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?”

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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  • 100 Persuasive Speech Topics for Students
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How to Give a Persuasive Presentation [+ Examples]

Caroline Forsey

Published: December 29, 2020

A presentation aimed at persuading an audience to take a specific action can be the most difficult type to deliver, even if you’re not shy of public speaking.

present a persuasive speech

Creating a presentation that effectively achieves your objective requires time, lots of practice, and most importantly, a focused message.

With the right approach, you can create a presentation that leaves a skeptical audience enthusiastic to get on board with your project.

In this post, we'll cover the basics of building a persuasive presentation. Let's dive in.

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What is a persuasive presentation?

In its most basic form, a persuasive presentation features a speaker who tries to influence an audience to accept certain positions and engage in actions in support of them. A good persuasive presentation uses a mixture of facts, logic, and empathy to help an audience see an issue from a perspective they previously discounted or hadn’t considered.

How to Plan a Persuasive Presentation

Want to make a persuasive presentation that connects with your audience? Follow these steps to win friends and influence people within your audience.

1. Decide on a single ask.

The key to convincing your audience is to first identify the singular point you want to make. A good persuasive presentation will focus on one specific and easy-to-understand proposition. Even if that point is part of a broader initiative, it ideally needs to be presented as something your audience can say "yes" or "no" to easily.

A message that isn’t well-defined or which covers too much can cause the audience to lose interest or reject it outright. A more focused topic can also help your delivery sound more confident, which (for better or worse) is an important factor in convincing people.

2. Focus on fewer (but more relevant ) facts.

Remember: You are (in the vast majority of cases) not the target audience for your presentation. To make your presentation a success, you’ll need to know who your audience is so you can shape your message to resonate with them.

When crafting your messaging, put yourself in your audience's headspace and attempt to deeply understand their position, needs, and concerns. Focus on arguments and facts that speak specifically to your audience's unique position.

As we wrote in our post on How to Present a Compelling Argument When You're Not Naturally Persuasive , "just because a fact technically lends support to your claim doesn't mean it will sway your audience. The best evidence needs to not only support your claim but also have a connection to your audience."

What are the target audience's pain points that you can use to make a connection between their needs and your goals? Focus on those aspects, and cut any excess information. Fewer relevant facts are always more impactful than an abundance of unfocused pieces of evidence.

3. Build a narrative around your evidence.

If you want to persuade someone of something, it’s not enough to win their brain -- you need their heart in it, too. Try to make an emotional connection with your audience throughout your presentation to better sell them on the facts you’re presenting. Your audience is human, after all, so some emotional tug will go a long way to shaking up how they view the issue you’re talking about. A little bit of emotion could be just what your audience needs to make your facts “click.”

The easiest way to incorporate an emotional pull into your presentation is through the use of narrative elements. As we wrote in our guide to crafting pitch decks , "When our brains are given a story instead of a list of information, things change -- big time. Stories engage more parts of our brains, including our sensory cortex, which is responsible for processing visual, auditory, and tactile stimuli. If you want to keep people engaged during a presentation, tell them a story."

4. Confidence matters.

Practice makes perfect (it's a cliche because it's true, sorry!), and this is especially true for presentation delivery. Rehearse your presentation several times before you give it to your audience so you can develop a natural flow and move from each section without stopping.

Remember, you're not giving a speech here, so you don't want your delivery to come across like you're reading fully off of cue cards. Use tools like notes and cue cards as ways to keep you on track, not as scripts.

Finally, if you can, try to practice your presentation in front of another human. Getting a trusted co-worker to give you feedback in advance can help strengthen your delivery and identify areas you might need to change or bulk up.

5. Prepare for common objections.

The last thing you want to say when someone in your audience expresses a concern or an outright objection during your presentation's question section is “umm, let me get back to you on that.”

Carefully research the subject of your presentation to make the best case possible for it -- but also prepare in advance for common objections or questions you know your stakeholders are going to ask. The stronger your command of the facts -- and the more prepared you are to proactively address concerns -- the more convincing your presentation will be. When you appear confident fielding any rebuttals during a question and answer session after your presentation, it can go a long way towards making your case seem more convincing.

Persuasive Presentation Outline

Like any writing project, you’ll want to create an outline for your presentation, which can act as both a prompt and a framework. With an outline, you’ll have an easier time organizing your thoughts and creating the actual content you will present. While you can adjust the outline to your needs, your presentation will most likely follow this basic framework.

I. Introduction

Every persuasive presentation needs an introduction that gets the listener’s attention, identifies a problem, and relates it to them.

  • The Hook: Just like a catchy song, your presentation needs a good hook to draw the listener in. Think of an unusual fact, anecdote, or framing that can grab the listener’s attention. Choose something that also establishes your credibility on the issue.
  • The Tie: Tie your hook back to your audience to garner buy-in from your audience, as this issue impacts them personally.
  • The Thesis: This is where you state the position to which you are trying to persuade your audience and forms the focal point for your presentation.

II. The Body

The body forms the bulk of your presentation and can be roughly divided into two parts. In the first half, you will build your case, and in the second you will address potential rebuttals.

  • Your Case: This is where you will present supporting points for your argument and the evidence you’ve gathered through research. This will likely have several different subsections in which you present the relevant evidence for each supporting point.
  • Rebuttals: Consider potential rebuttals to your case and address them individually with supporting evidence for your counterarguments.
  • Benefits: Outline the benefits of the audience adopting your position. Use smooth, conversational transitions to get to these.
  • Drawbacks: Outline what drawbacks of the audience rejecting your position. Be sure to remain conversational and avoid alarmism.

III. Conclusion

In your conclusion, you will wrap up your argument, summarize your key points, and relate them back to the decisions your audience makes.

  • Transition: Write a transition that emphasizes the key point you are trying to make.
  • Summary: Summarize your arguments, their benefits, and the key pieces of evidence supporting your position.
  • Tie-back: Tie back your summary to the actions of your audience and how their decisions will impact the subject of your presentation.
  • Final word: Try to end on a last emotional thought that can inspire your audience to adopt your position and act in support of it.

IV. Citations

Include a section at the end of your presentation with citations for your sources. This will make independent fact-checking easier for your audience and will make your overall presentation more persuasive.

Persuasive Presentation Examples

Check out some of these examples of persuasive presentations to get inspiration for your own. Seeing how someone else made their presentation could help you create one that strikes home with your audience. While the structure of your presentation is entirely up to you, here are some outlines that are typically used for different subjects.

Introducing a Concept

One common type of persuasive presentation is one that introduces a new concept to an audience and tries to get them to accept it. This presentation introduces audience members to the dangers of secondhand smoke and encourages them to take steps to avoid it. Persuasive presentations can also be a good format to introduce marco issues, such as this presentation on the benefits of renewable energy .

Changing Personal Habits

Want to change the personal habits of your audience? Check out this presentation on how to adopt healthy eating habits . Or this presentation which encourages the audience to get more exercise in their daily lives.

Making a Commitment to an Action

Is your goal to get your audience to commit to a specific action? This presentation encouraging audience memes to become organ donors could provide inspiration. Trying to make a big sale? Check out this presentation outline that can encourage someone to buy a home .

Remember: You Can Do This

Anyone can craft a persuasive presentation once they know the basic framework for creating one. Once you get the process down, you’ll be in a better position to bring in sales, attract donors or funding, and even advance your career. The skills you learn can also benefit you in other areas of your personal and professional life as you know how to make a case and influence people toward it.

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Persuasive Speech: How to Write an Effective Persuasive Speech

Persuasive Speech How to Write a Persuasive Speech

Most often, it actually causes the other person to want to play “Devil’s advocate” and argue with you. In this article, we are going to show you a simple way to win people to your way of thinking without raising resentment. If you use this technique, your audience will actually WANT to agree with you! The process starts with putting yourself in the shoes of your listener and looking at things from their point of view.

Background About How to Write a Persuasive Speech. Facts Aren’t Very Persuasive.

