen to the rest of your speech.

Silence is a great way to do that. When you get on the stage, just pause for a few seconds (about 3 to 5 seconds) and just look at the crowd. Let the audience and yourself settle in to the fact that the spotlight is now on you.

I can’t put my finger on it, but there is something about starting the speech off with a pure pause that just makes the beginning so much more powerful. It adds credibility to you as a speaker as well, making you look more comfortable and confident on stage. 

If you want to know more about the power of pausing in public speaking , check out this post we wrote. It will give you a deeper insight into the importance of pausing and how you can harness it for your own speeches. You can also check out this video to know more about Pausing for Public Speaking:

9. Dan Pink

Opening: “I need to make a confession at the outset here. Little over 20 years ago, I did something that I regret. Something that I’m not particularly proud of. Something that in many ways I wish no one would ever know but that here I feel kind of obliged to reveal.”

10. Kelly McGonigal

Opening: “I have a confession to make. But first I want you to make a little confession to me.”

How to use a build-up to open your speech?

When there are so many amazing ways to start a speech and grip an audience from the outset, why would you ever choose to begin your speech with a ‘Good morning?’.

That’s what I love about build-ups. They set the mood for something awesome that’s about to come in that the audience will feel like they just have to know about.

Instead of starting a speech as it is, see if you can add some build-up to your beginning itself. For instance, in Kelly McGonigal’s speech, she could have started off with the question of stress itself (which she eventually moves on to in her speech). It’s not a bad way to start the speech.

But by adding the statement of “I have a confession to make” and then not revealing the confession for a little bit, the audience is gripped to know what she’s about to do next and find out what indeed is her confession.

11. Tim Urban

Opening: “So in college, I was a government major. Which means that I had to write a lot of papers. Now when a normal student writes a paper, they might spread the work out a little like this.”

12. Scott Dinsmore

Opening: “8 years ago, I got the worst career advice of my life.”

How to use storytelling as a speech opening?

“The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller.” Steve Jobs

Storytelling is the foundation of good speeches. Starting your speech with a story is a great way to grip the audience’s attention. It makes them yearn to want to know how the rest of the story is going to pan out.

Tim Urban starts off his speech with a story dating back to his college days. His use of slides is masterful and something we all can learn from. But while his story sounds simple, it does the job of intriguing the audience to want to know more.

As soon as I heard the opening lines, I thought to myself “If normal students write their paper in a certain manner, how does Tim write his papers?”

Combine such a simple yet intriguing opening with comedic slides, and you’ve got yourself a pretty gripping speech.

Scott Dismore’s statement has a similar impact. However, just a side note, Scott Dismore actually started his speech with “Wow, what an honour.”

I would advise to not start your talk with something such as that. It’s way too common and does not do the job an opening must, which is to grip your audience and set the tone for what’s coming.

13. Larry Smith

Opening: “I want to discuss with you this afternoon why you’re going to fail to have a great career.”

14. Jane McGonigal

Opening: “You will live 7.5 minutes longer than you would have otherwise, just because you watched this talk.”

How to use provocative statements to start your speech?

Making a provocative statement creates a keen desire among the audience to want to know more about what you have to say. It immediately brings everyone into attention.

Larry Smith did just that by making his opening statement surprising, lightly humorous, and above all – fearful. These elements lead to an opening statement which creates so much curiosity among the audience that they need to know how your speech pans out.

This one time, I remember seeing a speaker start a speech with, “Last week, my best friend committed suicide.” The entire crowd was gripped. Everyone could feel the tension in the room.

They were just waiting for the speaker to continue to know where this speech will go.

That’s what a hard-hitting statement does, it intrigues your audience so much that they can’t wait to hear more! Just a tip, if you do start off with a provocative, hard-hitting statement, make sure you pause for a moment after saying it.

Silence after an impactful statement will allow your message to really sink in with the audience.

Related article: 5 Ways to Grab Your Audience’s Attention When You’re Losing it!

15. Ramona J Smith

Opening: In a boxing stance, “Life would sometimes feel like a fight. The punches, jabs and hooks will come in the form of challenges, obstacles and failures. Yet if you stay in the ring and learn from those past fights, at the end of each round, you’ll be still standing.”

How to use your full body to grip the audience at the beginning of your speech?

In a talk, the audience is expecting you to do just that – talk. But when you enter the stage and start putting your full body into use in a way that the audience does not expect, it grabs their attention.

Body language is critical when it comes to public speaking. Hand gestures, stage movement, facial expressions are all things that need to be paid attention to while you’re speaking on stage. But that’s not I’m talking about here.

Here, I’m referring to a unique use of the body that grips the audience, like how Ramona did. By using her body to get into a boxing stance, imitating punches, jabs and hooks with her arms while talking – that’s what got the audience’s attention.

The reason I say this is so powerful is because if you take Ramona’s speech and remove the body usage from her opening, the entire magic of the opening falls flat.

While the content is definitely strong, without those movements, she would not have captured the audience’s attention as beautifully as she did with the use of her body.