In a Persuasive Presentation Facts Aren't Very Persuasive

Most people think that a single fact is good, additional facts are better, and too many facts are just right. So, the more facts you can use to prove your point, the better chance you have of convincing the other person that you are right. The HUGE error in this logic, though, is that if you prove that you are right, you are also proving that the other person is wrong. People don’t like it when someone proves that they are wrong. So, we prove our point, the other person is likely to feel resentment. When resentment builds, it leads to anger. Once anger enters the equation, logic goes right out the window.

In addition, when people use a “fact” or “Statistic” to prove a point, the audience has a natural reaction to take a contrary side of the argument. For instance, if I started a statement with, “I can prove to you beyond a doubt that…” before I even finish the statement, there is a good chance that you are already trying to think of a single instance where the statement is NOT true. This is a natural response. As a result, the thing that we need to realize about being persuasive is that the best way to persuade another person is to make the person want to agree with us. We do this by showing the audience how they can get what they want if they do what we want.

You may also like How to Design and Deliver a Memorable Speech .

A Simple 3-Step Process to Create a Persuasive Presentation

Persuasion Comes from both Logic and Emotion

The process below is a good way to do both.

Step One: Start Your Persuasive Speech with an Example or Story

When you write an effective persuasive speech, stories are vital. Stories and examples have a powerful way to capture an audience’s attention and set them at ease. They get the audience interested in the presentation. Stories also help your audience see the concepts you are trying to explain in a visual way and make an emotional connection. The more details that you put into your story, the more vivid the images being created in the minds of your audience members.

This concept isn’t mystical or anything. It is science. When we communicate effectively with another person, the purpose is to help the listener picture a concept in his/her mind that is similar to the concept in the speaker’s mind. The old adage is that a “picture is worth 1000 words.” Well, an example or a story is a series of moving pictures. So, a well-told story is worth thousands of words (facts).

By the way, there are a few additional benefits of telling a story. Stories help you reduce nervousness, make better eye contact, and make for a strong opening. For additional details, see Storytelling in Speeches .

I’ll give you an example.

Factual Argument: Seatbelts Save Lives

Factual Arguments Leave Out the Emotion

  • 53% of all motor vehicle fatalities from last years were people who weren’t wearing seatbelts.
  • People not wearing seatbelts are 30 times more likely to be ejected from the vehicle.
  • In a single year, crash deaths and injuries cost us over $70 billion dollars.

These are actual statistics. However, when you read each bullet point, you are likely to be a little skeptical. For instance, when you see the 53% statistic, you might have had the same reaction that I did. You might be thinking something like, “Isn’t that right at half? Doesn’t that mean that the other half WERE wearing seatbelts?” When you see the “30 times more likely” statistic, you might be thinking, “That sounds a little exaggerated. What are the actual numbers?” Looking at the last statistic, we’d likely want to know exactly how the reporter came to that conclusion.

As you can see, if you are a believer that seatbelts save lives, you will likely take the numbers at face value. If you don’t like seatbelts, you will likely nitpick the finer points of each statistic. The facts will not likely persuade you.

Example Argument: Seatbelts Save Lives

A Story or Example is More Persuasive Because It Offers Facts and Emotion

When I came to, I tried to open my door. The accident sealed it shut. The windshield was gone. So I took my seatbelt off and scrambled out the hole. The driver of the truck was a bloody mess. His leg was pinned under the steering wheel.

The firefighters came a few minutes later, and it took them over 30 minutes to cut the metal from around his body to free him.

A Sheriff’s Deputy saw a cut on my face and asked if I had been in the accident. I pointed to my truck. His eyes became like saucers. “You were in that vehicle?”

I nodded. He rushed me to an ambulance. I had actually ruptured my colon, and I had to have surgery. I was down for a month or so, but I survived. In fact, I survived with very few long-term challenges from the accident.

The guy who hit me wasn’t so lucky. He wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. The initial impact of the accident was his head on the steering wheel and then the windshield. He had to have a number of facial surgeries. The only reason he remained in the truck was his pinned leg. For me, the accident was a temporary trauma. For him, it was a life-long tragedy.

The Emotional Difference is the Key

As you can see, there are major differences between the two techniques. The story gives lots of memorable details along with an emotion that captures the audience. If you read both examples, let me ask you a couple of questions. Without looking back up higher on the page, how long did it take the firefighters to cut the other driver from the car? How many CDs did I have? There is a good chance that these two pieces of data came to you really quickly. You likely remembered this data, even though, the data wasn’t exactly important to the story.

However, if I asked you how much money was lost last year as a result of traffic accidents, you might struggle to remember that statistic. The CDs and the firefighters were a part of a compelling story that made you pay attention. The money lost to accidents was just a statistic thrown at you to try to prove that a point was true.

The main benefit of using a story, though, is that when we give statistics (without a story to back them up,) the audience becomes argumentative. However, when we tell a story, the audience can’t argue with us. The audience can’t come to me after I told that story and say, “It didn’t take 30 minutes to cut the guy out of the car. He didn’t have to have a bunch of reconstructive surgeries. The Deputy didn’t say those things to you! The audience can’t argue with the details of the story, because they weren’t there.

Step 2: After the Story, Now, Give Your Advice

When most people write a persuasive presentation, they start with their opinion. Again, this makes the listener want to play Devil’s advocate. By starting with the example, we give the listener a simple way to agree with us. They can agree that the story that we told was true. So, now, finish the story with your point or your opinion. “So, in my opinion, if you wear a seatbelt, you’re more likely to avoid serious injury in a severe crash.”

By the way, this technique is not new. It has been around for thousands of years. Aesop was a Greek slave over 500 years before Christ. His stories were passed down verbally for hundreds of years before anyone ever wrote them down in a collection. Today, when you read an Aesop fable, you will get 30 seconds to two minutes of the story first. Then, at the conclusion, almost as a post-script, you will get the advice. Most often, this advice comes in the form of, “The moral of the story is…” You want to do the same in your persuasive presentations. Spend most of the time on the details of the story. Then, spend just a few seconds in the end with your morale.

Step 3: End with the Benefit to the Audience

3 Step Process to Write an Effective Persuasive Speech

So, the moral of the story is to wear your seatbelt. If you do that, you will avoid being cut out of your car and endless reconstructive surgeries .

Now, instead of leaving your audience wanting to argue with you, they are more likely to be thinking, “Man, I don’t want to be cut out of my car or have a bunch of facial surgeries.”

The process is very simple. However, it is also very powerful.

How to Write a Successful Persuasive Speech Using the “Breadcrumb” Approach

Once you understand the concept above, you can create very powerful persuasive speeches by linking a series of these persuasive stories together. I call this the breadcrumb strategy. Basically, you use each story as a way to move the audience closer to the ultimate conclusion that you want them to draw. Each story gains a little more agreement.

So, first, just give a simple story about an easy to agree with concept. You will gain agreement fairly easily and begin to also create an emotional appeal. Next, use an additional story to gain additional agreement. If you use this process three to five times, you are more likely to get the audience to agree with your final conclusion. If this is a formal presentation, just make your main points into the persuasive statements and use stories to reinforce the points.

Here are a few persuasive speech examples using this approach.