So if you have a speech opening that seems slightly dull, see if you can add some body movement to it.

If your speech starts with a story of someone running, actually act out the running. If your speech starts with a story of someone reading, actually act out the reading.

It will make your speech opening that much more impactful.

Related article: 5 Body Language Tips to Command the Stage

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Final Words

So there it is! 15 speech openings from some of my favourite speeches. Hopefully, these will act as a guide for you to create your own opening which is super impactful and sets you off on the path to becoming a powerful public speaker!

But remember, while a speech opening is super important, it’s just part of an overall structure.

If you’re serious about not just creating a great speech opening but to improve your public speaking at an overall level, I would highly recommend you to check out this course: Acumen Presents: Chris Anderson on Public Speaking on Udemy. Not only does it have specific lectures on starting and ending a speech, but it also offers an in-depth guide into all the nuances of public speaking. 

Being the founder of TED Talks, Chris Anderson provides numerous examples of the best TED speakers to give us a very practical way of overcoming stage fear and delivering a speech that people will remember. His course has helped me personally and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking to learn public speaking. 

No one is ever “done” learning public speaking. It’s a continuous process and you can always get better. Keep learning, keep conquering and keep being awesome!

Lastly, if you want to know how you should NOT open your speech, we’ve got a video for you:

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10 Tips: How to Write and Structure a Persuasive Speech That Will Captivate Your Audience

10 Tips: How to Write and Structure a Persuasive Speech That Will Captivate Your Audience

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you had to give a speech? Whether you’re a seasoned public speaker or a novice, speaking in front of an audience can be a daunting task. It’s not easy to capture the attention of your listeners and persuade them to take action. Luckily, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we will provide you with 10 tips on how to write and structure a persuasive speech that will captivate your audience.

The first tip is to clearly define your topic. Make sure you have a well-defined and specific topic that you will be speaking about. This will help you stay focused and ensure that your speech is clear and concise. It’s also important to choose a topic that you are passionate about and that you have a good understanding of. When you are enthusiastic about your topic, it will be easier to persuade your audience to share your point of view.

Next, it’s important to do your research. Make sure you gather all the necessary information and facts to support your argument. This will add credibility to your speech and make your audience more likely to be persuaded. Use examples, statistics, and expert opinions to back up your statements.

It’s also important to address any possible objections or obstacles that your audience may have. Show them that you understand their concerns and provide solutions to their problems. This will make your speech more convincing and show that you have thought through all the possible scenarios. It’s important to be empathetic and understanding when presenting your argument.

By following these 10 tips, you will become a persuasive speaker who can captivate any audience. Remember to choose a clear and specific topic, do your research, use clear and concise statements, provide evidence and examples, address possible objections, and end with a strong call to action. Keep practicing and refining your speechs, and you will become an expert in no time!

Tips for Writing and Structuring a Persuasive Speech That Captivates Your Audience

1. Use thorough analysis: Before you start writing your speech, take the time to thoroughly analyze your topic. Understand the problem, cause, and potential solutions, and gather relevant evidence and references.

2. Clearly state your thesis: Your thesis statement should clearly communicate the main point or argument of your speech. Make sure it is concise and impactful, serving as a guiding theme throughout your speech.

3. Provide examples and evidence: To support your arguments, use specific examples and evidence that are relevant and relatable to your audience. This will help them understand your point of view and increase the persuasiveness of your speech.

4. Incorporate sound and conversational language: Use language that is easy to understand and flows naturally. A conversational tone will make your speech more relatable and engaging for your audience.

5. Set the mood: Consider the mood you want to create for your speech. Is it serious or lighthearted? Depending on the occasion and topic, choose the appropriate tone and language to create the desired atmosphere.

7. Keep your audience actively engaged: Throughout your speech, actively engage your audience by asking rhetorical questions , inviting them to think, or using other interactive techniques. This will help maintain their interest and participation.

8. Balance emotion and logic: Persuasive speeches often rely on both emotional and logical appeals. Find the right balance between appealing to your audience’s emotions and presenting strong logical arguments.

9. Use storytelling to make your points: Telling stories can be a powerful way to make your points more relatable and memorable. Use anecdotes or real-life examples to illustrate your arguments and connect with your audience on a personal level.

10. Utilize additional resources: Consider incorporating additional resources such as visuals, props, or audio clips to enhance your speech. These can add depth and variety to your presentation and help keep your audience engaged.

By following these tips, you can write and structure a persuasive speech that captivates your audience and effectively delivers your message. Remember to keep practicing and refining your skills to become an even more persuasive and impactful speaker.

Define Your Goal

For example, if your goal is to persuade your audience to support a new policy aimed at helping children in need, your speech should clearly present the advantages of the proposed policy and how it can solve the problems they are facing. You might want to give concrete examples of how the policy has positively affected other children in similar situations.

Once you have defined your goal and identified your target audience, you can start structuring your speech accordingly. The body of your speech should be well-organized and logically structured to persuade your audience. One effective approach is the problem-solution structure, where you first present the problem and its impact, and then offer a solution or a series of solutions.

Furthermore, it is important to back up your persuasive points with concrete evidence. This can be done by providing statistics, studies, expert opinions, or personal stories that support your arguments. Visualizations such as graphs or charts can also help emphasize your main points and make them more memorable.

Establish Your Purpose

There are three main purposes for a persuasive speech:

1. Informative: You might want to inform your audience about a particular topic or issue. In this case, your goal is to provide them with new information and help them understand the topic better.

2. Persuasive: The most common purpose for a persuasive speech is to persuade your audience to take a specific action or adopt a certain viewpoint. You want to convince them that your idea or argument is the right one.

3. Entertaining: Sometimes, the purpose of a persuasive speech is simply to entertain and engage the audience. This is often the case for speeches given at events or conferences.

When writing your speech, keep in mind the governing principle of persuasive speaking: “Show, don’t tell.” Instead of simply telling your audience what you want them to believe or do, provide them with examples, facts, and evidence that support your argument. Use storytelling and vivid examples to create a picture in their minds and help them see things from your perspective.

To persuade your audience, it’s also important to consider their attitudes and beliefs. Think about what obstacles or objections they might have and how you can address them. Anticipate their questions and concerns, and be prepared to solve them persuasively.

Finally, don’t forget to consider the time and place where you’ll be delivering your speech. Adjust your content and tone accordingly. For example, if you’re giving a speech to children, you’ll need to use simpler language and examples that are relevant to their lives. On the other hand, if you’re speaking to a more mature audience, you can use more complex language and references.

By following these tips and considering your audience, purpose, and structure, you can create a persuasive speech that will captivate your audience and leave a lasting impact.

Additional Resources:

– Persuasive Patterns Used in Speech Writing

– Examples of Persuasive Speeches

Know Your Audience

1. gather information.

Before you start writing your speech, take the time to gather as much information as possible about your audience. This includes not only demographic information like age, gender, and education level, but also their beliefs, values, and interests. The more you know about your audience, the better you can tailor your message to their specific needs and desires.

2. Use Concrete Examples

One key to persuading your audience is to use concrete examples that they can relate to. Instead of making vague statements, provide specific examples that demonstrate the impact of your argument. This helps your audience visualize your point and makes it more likely that they will be persuaded to take action.

3. Balance Persuasive and Informative Elements

A persuasive speech should strike a balance between providing information and making a strong argument. While you want to provide your audience with the necessary facts and evidence to support your claims, it’s important to also use persuasive techniques to motivate them to take action. Make sure that your speech includes both informative and persuasive elements to effectively convince your audience.

4. Consider the Monroe’s Motivated Sequence

When structuring your persuasive speech, you can use the Monroe’s Motivated Sequence as a model. This sequence includes five steps: attention, need, satisfaction, visualization, and action. By following this structure, you can effectively move your audience from being unaware or uninterested to actively motivated to take action.

5. Provide References and Resources

To make your argument more persuasive, provide references and resources to back up your claims. This could include citing studies, quoting experts, or referencing reliable sources. By providing supporting evidence, you can increase your credibility and make your argument more convincing.

6. Understand Cultural and Contextual Differences

Keep in mind that different audiences may have different cultural and contextual backgrounds. It’s important to consider these differences when crafting your speech. Be aware of any potential cultural sensitivities and strive to be inclusive in your language and examples.

7. Appeal to Emotions

While it’s important to appeal to your audience’s logic with facts and evidence, don’t underestimate the power of emotions. Emotions can play a powerful role in persuading your audience. Use storytelling and emotional language to connect with your listeners on a deeper level and make your message more impactful.

8. Know the Purpose of Your Speech

Before you start writing, clearly define the purpose of your persuasive speech. Are you trying to inspire action, change attitudes, or inform your audience? Understanding your purpose will help you create a clear and focused message that aligns with your goals.

9. Keep Your Message Clear and Concise

In a persuasive speech, it’s important to keep your message clear, concise, and to the point. Avoid rambling or going off on tangents. Stick to your main points and avoid overwhelming your audience with too much information. Remember, brevity is key to capturing your audience’s attention and keeping them engaged.

10. Consider the Structural Balance

When organizing your speech, strive for a structural balance. This means presenting both sides of the argument but ultimately focusing on your own position. By acknowledging opposing viewpoints and addressing counterarguments, you can strengthen your own argument and make it more persuasive.

By knowing your audience and effectively tailoring your speech to their needs and interests, you can create a persuasive speech that captures their attention and motivates them to take action.