An Example of a Persuasive Public Speaking Using Breadcrumbs

Marijuana Legalization is Causing Huge Problems in Our Biggest Cities Homelessness is Out of Control in First States to Legalize Marijuana Last year, my family and I took a mini-vacation to Colorado Springs. I had spent a summer in Colorado when I was in college, so I wanted my family to experience the great time that I had had there as a youth. We were only there for four days, but we noticed something dramatic had happened. There were homeless people everywhere. Keep in mind, this wasn’t Denver, this was Colorado City. The picturesque landscape was clouded by ripped sleeping bags on street corners, and trash spread everywhere. We were downtown, and my wife and daughter wanted to do some shopping. My son and I found a comic book store across the street to browse in. As we came out, we almost bumped into a dirty man in torn close. He smiled at us, walked a few feet away from the door, and lit up a joint. He sat on the corner smoking it. As my son and I walked the 1/4 mile back to the store where we left my wife and daughter, we stepped over and walked around over a dozen homeless people camped out right in the middle of the town. This was not the Colorado that I remembered. From what I’ve heard, it has gotten even worse in the last year. So, if you don’t want to dramatically increase your homelessness population, don’t make marijuana legal in your state. DUI Instances and Traffic Accidents Have Increased in Marijuana States I was at the airport waiting for a flight last week, and the guy next to me offered me his newspaper. I haven’t read a newspaper in years, but he seemed so nice that I accepted. It was a copy of the USA Today, and it was open to an article about the rise in unintended consequences from legalizing marijuana. Safety officials and police in Colorado, Nevada, Washington, and Oregon, the first four state to legalize recreational marijuana, have reported a 6% increase in traffic accidents in the last few years. Although the increase (6%) doesn’t seem very dramatic, it was notable because the rate of accidents had been decreasing in each of the states for decades prior to the law change. Assuming that only one of the two parties involved in these new accidents was under the influence, that means that people who aren’t smoking marijuana are being negatively affected by the legalization. So, if you don’t want to increase your chances of being involved in a DUI incident, don’t legalize marijuana. (Notice how I just used an article as my evidence, but to make it more memorable, I told the story about how I came across the article. It is also easier to deliver this type of data because you are just relating what you remember about the data, not trying to be an expert on the data itself.) Marijuana is Still Largely Unregulated Just before my dad went into hospice care, he was in a lot of pain. He would take a prescription painkiller before bed to sleep. One night, my mom called frantically. Dad was in a catatonic state and wasn’t responsive. I rushed over. The hospital found that Dad had an unusually high amount of painkillers in his bloodstream. His regular doctor had been on vacation, and the fill-in doctor had prescribed a much higher dosage of the painkiller by accident. His original prescription was 2.5 mg, and the new prescription was 10 mg. Since dad was in a lot of pain most nights, he almost always took two tablets. He was also on dialysis, so his kidneys weren’t filtering out the excess narcotic each day. He had actually taken 20 MG (instead of 5 MG) on Friday night and another 20 mg on Saturday. Ordinarily, he would have had, at max, 15 mg of the narcotic in his system. Because of the mistake, though, he had 60 MGs. My point is that the narcotics that my dad was prescribed were highly regulated medicines under a doctor’s care, and a mistake was still made that almost killed him. With marijuana, there is really no way of knowing how much narcotic is in each dosage. So, mistakes like this are much more likely. So, in conclusion, legalizing marijuana can increase homelessness, increase the number of impaired drivers, and cause accidental overdoses.

If you use this breadcrumb approach, you are more likely to get at least some agreement. Even if the person disagrees with your conclusion, they are still likely to at least see your side. So, the person may say something like, I still disagree with you, but I totally see your point. That is still a step in the right direction.

For Real-World Practice in How to Design Persuasive Presentations Join Us for a Class

Our instructors are experts at helping presenters design persuasive speeches. We offer the Fearless Presentations ® classes in cities all over the world about every three to four months. In addition to helping you reduce nervousness, your instructor will also show you secrets to creating a great speech. For details about any of the classes, go to our Presentation Skills Class web page.

For additional details, see Persuasive Speech Outline Example .

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A Comprehensive Guide to Writing a Persuasive Speech

Hrideep barot.

  • Speech Writing

call of action- persuasion

The term Persuasion means the efforts to change the attitudes or opinions of others through various means.

It is present everywhere: election campaigns, salesmen trying to sell goods by giving offers, public health campaigns to quit smoking or to wear masks in the public spaces, or even at the workplace; when an employee tries to persuade others to agree to their point in a meeting.

How do they manage to convince us so subtly? You guessed it right! They engage in what is called Persuasive Speech.

Persuasive Speech is a category of speech that attempts to influence the listener’s beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, and ultimately, behavior.

They are used in all contexts and situations . It can be informal , a teenager attempting to convince his or her parents for a sleepover at a friend’s house.

It can also be formal , President or Prime Minister urging the citizens to abide by the new norms.

But not to confuse these with informative speeches! These also aim to inform the audience about a particular topic or event, but they lack any attempt at persuasion.

The most typical setting where this kind of speech is practiced is in schools and colleges.

An effective speech combines both the features of an informative and persuasive speech for a better takeaway from an audience’s point of view.

However, writing and giving a persuasive speech are different in the sense that you as a speaker have limited time to call people to action.

Also, according to the context or situation, you may not be able to meet your audience several times, unlike TV ads, which the audience sees repeatedly and hence believes the credibility of the product.

So, how to write and deliver an effective persuasive speech?

How to start a persuasive speech? What are the steps of writing a persuasive speech? What are some of the tricks and tips of persuasion?

Read along till the end to explore the different dimensions and avenues of the science of giving a persuasive speech.

THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND BEFORE WRITING A PERSUASIVE SPEECH

1. get your topic right, passion and genuine interest in your topic.

It is very important that you as a speaker are interested in the chosen topic and in the subsequent arguments you are about to put forward. If you are not interested in what you are saying, then how will the audience feel the same?

Passion towards the topic is one of the key requirements for a successful speech as your audience will see how passionate and concerned you are towards the issue and will infer you as a genuine and credible person.

The audience too will get in the mood and connect to you on an emotional level, empathizing with you; as a result of which will understand your point of view and are likely to agree to your argument.

Consider this example: your friend is overflowing with joy- is happy, smiling, and bubbling with enthusiasm.

Before even asking the reason behind being so happy, you “catch the mood”; i.e., you notice that your mood has been boosted as a result of seeing your friend happy.

Why does it happen so? The reason is that we are influenced by other people’s moods and emotions.

It also means that our mood affects people around us, which is the reason why speaking with emotions and passion is used by many successful public speakers.

Another reason is that other’s emotions give an insight into how one should feel and react. We interpret other’s reactions as a source of information about how we should feel.

So, if someone shows a lot of anxiety or excitement while speaking, we conclude that the issue is very important and we should do something about it, and end up feeling similar reactions.

Meaningful and thought-provoking

Choose a topic that is meaningful to you and your audience. It should be thought-provoking and leave the audience thinking about the points put forward in your speech.

Topics that are personally or nationally relevant and are in the talks at the moment are good subjects to start with.

If you choose a controversial topic like “should euthanasia be legalized?”, or” is our nation democratic?”, it will leave a dramatic impact on your audience.

However, be considerate in choosing a sensitive topic, since it can leave a negative impression on your listeners. But if worded in a neutral and unbiased manner, it can work wonders.

Also, refrain from choosing sensitive topics like the reality of religion, sexuality, etc.

2. Research your topic thoroughly

present a persuasive speech

Research on persuasion conducted by Hovland, Janis, and Kelley states that credible communicators are more persuasive than those who are seen as lacking expertise.

Even if you are not an expert in the field of your topic, mentioning information that is backed by research or stating an expert’s opinion on the issue will make you appear as a knowledgeable and credible person.

How to go about researching? Many people think that just googling about a topic and inferring 2-3 articles will be enough. But this is not so.

For writing and giving an effective speech, thorough research is crucial for you as a speaker to be prepared and confident.

Try to find as many relevant points as possible, even if it is against your viewpoint. If you can explain why the opposite viewpoint is not correct, it will give the audience both sides to an argument and will make decision-making easier.

Also, give credit to the source of your points during your speech, by mentioning the original site, author, or expert, so the audience will know that these are reliable points and not just your opinion, and will be more ready to believe them since they come from an authority.

Other sources for obtaining data for research are libraries and bookstores, magazines, newspapers, google scholar, research journals, etc.

Analyze your audience

Know who comprises your audience so that you can alter your speech to meet their requirements.

Demographics like age group, gender ratio, the language with which they are comfortable, their knowledge about the topic, the region and community to which they belong; are all important factors to be considered before writing your speech.