Develop a Strong Opening

  • Start with an attention-grabbing question or statement: Begin your speech with a thought-provoking question or a surprising statement that relates to your topic. This will immediately engage your audience and make them curious to know more.
  • Use storytelling or an anecdote: Storytelling is a powerful tool that can help you connect with your audience on a personal level. Start your speech with a short story or anecdote that illustrates the importance of your topic and its impact on people’s lives.
  • Include relevant data or statistics: Numbers and statistics can be persuasive and compelling. Incorporate relevant data or statistics that support your main points and make them more convincing.
  • Use a quote or a famous saying: Quotes from respected individuals or famous sayings can add credibility and authority to your speech. Choose a quote that relates to your topic and supports your main argument.
  • Create a sense of urgency: Highlight the importance of your topic and emphasize the need for immediate action. Make your audience understand that the issue you are addressing requires their attention and action.

Remember, your goal is to captivate your audience from the very beginning and persuade them to listen to your message. By utilizing these strategies, you can create a strong opening that will leave a lasting impression and set the stage for a persuasive speech.

Create a Logical Structure

There are several different ways to structure a persuasive speech. One common approach is to use Monroe’s Motivated Sequence, which includes five steps: attention, need, satisfaction, visualization, and action. This pattern allows you to gradually build up your argument, present evidence, and create a clear call to action.

Another approach is to organize your speech around a series of main points or arguments. This can be done in a sequential manner, where each point builds upon the previous one, or in a comparative manner, where you compare and contrast different perspectives or solutions. Whichever approach you choose, make sure to clearly outline your main points and use supporting evidence to strengthen your arguments.

In addition to these structural models, you can also draw inspiration from academic research on persuasive speaking and rhetorical analysis. For example, you can analyze the structural patterns used by renowned speakers and use them as a model for your own speech. You can also use rhetorical devices such as repetition, questions, and storytelling to make your speech more engaging and memorable.

When creating the structure of your speech, it’s essential to consider your audience’s knowledge and interests. Tailor your arguments and examples to fit their understanding level, and use language that they can easily comprehend. By doing so, you will increase their empathy and engagement with your message.

One technique that can help you create a logical structure is to break your speech into smaller sections or subsections. This allows you to address different aspects of your topic in a clear and organized manner. For example, if you were giving a speech about obesity, you could have sections on the causes of obesity, the health risks associated with it, and the potential solutions.

It’s also important to balance the amount of information you provide in your speech. While you want to provide enough evidence and examples to support your arguments, overwhelming your audience with too much information can be counterproductive. Make sure to only include the most relevant and compelling points.

Key takeaways:

  • Create a logical structure that guides your audience through your arguments.
  • Consider using Monroe’s Motivated Sequence or organizing your speech around main points.
  • Use rhetorical devices and storytelling to make your speech more engaging.
  • Tailor your arguments and language to fit your audience’s knowledge and interests.
  • Break your speech into smaller sections to address different aspects of your topic.
  • Balance the amount of information you provide to avoid overwhelming your audience.

What is the importance of using the negative to persuade in a speech?

Using the negative to persuade in a speech is important because it allows the speaker to highlight potential problems or negative consequences associated with not taking action or not supporting their point of view. This can create a sense of urgency and motivate the audience to consider the speaker’s argument more seriously.

How can using the negative in a persuasive speech help to captivate the audience?

Using the negative in a persuasive speech can captivate the audience by appealing to their emotions and fears. By highlighting the potential negative outcomes or consequences of not following the speaker’s advice or point of view, the audience becomes more emotionally engaged and invested in the speaker’s message.

Can you give me an example of using the negative in a persuasive speech?

Sure! For example, if the speaker is advocating for stricter gun control laws, they could use the negative by discussing the potential negative consequences of not having stricter regulations, such as increased gun violence or more mass shootings. By highlighting these negative outcomes, the speaker can persuade the audience to support their proposed changes.

Are there any potential drawbacks or risks to using the negative to persuade in a speech?

Yes, there are potential drawbacks to using the negative in a persuasive speech. It is important for the speaker to strike a balance between emphasizing the negative consequences and providing a positive and actionable solution or alternative. If the speaker focuses too much on the negative, it can demotivate the audience or make them feel overwhelmed, leading them to reject the speaker’s message.

What are some techniques or strategies for effectively using the negative to persuade in a speech?

There are a few techniques that can help effectively use the negative to persuade in a speech. First, it’s important to clearly and concisely explain the negative consequences or problems associated with not following the speaker’s point of view. Second, providing examples or real-life stories that illustrate these negative outcomes can make the message more relatable and impactful. Finally, offering a solution or alternative that addresses and mitigates these negative consequences can empower the audience and make them more receptive to the speaker’s persuasive efforts.

How can I make my speech more persuasive?

There are several ways to make your speech more persuasive. Firstly, you need to clearly state your argument and provide evidence to support it. Secondly, use emotional appeals to connect with your audience and make them care about your topic. Thirdly, anticipate and address counterarguments to strengthen your position. Lastly, use strong and confident language to convey your message.

What strategies can I use to persuade my audience using negative tactics?

When using negative tactics to persuade your audience, it is important to be cautious and use them sparingly. One strategy is to highlight the potential negative consequences of not taking action on your topic. This can create a sense of urgency and motivate your audience to support your argument. Another strategy is to use contrast, by presenting the negative aspects of the current situation and then offering a positive alternative or solution.

Alex Koliada, PhD

By Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for studying aging, genetics, and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics. His scientific research has been published in the most reputable international magazines. Alex holds a BA in English and Comparative Literature from the University of Southern California , and a TEFL certification from The Boston Language Institute.

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12.3: Organizing Persuasive Speeches

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Learning Objectives

  • Understand three common organizational patterns for persuasive speeches.
  • Explain the steps utilized in Monroe’s motivated sequence.
  • Explain the parts of a problem-cause-solution speech.
  • Explain the process utilized in a comparative advantage persuasive speech.

A classroom of attentive listeners

Steven Lilley – Engaged – CC BY-SA 2.0.

Previously we discussed general guidelines for organizing speeches. In this section, we are going to look at three organizational patterns ideally suited for persuasive speeches:

  • Monroe’s motivated sequence;
  • Problem-cause-solution; and
  • Comparative advantages.

Monroe’s Motivated Sequence

One of the most commonly cited and discussed organizational patterns for persuasive speeches is Monroe’s motivated sequence. The purpose of Monroe’s motivated sequence is to help speakers “sequence supporting materials and motivational appeals to form a useful organizational pattern for speeches as a whole” (German et al., 2010, p. 279).

While Monroe’s motivated sequence is commonly discussed in most public speaking textbooks, we do want to provide one minor caution. Thus far, almost no research has been conducted that has demonstrated that Monroe’s motivated sequence is any more persuasive than other structural patterns. In the only study conducted experimentally examining Monroe’s motivated sequence, the researchers did not find the method more persuasive but did note that audience members found the pattern more organized than other methods (Micciche, Pryor, & Butler, 2000). We cautioned you so you do not think that Monroe’s motivated sequence is a magic persuasive bullet (there exists no such thing in persuasion). At the same time, research does support that organized messages are perceived as more persuasive as a whole, so using Monroe’s motivated sequence to think through one’s persuasive argument could still be very beneficial.

The first step in Monroe’s motivated sequence is the attention step, in which a speaker attempts to get the audience’s attention. To gain an audience’s attention, we recommend that you think through three specific parts of the attention step. First, you need to have a strong attention-getting device. As discussed in the chapter, “Introductions Matter: How to Begin a Speech Effectively”, a strong attention getter at the beginning of your speech is very important. Second, you need to make sure you introduce your topic clearly. If your audience doesn’t quickly know what your topic is, they are more likely to stop listening. Lastly, you need to explain to your audience why they should care about your topic.

In the need step of Monroe’s motivated sequence, the speaker establishes that there is a specific need or problem. Monroe (1935) specified the following four steps as part of the need:

  • Statement : a speaker needs to give a clear and concise statement of the problem. This part of a speech should be crystal clear for the audience.
  • Illustration : the speaker needs to provide one or more examples to illustrate the need. The illustration is an attempt to make the problem concrete for the audience.
  • Ramification : a speaker needs to provide some kind of evidence (e.g., statistics, examples, testimony) that shows the ramifications or consequences of the problem.
  • Pointing : a speaker needs to show exactly how the problem relates to the audience personally.

Satisfaction

In the satisfaction step, the speaker sets out to satisfy the need or solve the problem that was set out in the "Needs" section. Within this step, Monroe (1935) proposed a five-step plan for satisfying a need:

  • Statement : a speaker needs to clearly state the attitude, value, belief, or action they want the audience to accept. The purpose of this statement is to clearly tell the audience what the speaker's ultimate goal is.
  • Explanation : a speaker should make sure that they clearly explain to the audience why they should accept the attitude, value, belief, or action that the speaker is proposing. Just telling the audience they should do something isn’t strong enough to actually get them to change. Instead, the speaker really needs to provide a solid argument for why the audience should accept their proposed solution.
  • Theoretical demonstration : a speaker needs to show how the solution they have proposed meets the need or the problem. Monroe (1935) calls this link between the speaker's solution and the need, a theoretical demonstration because the speaker cannot prove that their solution will work. Instead, the speaker theorizes based on research and good judgment that their solution will meet the need or solve the problem.
  • Reference to practical experience : to help with this theoretical demonstration, the speaker needs to reference practical experience, which should include examples demonstrating that your proposal has worked elsewhere. Research, statistics, and expert testimony are all great ways of referencing practical experience.
  • Meeting objections : Monroe (1935) recommends that a speaker should respond to possible objections. One of the responsibilities of a persuasive speaker is to think through the speech and see what counterarguments could be made against it and then revise the speech to rebut those arguments within the speech. When the speaker offers rebuttals for arguments against their speech, it shows the audience that the speaker has done their homework and educated themselves about multiple sides of the issue.