Ask yourself these questions before sitting down to write:

Is the topic of argument significant to them? Why is it significant? Would it make sense to them? Is it even relevant to them?

In the end, the speech is about the audience and not you. Hence, make efforts to know your audience.

This can be done by surveying your audience way before the day of giving your speech. Short polls and registration forms are an effective way to know your audience.

They ensure confidentiality and maintain anonymity, eliminating social desirability bias on part of the audience, and will likely receive honest answers.

OUTLINE OF A PERSUASIVE SPEECH

Most speeches follow the pattern of Introduction, Body and Conclusion.

However, persuasive speeches have a slightly different pathway.

INTRODUCTION

BODY OR SUPPORTING STATEMENTS( ATLEAST 3 ARGUMENTS)

CONCLUSION OR A CALL TO ACTION

1. INTRODUCTION

Grab attention of your audience.

present a persuasive speech

The first few lines spoken by a speaker are the deciding factor that can make or break a speech.

Hence, if you nail the introduction, half of the task has already been done, and you can rest assured.

No one likes to be silent unless you are an introvert. But the audience expects that the speaker will go on stage and speak. But what if the speaker just goes and remains silent?

Chances are high that the audience will be in anticipation of what you are about to speak and their sole focus will be on you.

This sets the stage.

Use quotes that are relevant and provocative to set the tone of your speech. It will determine the mood of your audience and get them ready to receive information.

An example can be “The only impossible journey is the one you never begin” and then state who gave it, in this case, Tony Robbins, an American author.

Use what-if scenarios

Another way to start your speech is by using what-if scenarios and phrases like “suppose if your home submerges in water one day due to global warming…”.

This will make them the center of attention and at the same time grabbing their attention.

Use personal anecdotes

Same works with personal experiences and stories.

Everyone loves listening to first-hand experiences or a good and interesting story. If you are not a great storyteller, visual images and videos will come to your rescue.

After you have successfully grabbed and hooked your audience, the next and last step of the introduction is introducing your thesis statement.

What is a thesis statement?

It introduces the topic to your audience and is one of the central elements of any persuasive speech.

It is usually brief, not more than 3 sentences, and gives the crux of your speech outline.

How to make a thesis statement?

Firstly, research all possible opinions and views about your topic. See which opinion you connect with, and try to summarize them.

After you do this, you will get a clear idea of what side you are on and this will become your thesis statement.

However, the thesis should answer the question “why” and “how”.

So, for instance, if you choose to speak on the topic of the necessity of higher education, your thesis statement could be something like this:

Although attending university and getting a degree is essential for overall development, not every student must be pushed to join immediately after graduating from school.

And then you can structure your speech containing the reasons why every student should not be rushed into joining a university.

3. BODY OF THE SPEECH

The body contains the actual reasons to support your thesis.

Ideally, the body should contain at least 3 reasons to support your argument.

So, for the above-mentioned thesis, you can support it with possible alternatives, which will become your supporting statements.

The option of a gap year to relax and decide future goals, gaining work experience and then joining the university for financial reasons, or even joining college after 25 or 35 years.

These become your supporting reasons and answers the question “why”.

Each reason has to be resourcefully elaborated, with explaining why you support and why the other or anti-thesis is not practical.

At this point, you have the option of targeting your audience’s ethos, pathos, or logos.

Ethos is the ethical side of the argument. It targets morals and puts forth the right thing or should be.

This technique is highly used in the advertising industry.

Ever wondered why celebrities, experts, and renowned personalities are usually cast as brand ambassadors.?

The reason: they are liked by the masses and exhibit credibility and trust.

Advertisers endorse their products via a celebrity to try to show that the product is reliable and ethical.

The same scenario is seen in persuasive speeches. If the speaker is well-informed and provides information that is backed by research, chances are high that the audience will follow it.

Pathos targets the emotional feelings of the audience.

This is usually done by narrating a tragic or horrifying anecdote and leaves the listener moved by using an emotional appeal to call people to action.

The common emotions targeted by the speaker include the feeling of joy, love, sadness, anger, pity, and loneliness.

All these emotions are best expressed in stories or personal experiences.

Stories give life to your argument, making the audience more involved in the matter and arousing sympathy and empathy.

Visuals and documentaries are other mediums through which a speaker can attract the audience’s emotions.

What was your reaction after watching an emotional documentary? Did you not want to do something about the problem right away?

Emotions have the power to move people to action.

The last technique is using logos, i.e., logic. This includes giving facts and practical aspects of why this is to be done or why such a thing is the most practical.

It is also called the “logical appeal”.

This can be done by giving inductive or deductive reasoning.

Inductive reasoning involves the speaker taking a specific example or case study and then generalizing or drawing conclusions from it.

For instance, a speaker tells a case study of a student who went into depression as the child wasn’t able to cope with back-to-back stress.

This problem will be generalized and concluded that gap year is crucial for any child to cope with and be ready for the challenges in a university.

On the other hand, deductive reasoning involves analyzing general assumptions and theories and then arriving at a logical conclusion.

So, in this case, the speaker can give statistics of the percentage of university students feeling drained due to past exams and how many felt that they needed a break.

This general data will then be personalized to conclude how there is a need for every student to have a leisure break to refresh their mind and avoid having burned out.

Using any of these 3 techniques, coupled with elaborate anecdotes and supporting evidence, at the same time encountering counterarguments will make the body of your speech more effective.

4. CONCLUSION

Make sure to spend some time thinking through your conclusion, as this is the part that your audience will remember the most and is hence, the key takeaway of your entire speech.

Keep it brief, and avoid being too repetitive.

It should provide the audience with a summary of the points put across in the body, at the same time calling people to action or suggesting a possible solution and the next step to be taken.

Remember that this is your last chance to convince, hence make sure to make it impactful.

 Include one to two relevant power or motivational quotes, and end by thanking the audience for being patient and listening till the end.

Watch this clip for a better understanding.

TIPS AND TRICKS OF PERSUASION

Start strong.

A general pattern among influential speeches is this: all start with a powerful and impactful example, be it statistics about the issue, using influential and meaning statements and quotes, or asking a rhetorical question at the beginning of their speech.

Why do they do this? It demonstrates credibility and creates a good impression- increasing their chance of persuading the audience.

Hence, start in such a manner that will hook the audience to your speech and people would be curious to know what you are about to say or how will you end it.

Keep your introduction short

Keep your introduction short, and not more than 10-15% of your speech.

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. This will give you time to state your main points and help you manage your time effectively.

Be clear and concise

Use the correct vocabulary to fit in, at the same time making sure to state them clearly, without beating around the bush.

This will make the message efficient and impactful.

Answer the question “why”

Answer the question “why” before giving solutions or “how”.

Tell them why is there a need to change. Then give them all sides of the point.

It is important to state what is wrong and not just what ought to be or what is right, in an unopinionated tone.

Unless and until people don’t know the other side of things, they simply will not change.

Suggest solutions

Once you have stated the problem, you imply or hint at the solution.

Never state solutions, suggest them; leaving the decision up to the audience.

You can hint at solutions: “don’t you think it is a good idea to…?” or “is it wrong to say that…?”, instead of just stating solutions.

Use power phrases

Certain power-phrases come in handy, which can make the audience take action.

Using the power phrase “because” is very impactful in winning and convincing others.

This phrase justifies the action associated with it and gives us an understanding of why is it correct.

For instance, the phrase “can you give me a bite of your food?” does not imply attitude change.

But using “may I have a bite of your food because I haven’t eaten breakfast?” is more impactful and the person will likely end up sharing food if you use this power- phrase, because it is justifying your request.

Another power-phrase is “I understand, but…”.

This involves you agreeing with the opposite side of the argument and then stating your side or your point of view.

This will encourage your audience to think from the other side of the spectrum and are likely to consider your argument put forth in the speech.