Visualization

The next step of Monroe’s motivated sequence is the visualization step, in which you ask the audience to visualize a future where the need has been met or the problem solved. In essence, the visualization stage is where a speaker can show the audience why accepting a specific attitude, value, belief, or behavior can positively affect the future. When helping people to picture the future, the more concrete your visualization, the easier it will be for your audience to see the possible future and be persuaded by it. You also need to make sure that you clearly show how accepting your solution will directly benefit your audience.

According to Monroe (1935), visualization can be conducted in one of three ways:

  • Positive : a speaker shows how adopting a proposal leads to a better future (e.g., recycle, and we’ll have a cleaner and safer planet).
  • Negative : a speaker shows how not adopting the proposal will lead to a worse future (e.g., don’t recycle, and our world will become polluted and uninhabitable).
  • Contrast : Monroe also acknowledged that visualization can include a combination of both positive and negative visualization. In essence, you show your audience both possible outcomes and have them decide which one they would rather have.

The final step in Monroe’s motivated sequence is the action step, in which a speaker asks an audience to approve the speaker’s proposal. For understanding purposes, we break "Action" into two distinct parts: audience action and approval.

  • Audience action refers to direct physical behaviors a speaker wants from an audience (e.g., flossing their teeth twice a day, signing a petition, wearing seat belts).
  • Approval , on the other hand, involves an audience’s consent or agreement with a speaker’s proposed attitude, value, or belief.

When preparing an action step, it is important to make sure that the action, whether audience action or approval, is realistic for your audience. Asking your peers in a college classroom to donate $250 to a charity isn’t realistic. Asking your peers to donate one dollar is considerably more realistic. In a persuasive speech based on Monroe’s motivated sequence, the action step will end with the speech’s concluding device. As discussed elsewhere in this text, you need to make sure that you conclude your speech in a vivid way so that the speech ends on a high point and the audience has a sense of energy as well as a sense of closure.

Now that we’ve walked through Monroe’s motivated sequence, let’s look at how you could use Monroe’s motivated sequence to outline a persuasive speech:

Specific Purpose: To persuade my classroom peers that the United States should have stronger laws governing the use of for-profit medical experiments.

Main Points:

  • Attention: Want to make nine thousand dollars for just three weeks of work lying around and not doing much? Then be a human guinea pig. Admittedly, you’ll have to have a tube down your throat most of those three weeks, but you’ll earn three thousand dollars a week.
  • Need: Every day many uneducated and lower socioeconomic-status citizens are preyed on by medical and pharmaceutical companies for use in for-profit medical and drug experiments. Do you want one of your family members to fall prey to this scheme?
  • Satisfaction: The United States should have stronger laws governing the use of for-profit medical experiments to ensure that uneducated people and those from lower socioeconomic status are protected.
  • Visualization: If we enact tougher experiment oversight, we can ensure that medical and pharmaceutical research is conducted in a way that adheres to good ethical standards. If we do not enact tougher experiment oversight, we could find ourselves in a world where the lines between research subject, guinea pig, and patient become increasingly blurred.
  • Action: In order to prevent the atrocities associated with for-profit medical and pharmaceutical experiments, please sign this petition asking the US Department of Health and Human Services to pass stricter regulations on an industry that is out of control.

This example shows how you can take a basic speech topic and use Monroe’s motivated sequence to clearly and easily outline your speech efficiently and effectively.

Problem-Cause-Solution

Another format for organizing a persuasive speech is the problem-cause-solution format. In this specific format, you discuss what a problem is, what you believe is causing the problem, and then what the solution should be to correct the problem.

Specific Purpose: To persuade my classroom peers that our campus should adopt a zero-tolerance policy for hate speech.

  • Demonstrate that there is distrust among different groups on campus that has led to unnecessary confrontations and violence.
  • Show that the confrontations and violence are a result of hate speech that occurred prior to the events.
  • Explain how instituting a campus-wide zero-tolerance policy against hate speech could stop unnecessary confrontations and violence.

In this speech, you want to persuade people to support a new campus-wide policy calling for zero-tolerance of hate speech. Once you have shown the problem, you then explain to your audience that the cause of the unnecessary confrontations and violence is prior incidents of hate speech. Lastly, you argue that a campus-wide zero-tolerance policy could help prevent future unnecessary confrontations and violence. Again, this method of organizing a speech is as simple as its name: problem-cause-solution.

Comparative Advantages

The final method for organizing a persuasive speech is called the comparative advantages speech format. The goal of this speech is to compare items side-by-side and show why one of them is more advantageous than the other. For example, let’s say that you’re giving a speech on which e-book reader is better: Amazon.com’s Kindle or Barnes and Nobles’ Nook. Here’s how you could organize this speech:

Specific Purpose: To persuade my audience that the Nook is more advantageous than the Kindle.

  • The Nook allows owners to trade and loan books to other owners or people who have downloaded the Nook software, while the Kindle does not.
  • The Nook has a color-touch screen, while the Kindle’s screen is black and grey, and non-interactive.
  • The Nook’s memory can be expanded through microSD, while the Kindle’s memory cannot be upgraded.

As you can see from this speech’s organization, the simple goal of this speech is to show why one thing has more positives than something else. Obviously, when you are demonstrating comparative advantages, the items you are comparing need to be functional equivalents—or, as the saying goes, you cannot compare apples to oranges.

Key Takeaways

  • There are three common patterns that persuaders can utilize to help organize their speeches effectively: Monroe’s motivated sequence, problem-cause-solution, and comparative advantage. Each of these patterns can effectively help a speaker think through their thoughts and organize them in a manner that will be more likely to persuade an audience.
  • Monroe’s (1935) motivated sequence is a commonly used speech format to effectively organize persuasive messages. The pattern consists of five basic stages: attention, need, satisfaction, visualization, and action. In the first stage, a speaker gets the audience’s attention. In the second stage, the speaker shows an audience that a need exists. In the third stage, the speaker shows how their persuasive proposal could satisfy the need. The fourth stage shows how the future could be if the persuasive proposal is or is not adopted. Lastly, the speaker urges the audience to take some kind of action to help enact the speaker’s persuasive proposal.
  • The problem-cause-solution proposal is a three-pronged speech pattern. The speaker starts by explaining the problem the speaker sees. The speaker then explains what he or she sees as the underlying causes of the problem. Lastly, the speaker proposes a solution to the problem that corrects the underlying causes.
  • The comparative advantages speech format is utilized when a speaker is comparing two or more things or ideas and shows why one of the things or ideas has more advantages than the other(s).
  • Create a speech using Monroe’s motivated sequence to persuade people to recycle.
  • Create a speech using the problem-cause-solution method for a problem you see on your college or university campus.
  • Create a comparative advantages speech comparing two brands of toothpaste.

German, K. M., Gronbeck, B. E., Ehninger, D., & Monroe, A. H. (2010). Principles of public speaking (17th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, p. 236.

Micciche, T., Pryor, B., & Butler, J. (2000). A test of Monroe’s motivated sequence for its effects on ratings of message organization and attitude change. Psychological Reports, 86 , 1135–1138.

Monroe, A. H. (1935). Principles and types of speech . Chicago, IL: Scott Foresman.

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  1. FREE 7+ Persuasive Speech Examples in PDF

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  2. FREE 7+ Sample Persuasive Speech in PDF

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  4. Persuasive Essay Introduction Examples

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  5. Persuasive Speech Examples: Great Ideas on AssignmentPay

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VIDEO

  1. Persuasive Speech 2/21

  2. PERSUASIVE SPEECH did i persuade u?

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COMMENTS

  1. How to Write an Introduction for a Persuasive Speech

    3. Tailor your writing to your audience. Being aware of your audience while you're writing will help you craft a more persuasive message. As you're writing the introduction to your speech, think about who will be listening when you deliver it, and use that to help you decide what information and strategy you'll use.

  2. PDF Tips for Writing a Persuasive Speech

    following outlines the basic format of a persuasive speech, but speeches may take alternative forms. INTRODUCTION There are four key components to an introduction: the attention getting device (AGD), common ground, thesis, and preview. For the sake of this speech, you'll want to keep your introduction around 20 seconds (give or take).

  3. Persuasive Speech Outline, with Examples

    A persuasive speech is a speech that is given with the intention of convincing the audience to believe or do something. This could be virtually anything - voting, organ donation, recycling, and so on. ... Introduction. Let's be honest, we lead an easy life: automatic dishwashers, riding lawnmowers, T.V. remote controls, automatic garage ...

  4. Persuasive Speech Preparation & Outline, with Examples

    Reason 3 ( Provide one reason as to why listeners should act or think the way your thesis suggests.) Example 1 - Support for the reason given above. Example 2 - Support for the reason given above. The most important part of a persuasive speech is the conclusion, second to the introduction and thesis statement.

  5. How to Write and Structure a Persuasive Speech

    First, you'll need to choose a side on a controversial topic, then you will write a speech to explain your position, and convince the audience to agree with you. You can produce an effective persuasive speech if you structure your argument as a solution to a problem. Your first job as a speaker is to convince your audience that a particular ...

  6. 8 Effective Introductions and Powerful Conclusions

    The introduction of a speech is incredibly important because it needs to establish the topic and purpose, set up the reason your audience should listen to you and set a precedent for the rest of the speech. ... you were delivering a persuasive speech urging your audience to participate in a very risky political demonstration, you might use this ...

  7. Structure of a Persuasive Speech

    Identify characteristic structures of a persuasive speech. In many ways, a persuasive speech is structured like an informative speech. It has an introduction with an attention-getter and a clear thesis statement. It also has a body where the speaker presents their main points and it ends with a conclusion that sums up the main point of the speech.

  8. How to Write a Persuasive Speech: 13 Steps (with Pictures)

    3. Address the counter-argument. Although it is not strictly necessary, your argument may be stronger if one or more of your supporting points addresses the views of the opposing side. This gives you a chance to address your audience's possible objections and make your argument stronger.