Use power words

Use power words like ‘incredible’, ‘fascinating’, ‘unquestionable’, ‘most important’, ‘strongly recommend’ in your speech to provoke your audience into awe.

Watch this video of some of the common but effective words that can be used in a persuasive speech.

Give an emotional appeal

Like mentioned earlier as one of the techniques of persuasion called pathos, targeting emotions like joy, surprise, fear, anticipation, anger, sadness, or disgust gives your speech an emotional appeal, and more feel to your content, rather than just neutrally stating facts and reasons.

Hence, to keep your audience engaged and not get bored, use emotions while speaking.

Make use of the non=verbal elements

Actions speak louder than words, and they create a huge difference if used effectively.

There is so much else to a speech than just words.

Non-verbal elements include everything apart from your words.

Maintaining eye contact, matching your body language with your words for effective transmission of the message including how you express your emotions, making use of the visual signs and symbols via a PPT are all important parts of any speech.

Check your paralanguage i.e., your voice intonation, pitch, speed, effective pauses, stressing on certain words to create an impact.

Doing all of these will make your speech more real and effective, and will persuade your audience into taking action.

Give real-life examples

Speak facts and avoid giving opinions.

However, just mentioning hard statistical facts will take you nowhere, as there is a chance that people may not believe the data, based on the possibility of them recollecting exceptions.                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Hence, back up your statistics with real-life examples of situations.

Also, consider using precise numerical data.

For example, using “5487 people die due to road accidents every day”, instead of “approximately 5500 people”.

Have no personal stake

You can lose credibility if the audience feels that you have a personal stake in it.

Suppose that you are speaking for the idea of using reusable plastic products, and you say that you are from a company that sells those goods.

People are likely to perceive your argument as promoting self-interest and will not be ready to change their opinion about reusable plastic products.

Consequently, if you argue against your self-interest, your audience will see you as the most credible. 

So, if you say that you are working in a plastics manufacturing company and have a statistical record of the pollution caused by it; and then promote reusable plastic as an alternative to stop pollution and save the environment, people are likely to accept your point of argument.

The you attitude

Shift your focus to the audience, and chances are high that they are likely to relate the issue to themselves and are most likely to change.

Hence, use the “you attitude” i.e., shifting focus to the listener and giving them what they want to hear and then making subtle additions to what you want them to hear.

Make a good first impression

The first impression is indeed the last. This is the reason why image consultancy is such a growing sector.

A good first impression works wonders on the people around you, including the audience, and makes your work of convincing a lot easier.

Avoid appearing shabby, ill-mannered, and refrain from using uncourteous and biased language.

Doing these will reverse the effect you want from the audience and will drive them away from your opinion.

HOW TO MAKE A GOOD FIRST IMPRESSION?

If you are the type who gets nervous easily and have fear of public speaking, practice till you excel in your task.

I used to dread speaking in front of people, and partly still do.

Earlier, unless and until someone called my name to state my opinion or start with the presentation, I didn’t even raise my hand to say that I have an opinion or I am left to present on the topic.

I had to do something about this problem. So, I made a plan.

2 weeks before the presentation, I wrote the script and read it over and over again.

After reading multiple times, I imagined my room to be the classroom and practiced in front of a mirror.

The main thing I was concerned about was keeping my head clear on the day of my presentation. And that’s what happened.

Since my mind was clear and relaxed, and I had practiced my speech over and over again, presenting came more naturally and confidently.

You might ask what is the purpose of impression management?

Impressions are used for Ingratiation i.e., getting others to like us so that they will be more than willing to accept or agree to your point.

If you like someone, you are drawn towards them and are likely to agree on what they agree or say.

TIP- Try to come early to the venue, and dress appropriately to the needs of the occasion. And don’t forget to smile!

PERSUASIVE SPEECH EXAMPLES

1. wendy troxel – why school should start later for teens.

Almost all the important elements of a persuasive speech are found in this TED talk by Wendy Troxel.

Take a closer look at how she starts her introduction in the form of a real-life personal story, and how she makes it relevant to the audience.

Humor is used to hook the audience’s attention and in turn their interest.

She is also likely to be perceived as credible, as she introduces herself as a sleep researcher, and is speaking on the topic of sleep.

Thesis of how early school timings deprive teenagers of their sleep and its effects is introduced subtly.

The speaker supports her statements with facts, answers the question “why” and most importantly, presents both sides of an argument; effects of less to lack of sleep and its consequences and the effects of appropriate and more sleep on teenagers.

The use of non-verbal elements throughout the speech adds value and richness to the speech, making it more engaging.

The use of Pathos as a persuasive technique appeals to the audience’s emotions; at the same time backing the argument with Logos, by giving scientific reasons and research findings to support the argument.

Lastly, the speech is meaningful, relevant, and thought-provoking to the audience, who are mostly parents and teenagers.

2. Crystal Robello- Being an introvert is a good thing

In this example, Crystal Robello starts by giving personal experiences of being an introvert and the prejudices faced.

Notice how even without much statistics the speech is made persuasive by using Ethos as a technique; and how credibility is achieved by mentioning leaders who are introverts.

3. Greta Thunberg- School strike for climate

One of my favorite speeches is the above speech by Greta Thunberg.

She uses all the techniques; pathos, ethos and logos.

Also notice how the speaker speaks with emotions, and uses body and paralanguage efficiently to create a dramatic impact on the audience.

Her genuine interest is clearly reflected in the speech, which makes the audience listen with a level of concern towards the topic, climate change.

To sum up, we looked at the things to keep in mind before writing a speech and also became familiar with the general outline or the structure of a persuasive speech.

We also looked at some of the tips and tricks of persuasion, and lastly, got introduced to 3 amazing persuasive speech examples.

So, now that you know everything about persuasion, rest assured and keep the above-mentioned things in mind before starting your next speech!

Also, check out related posts:

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15 Persuasive Speeches

Speeches that Make a Change

In this chapter . . .

For many public speeches, the specific purpose is to convince the audience of a particular opinion or claim or to convince them to take some action in response to the speech. When your intention is to affect change in your audience (not just the acquisition of knowledge) then you are delivering a persuasive speech. In this chapter you will learn about the elements of persuasion, why persuasion is difficult, and how to overcome people’s resistance to change by using effective and ethical methods.

Although a persuasive speech involves information—even as much as an informative speech—the key difference is that a persuasive speech is designed for “creating, reinforcing, or changing people’s beliefs or actions” (Lucas, 2015. p. 306). A persuasive speech makes something happen. In other words, it performs a job.

Traditional Views of Persuasion

In the fourth century BCE, the classic philosopher Aristotle took up the study of the public practices of the ruling class in Athenian society. For two years he observed the  rhetoric  (the art of persuasion) of the men who spoke in the assembly and the courts. In the end, he developed a theory about persuasiveness that has come down to us in history as a treatise called Rhetoric. Among his many ideas was the identification of three elements essential to persuasion: ethos, logos, and pathos. In short, they mean credibility, reasonability, and emotion.

Ethos has come to mean speaker character and credentials. It is the element that establishes the audience’s trust in you as a speaker. A speaker’s credibility is based on who the speaker is and what they know: experience, education, expertise, and background. If you’re delivering a persuasive speech about adopting a pet from a shelter and you have raised several shelter dogs, then you have credibility through experience and should share that fact about yourself with the audience to enhance their trust in your persuasive argument. Another way to establish your credibility is through research sources. You may not be an expert in climate change, but if you were giving a persuasive speech about it, you can cite reliable authoritative sources.

The word ethos looks very much like the word “ethics,” and there are many close parallels to the trust an audience has in a speaker and their honesty and ethical stance. In terms of ethics, it goes without saying that your speech will be truthful.

In addition to expertise and truthfulness is your personal involvement in the topic. Ideally you have chosen the topic because it means something to you personally. Audiences will have more trust in you if they feel you have something as stake or something personal in the subject. For example, perhaps your speech is designed to motivate audience members to take action against bullying in schools, and it’s important to you because you work with the Boys and Girls Club organization and have seen how anti-bullying programs can have positive results. Sharing your own involvement and commitment is key to establishing your credibility on this topic.