  9. A Comprehensive Guide to Writing a Persuasive Speech

    Persuasive Speech is a category of speech that attempts to influence the listener's beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, and ultimately, behavior. ... If your speech is 2000 words, then your introduction should be a maximum of 200-250 words. Or if you are presenting for 10 minutes, your introduction should be a maximum of 2 minutes. ...

  10. How to Write an Amazing Persuasive Speech

    For that reason, persuasive speakers rely on ethos (logic), emotions (pathos), and authority (logos) to capture the minds and hearts of their audiences. Let's look at a few outline examples to show how it works. Persuasive Speech Outline Examples Outline Example #1: The Case for School Uniforms. I. Introduction

  11. How to write a persuasive speech

    Start your persuasive speech with a strong introduction, grabbing the attention of your audience. This can be emotional, shocking, or funny - as long as it is powerful. After you have your audience's attention, you should clearly introduce the topic of your speech. You now need to distil your research into a few key arguments.

  12. Intro and Conclusion

    A speaker should do the following in the introduction of a speech: get the audience's attention, introduce the topic, establish credibility and relevance, and preview the main points. A speaker should do the following in the conclusion of a persuasive speech: restate the thesis, add an urgent call-to-action, and provide closure.

  13. How to Write an Introduction for Persuasive Speeches

    How to Write an Introduction for Persuasive Speeches. Part of the series: Persuasive Speaking Tips. Introductions are extremely important to public speeches....

  14. Persuasive Speeches

    How to write a persuasive speech. Incorporate the following steps when writing a persuasive speech: Step 1 - Identify the type of persuasive speech (factual, value, or policy) that will help accomplish the goal of the presentation. Step 2 - Select a good persuasive speech topic to accomplish the goal and choose a position. How to write a persuasive speech

  15. 9.2 The Attention-Getter: The First Step of an Introduction

    As you know by now, a good introduction will capture an audience's attention, while a bad introduction can turn an audience against a speaker. ... For example, consider this attention-getter for a persuasive speech on frivolous lawsuits: On January 10, 2007, Scott Anthony Gomez Jr. and a fellow inmate escaped from a Pueblo, Colorado, jail ...

  16. The Art of Persuasion: Writing a Compelling Speech

    Understanding the power of persuasion is crucial when it comes to writing a persuasive speech. Persuasion is the art of influencing and convincing others to adopt your point of view or take a specific action. By understanding the principles behind persuasion, you can effectively communicate your ideas and sway your audience.

  17. Make A Speech Introduction That Grabs Audience Attention

    The speech introduction is the first part of a speech and the first opportunity to grab the audience's attention. The speaker should state the topic, make it relatable to the audience, establish credibility and preview the main points. You should write or finalize your introduction at the end so that it reflects what you actually said.

  18. 11.2 Persuasive Speaking

    Foundation of Persuasion. Persuasive speaking seeks to influence the beliefs, attitudes, values, or behaviors of audience members. In order to persuade, a speaker has to construct arguments that appeal to audience members. Arguments form around three components: claim, evidence, and warrant. The claim is the statement that will be supported by ...

  19. Introduction to Persuasive Speaking

    The end goal of a persuasive speech is not for the audience to have information, but rather for them to have a certain view or do something specific with the information provided. Persuasive speeches may use some of the same techniques as informational speeches but also will use persuasive strategies to convince and motivate the audience. A ...

  20. 15 Powerful Speech Opening Lines (And How to Create Your Own)

    Analyze their response and tweak the joke accordingly if necessary. Starting your speech with humour means your setting the tone of your speech. It would make sense to have a few more jokes sprinkled around the rest of the speech as well as the audience might be expecting the same from you. 4. Mohammed Qahtani.

  21. 10 Tips: How to Write and Structure a Persuasive Speech That Will

    Tips for Writing and Structuring a Persuasive Speech That Captivates Your Audience. 1. Use thorough analysis: Before you start writing your speech, take the time to thoroughly analyze your topic. Understand the problem, cause, and potential solutions, and gather relevant evidence and references. 2.

  22. 110 Interesting Persuasive Speech Topics to Impress Your Audience

    Add emotional connections with your audience. Make your argument more powerful by appealing to your audience's sense of nostalgia and common beliefs. Another tactic (which marketers use all the time) is to appeal to your listeners' fears and rely on their instincts for self-preservation. Address counterarguments.

  23. 12.3: Organizing Persuasive Speeches

    One of the most commonly cited and discussed organizational patterns for persuasive speeches is Monroe's motivated sequence. The purpose of Monroe's motivated sequence is to help speakers "sequence supporting materials and motivational appeals to form a useful organizational pattern for speeches as a whole" (German et al., 2010, p. 279).

  24. Session Survey

    Introduction; MyPath Group Career Presentation; Rhetorical Analysis; IDEA Persuasive Speech; Citation; Session Survey. One Minute Survey; ... Tags: cc100, communication_studies, informative_speech, interactive_speech, persuasive_speech, speech. Iwasaki Library Emerson College 120 Boylston Street Boston MA 02116