Logos is the second key element in Aristotle’s theory of rhetoric. Related to our word “logic,” the Greek term logos in persuasion means presenting ideas that appeal to logic or reason. Logos in a speech pertain to arguments that the audience would find acceptable. Imagine a speech, for example, which has the goal of persuading an audience to adopt healthier eating habits. Would the speech be effective if the arguments focused on how expensive organic foods are? Of course not.

Logic and reason are persuasive not only as matters of content.  Logos  pertains to organization, as well. An effective persuasive speech presents arguments in an organized fashion.

In words like “empathy,” “sympathy,” and “compassion” we see the root word behind the Greek word pathos. Pathos, for Aristotle, meant exciting emotions such as anger, joy, hate, love, and desire to persuade the audience of the rightness of a proposition. In a positive sense, appealing to the emotions of the audience is a highly effective persuasive tool. In the earlier example of a speech designed to encourage an audience to take action against bullying in schools, including a touching story about a student experiencing bullying would make the audience more likely to support your call for action.

However, we recognize that pathos can be used in a negative way. Emotional appeals that use anger, guilt, hatred, inflammatory language like name-calling, or that try to frighten the audience with horrible images, are counter-productive and even unethical. They might incite emotion in the audience, but they are poor uses of pathos.

One negative emotion used frequently by persuasive speakers is fear. Candidates for political office, for example, often try to provoke fear to move us to vote for them. Intense, over-the-top fear appeals, based on factual falsehoods or cherry-picking, and/or including shocking photos, are not ethical and are often dismissed by discerning audience members. Appealing to the emotion of fear can be ethical if it’s managed carefully. This means being strictly factual and avoiding extremes.

Persuasion and the Audience

It makes sense that if a speaker wants to affect the audience’s beliefs or actions, then the speaker must be perfectly clear about their expectations. If you were listening to a persuasive speech call for your audience to support animals, wouldn’t you want to know exactly what “support” the speaker was talking about? Giving money to charities? Volunteering at an animal shelter? Writing state legislators and urging them to change laws? Your job as a persuasive speaker is to be clear about what you want to create, reinforce, or change in your audience.

For your speech to have persuasive power, you must also consider your audience and choose a goal that is feasible for them. Persuasion isn’t an on/off switch. It’s more like a thermometer. Skillful persuasive speakers respect and identify a persuasive goal that is calibrated to the audience. Think of persuasion as a continuum or line going both directions. At one end is strong disagreement. At the other end is strong agreement. Your audience members, either as a group or individually, are sitting somewhere on that line in relation to your central idea statement, or what we are going to call a proposition in this chapter.

Persuasion Scale

For example, your speech proposition might be something like “The main cause of climate change is human activity.” You are claiming that climate change is due to the harmful things that humans have done to the environment. To be an effective persuasive speaker, one of your first jobs after choosing this topic would be to determine where your audience “sits” on the continuum.

+ 3 means strongly agree to the point of making lifestyle choices to lessen climate change (such as riding a bike instead of driving a car, recycling, eating certain kinds of foods, and advocating for government policy changes). + 2 means agree but not to the point of acting upon it or only acting on it in small ways. + 1 as mildly agrees with your proposition; that is, they think it’s probably true, but the issue doesn’t affect them personally. 0 means neutral, no opinion, or feeling too uninformed to decide. – 1 means mildly opposed to the proposition but willing to listen to those with whom they disagree. – 2 means disagreement to the point of dismissing the idea pretty quickly. – 3 means strong opposition to the point that the concept of climate change itself isn’t even listened to or acknowledged as a valid subject.

Since everyone in the audience is somewhere on this line or continuum, you can accept the fact that any movement toward +3 or to the right is a win. Trying to change an audience from -3 (strong disagreement) to +3 (strong agreement) in a single speech would be quite impossible. When you understand this, you can make strategic choices about the content of your speech.

In this example, if you knew that most of the audience was at -2 or -3, your speech could focus on opening their minds to the possibility of climate change and provide the science behind human causes. On the other hand, if you knew your audience was at +1 or +2, you could focus on urging them to take bold steps, like giving up their gasoline-powered vehicles.

A proposition is assumed to be in some way controversial, or a “stretch” for the audience. Some people in the audience will disagree with your proposition or at least have no opinion; they are not “on your side.”

There will be those in the audience who disagree with your proposition but who are willing to listen. Some members of the audience may already agree with you, although they don’t know why. Both groups could be called the  target audience . At the same time, another cluster of your audience may be extremely opposed to your position to the degree that they probably will not give you a fair hearing. They probably can’t be persuaded. Focus on your target audience, they are the one you can persuade.

Why is Persuasion Hard?

Persuasion is hard mainly because we have a bias against change. We go out of our way to protect our beliefs, attitudes, and values. We selectively expose ourselves to messages that we already agree with, rather than those that confront or challenge us. We find it uncomfortable to be confronted with conflicting information or viewpoints.

Additionally, during a persuasive speech the audience members are holding a mental dialogue with the speaker or at least the speaker’s content. The processes that the human mind goes through while it listens to a persuasive message is like a silent conversation. In their minds, audience members are producing doubts or reservations about your proposal. If we could listen in on one of these conversations, it might go something like this:

Speaker: Switching to a plant-based diet is the best action you can take to support a reduction in the CO-2 emissions harming the climate. Audience Member Mind: Yeah, I hear what you’re saying, but eating like that won’t give me enough protein.

The audience member has a doubt or reservation about the speaker’s proposal. We can call these doubts “yeah, buts” because the audience members are thinking, “Yeah, but what about—?”  It’s a skill of good persuasion speechwriting to anticipate reservations.

Solutions to the Difficulty of Persuasion

With these reasons for the resistance audience members have to persuasion, what is a speaker to do? Here are some strategies.

First, choose a feasible goal for the persuasive action you want the audience to take. Going back to our continuum, trying to move an audience from -3 to +2 or +3 is too big a move. Having reasonable persuasive goals is the first way to meet resistance. Even moving someone from -3 to -2 is progress, and over time these small shifts can eventually result in a significant amount of persuasion.

Secondly, as speakers we must address reservations. While speechwriters aren’t mind-readers, we can easily imagine reservations about our proposition and build a response to those reservations into the speech. Using the example above, a speaker might say:

Switching to a plant-based diet is the best action you can take to support a reduction in the CO-2 emissions harming the climate. I urge all of you to consider this important dietary change. Perhaps you are thinking that a plant-based diet won’t provide enough protein. That is a common concern. Nutritionists at the website Forks Over Knives explain how the staples of a PB diet—whole grains, legumes, and nuts—provide ample protein.

Here, the speaker acknowledges a valid reservation and then offers a rebuttal. This is called a two-tailed argument. The speaker articulates a possible argument against their proposition and then refutes it.

The third strategy is to keep in mind that since you are asking the audience to change something, they must view the benefits of the change as worth the stress of the change. In effect, audiences want to know: “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM). As a speaker, you should give thought to that question and in your speech address the benefit, advantage, or improvement that the audience will gain by taking the action you propose.

Structure of a Persuasive Speech

A persuasive speech shares with an informational speech the same four elements for a strongly structured speech: introduction, body, conclusion, and connectors. Like informative speeches, preparation requires thoughtful attention to the given circumstances of the speech occasion, as well as audience analysis in terms of demographic and psychographic features. That said, there are some elements unique to a persuasive speech.

General and Specific Purpose General Purpose: To Persuade Specific Purpose: To motivate my audience of campus administrators to provide LGBTQ+ safe spaces on campus.

This looks familiar up to this point. The general purpose is one of the three broad speech goals (to instruct, to persuade, to inspire or entertain). The specific purpose statement follows a clear T.W.A.C. pattern:

T o +  W ord: To convince A udience: campus administrators C ontent: LGBTQ+ safe spaces

What is unique to persuasive speeches is what comes next, the proposition.

Propositions

Informational speeches require a thesis. This is the central idea of the speech; its “takeaway.” Persuasive speeches equally require a strong focus on the main idea, but we call this something else: a  proposition . A proposition is a statement that expresses a judgement or opinion about which you want audience in agreement. Remember that propositions must be something that can be argued. To say, “The earth is round” isn’t a proposition. “The earth is flat” is a proposition.

  • Converting to solar energy saves homeowners money.
  • A vegan diet is the most ethical way to eat.
  • Universities should provide on-line learning options for all classes.
  • The Constitution’s Second Amendment does not include possession of automatic weapons for private use.

Like a thesis statement for an informative speech, a proposition statement is best when it not only clearly states the judgment or opinion for which you seek audience agreement, but also provides a succinct preview of the reasons for that judgement.

Universities should provide LGBTQ+ safe spaces on campus to promote visibility, build community, and protect well-being for LGBTQ+ students and their allies.

Types of Propositions

If you take a closer look at the propositions above, you’ll notice that they suggest several types of persuasion. In fact, there are several broad categories of propositions, determined by their primary goal. These are: a) propositions of fact, b) propositions of value, c) propositions of policy, and d) propositions of definition.

Proposition of Fact

Speeches with this type of proposition attempt to establish the truth of a statement. The core of the proposition isn’t whether something is morally right or wrong, only that a statement is supported by evidence or not. These propositions are not facts such as “the chemical symbol for water is H20.” Rather, propositions of fact are statements over which people disagree and there is evidence on both sides. Some examples of propositions of fact are:

  • Experiments using animals are essential to the development of many life-saving medical procedures.
  • Climate change has been caused by human activity.

Notice that in none of these are any values—good or bad—mentioned. The point of these propositions is to prove with evidence the truth of a statement.

Proposition of Value

Propositions of fact have the primary purpose of arguing that something exists in a particular way. Propositions of value, on the other hand, have as their primary purpose to argue that one thing is better than another. When the proposition has a word such as “good,” “bad,” “best,” “worst,” “just,” “unjust,” “ethical,” “unethical,” “moral,” “immoral,” “beneficial,” “harmful,” “advantageous,” or “disadvantageous,” then it’s a proposition of value. Some examples include:

  • Hybrid cars are the best form of automobile transportation available today.
  • Mascots that involve Native American names, characters, and symbols are unjust.

Propositions of value require a first step: defining the “value” word. If you are trying to convince your audience that something is “unjust,” you will have to make clear what you mean by that term. For different people, “best” might mean “safest,” “least expensive,” “most environmentally responsible,” “stylish,” “powerful,” or “prestigious.” Obviously, in the case of the first proposition above, it means “environmentally responsible.” It’s the first job of the speaker, after introducing the speech and stating the proposition, to explain what “best form of automobile transportation” means. Then the proposition would be defended with separate arguments.

Proposition of Policy

These propositions are easy to identify because they almost always have the word “should” in them. These propositions call for a change in policy or practice (including those in a government, community, or school), or they can call for the audience to adopt a certain behavior.

  • The federal government should act to ensure clean water standards for all citizens.
  • Universities should eliminate attendance requirements.
  • States should lower taxes on food.

The proposition determines the approach to the speech, especially the organization. The exact phrasing of the proposition should be carefully done to be reasonable, positive, and appropriate for the context and audience.

Propositions of Definition

Propositions of definitions argue that a word, phrase, or concept has a particular meaning. Lawyers, legislators, and scholars often write briefs, present persuasive speeches, or compose articles to define terms that are vital to defendants, citizens, or disciplines. Some examples might be:

  • The Second Amendment to the Constitution does not include possession of automatic weapons for private use.
  • Alcoholism should be considered a disease because…
  • Thomas Jefferson’s definition of inalienable rights did not include a right to privacy.

In each of these examples, the proposition is that the definition of these things needs to be changed or viewed differently, but the audience isn’t asked to change an attitude or action.

These are not strict categories. A proposition of value most likely contains elements of facts and definitions, for example. However, identifying the primary category for a persuasive speech focuses the speaker on the ultimate purpose of the speech.

Pro-Arguments

Once you know your proposition, the next step is to make your case for your judgement or opinion through clear and distinct points. These are the main points of the body of your persuasive speech. We call these the “pro” or “for” arguments. You should present at least three distinct arguments in favor of your proposition. Expanding on the example above,

General Purpose: To Persuade Specific Purpose:  To motivate my audience of campus administrators to provide LGBTQ+ safe spaces on campus. Proposition: Universities should provide LGBTQ+ safe spaces on campus in order to promote visibility, build community, and protect well-being for LGBTQ+ students and their allies.

Three pro-arguments for the proposition are:

Pro-Argument #1: Creating a safe space makes LGBTQ+ community more visible and central to campus life, instead of marginalized. Pro-Argument #2: Safe spaces create a place where LGBTQ+ and their allies learn to build networks, friendship, and support circles. Pro-Argument #3: With a safe and centralized space bringing together this community, instances of bias or harassment can be brought to counselors, making for a safer community.

Two-Tailed Arguments

There is one more crucial element following pro-arguments. These are unique to persuasive speeches. As discussed above, it’s essential to anticipate and address audience reservations about your propositions. These are the two-tailed arguments that articulate the reservation and then address it or refute it. In the example we’re using, such a statement might look like this:

“Perhaps you are thinking that an LGBTQ+ safe space isn’t necessary on campus because there are already places on campus that provide this function. I understand that concern. However, a space that is officially provided by the University provides access to resources with trained personnel. The national organization CampusPride provides training to university facilitators for exactly this reason.”

There are some techniques for rebuttal or refutation that work better than others. You would not want to say, “If you are one of the people who believe this about my proposition, you are wrong.” It’s better to say that their reservations are “misconceptions,” “myths,” or “mistaken ideas” that are commonly held about the proposition.

Building Upon Your Persuasive Speech’s Arguments

Once you have constructed the key arguments, it’s time to be sure the main points are well supported with evidence.

First, your evidence should be from sources that the audience will find credible. If you can find the same essential information from two sources but know that the audience will find the information more credible from one source than another, use and cite the information from the more credible one. For example, if you find the same statistical data on Wikipedia and the US Department of Labor’s website, cite the US Department of Labor. Audiences also accept information from sources they consider unbiased or indifferent. Gallup polls, for example, have been considered reliable sources of survey data because unlike some organizations, Gallup does not have a cause (political or otherwise) it’s supporting.

Secondly, your evidence should be new to the audience. New evidence is more attention-getting, and you will appear more credible if you tell the audience something new (as long as you cite it well) than if you use the “same old, same old” evidence they have heard before.

Third, in order to be effective and ethical, your supporting evidence should be relevant and not used out of context, manipulated, or edited to change its meaning.

After choosing the evidence and apportioning it to the correct parts of the speech, you will want to consider the use of metaphors, quotations, rhetorical devices, and narratives that will enhance the language and “listenability” of your speech. Narratives are especially good for introduction and conclusions, to get attention and to leave the audience with something dramatic. You might refer to the narrative in the introduction again in the conclusion to give the speech a sense of finality.

Lastly, you will want to decide if you should use any type of presentation aid for the speech. The decision to use visuals such as PowerPoint slides or a video clip in a persuasive speech should take into consideration the effect of the visuals on the audience and the time allotted for the speech. The charts, graphs, or photographs you use should be focused and credibly done.

Organization of a Persuasive Speech

You can see that the overall structure of a persuasive speech follows a common model: introduction, body (arguments and support), two-tailed arguments, and conclusion. Study the example at the end of this chapter to see this structure in action.

In speechwriting, you can think of a speech structure like the building of a house and organization like the arrangement of the rooms within it. As with other speeches, persuasive speeches can be organized topically, chronologically, or spatially. However, persuasive speeches often follow a problem-solution or problem-cause-solution pattern.

Organization for a proposition of fact

If your proposition is one of fact or definition, it will be best to use a topical organization for the body of your speech. That means that you will have two to four discrete, separate topics in support of the proposition.

Proposition: Converting to solar energy saves homeowners money.

  • (Pro-Argument 1) Solar energy can be economical to install.
  • (Pro-Argument 2) The government awards grants for solar.
  • (Pro-Argument 3) Solar energy reduces power bills.
  • (Pro-Argument 4) Solar energy requires less money for maintenance.

Organization for a proposition of value

A persuasive speech that incorporates a proposition of value will have a slightly different structure. A proposition of value must first define the “value” word for clarity and provide a basis for the other arguments of the speech. Then the pro-arguments for the proposition based on the definition.

Proposition: Hybrid cars are the best form of automotive transportation available today.

  • (Definition of value) Automotive transportation that is best meets three standards: dependable, economical, and environmentally responsible.
  • (Pro-Argument 1) Studies show that hybrid cars are durable and dependable.
  • (Pro-Argument 2) Hybrid cars are fuel-efficient.
  • (Pro-Argument 3) Hybrid cars are environmentally responsible.

Organization for a propositions of policy

The most common type of outline organizations for speeches with propositions of policy is problem-solution or problem-cause-solution. Typically, we don’t feel any motivation to change unless we are convinced that some harm, problem, need, or deficiency exists, and even more, that it affects us personally. Therefore, the organization of a speech about policy needs to first explain the problem and its cause, followed by the solution in the form of 3-5 pro-arguments.

Proposition: Universities should provide on-line learning options for all classes.

  • (Problem) Regular attendance in a physical classroom is no longer possible for all students.
  • (Cause) Changes brought about by the COVID pandemic have made guaranteed classroom attendance difficult.
  • (Pro-Argument 1) Providing on-line learning options protects the health of students.
  • (Pro-Argument 2) On-line learning serves students who cannot come to campus.
  • (Pro-Argument 3) Access to on-line learning allows students to maintain employment while still going to school.

To complete this outline, along with introduction and conclusion, your pro-arguments should be supported with fact, quotations, and statistics.

Your persuasive speech in class, as well as in real life, is an opportunity to share a passion or cause that you believe will matter to society and help the audience live a better life. Even if you are initially uncomfortable with the idea of persuasion, we use it all the time in diverse ways. Choose your topic based on your commitment and experience, look for quality evidence, craft your proposition so that it will be clear and audience appropriate, and put the finishing touches on it with an eye toward enhancing your logos , ethos , and pathos .

Media Attributions

  • Persuasion Scale © Mechele Leon is licensed under a CC BY-NC-SA (Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike) license

Public Speaking as Performance Copyright © 2023 by Mechele Leon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

present a persuasive speech

Persuasive Speech Examples: Taking A Stand In Speech

Persuasive speech examples - use words vs. social ills

Persuasive speeches have been used throughout history to shape public opinion and shape behavior, and examples abound. Persuasive speech examples include virtually any topic – voting, racism, school uniforms, safety, organ donation, recycling, and so on.

From a teenager asking his parents to go out with friends to an aspiring politician convincing voters to choose him, many people use a persuasive speech to convince their audience members to do something. A successful persuasive speech entails getting someone to take action and be swayed to the speaker’s side.

Table of Contents

What Is A Persuasive Speech?

While an informative speech aims to enlighten the audience about a particular subject, a persuasive speech aims to influence the audience — and convince them to accept a particular point of view. 

The central idea is to persuade, whether discussing a persuasive essay or ‌public speaking. This form of communication is a call to action for people to believe in and take action upon something.

Throughout history, persuasive speech ideas and their communicators have played a vital role in driving change, whether on a personal, community, societal, national, or even global level. 

We’ve seen leaders and important figures sway public opinions and spark movements. Persuasive speech has been there to raise awareness about a specific issue (e.g., labor rights, gender equality). People have been using such speeches to establish authority, negotiate, and, ultimately, urge the audience to join their side.

Persusaisve speech example as speaker passes enthusiasm to audience

What Are Some Examples Of A Persuasive Speech Topic?

There’s a wide range of good persuasive speech topics . To give you an idea, here’s a list of persuasive speech topics:

  • Social media is taking a toll on young people’s mental health
  • Cell phones and too much screen time are making people lazier
  • Violent video games make people more aggressive
  • Why authorities must ban fast food for children
  • Schools and workplaces should take more action to curb obesity rates
  • Why public schools are better than private ones
  • College athletes should undergo steroid tests
  • There’s more to high school and college students than their GPAs
  • Should award-giving bodies rely on the popular vote or the judges’ vote?
  • There’s a need to regulate the use of painkillers more heavily
  • Cloning must not be legalized
  • More government budget should be allocated to health care
  • Why businesses must invest in renewable energy
  • Should military units be allowed to use drones in warfare?
  • How freedom of religion is affecting society
  • Libraries are becoming obsolete: A step-by-step guide on keeping them alive
  • Should euthanasia be allowed in hospitals, clinical settings, and zoos?
  • Developing countries must increase their minimum wage
  • Global warming is getting more intense
  • The death penalty must be abolished

What Is An Example Of How Start Of A Persuasive Speech?

Persuasion is an art. And when you’re given the chance to make a persuasive speech, one of the first things you must do is to settle down with a thesis statement. Then, you must identify at least two main points, pre-empt counterarguments, and organize your thoughts with a ‌persuasive speech outline.

Remember that your opening (and closing) statements should be strong. Right at the start, you must captivate your audience’s attention. You can give an impactful factual statement or pose a question that challenges conventional views. 

The success of a speech doesn’t only end with writing a persuasive one. You must also deliver it with impact. This means maintaining eye contact, keeping your posture open, and using a clear voice and an appropriate facial expression.

What Are The 3 Points To Persuasive Speech?

There are three pillars of a persuasive speech. First is ethos, which taps into the audience’s ethical beliefs. To convince them and establish your credibility, you must resonate with the morals they uphold. 

The second one is pathos, which refers to the emotional appeal of your narrative. One approach is to share an anecdote that your audience can relate to. To effectively appeal to your audience’s emotions, you must also use language, tone, diction, and images to paint a better picture of your main point.

On other other hand, logos appeals to logic. This is why it’s important to pepper your speech with facts.

How Are Persuasive Speeches Used?

You may know persuasive speeches as those stirring speeches delivered by politicians and civil rights and business leaders. In reality, you yourself could be using it in everyday life.

There are different types of persuasive speeches. While some mobilize bigger movements, others only persuade a smaller audience or even just one person.

You can use it in a personal context . For example, you’re convincing your parent to extend your curfew or eat at a certain restaurant. In grander ways, you can also use it to advocate for social and political movements. If you’re in business, marketing, or sales, you can use persuasive speech to promote your brand and convince others to buy your product or service. 

For example, a teen might try to persuade a parent to let them stay out beyond curfew, while a civil rights leader might use persuasion to encourage listeners to fight racism.

No matter the context of your speech, an effective persuasive speech can compel someone or a group of people to adopt a viewpoint, take a particular action, and change a behavior or belief.

Persuasive speech examples - persuade elderly parent

What Are Persuasive Speech Examples?

This AI-created speech about walking shows how a persuasive speech is laid out, using Monroe’s Motivated Sequence (i.e., attention, need, satisfaction, visualization, and call to action) to convey the message that walking can overcome the risks of modern life

The introduction sets up the speech:

“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… We live in a time-saving, energy-saving, convenient society. It’s a wonderful life. Or is it?”

Unfortunately, lack of exercise leads to health problems. Walking can overcome the effects of lack of exercise, lethargy, and poor diet. The body of the speech delves into this concept in detail and then concludes with a call to the audience to walk more.

AI pick up the pattern that many living persons have perfected over the year.

Maya Angelou, an American poet and civil rights activist, delivered this compelling poem as a persuasive speech . The performance concludes with this inspiring message about overcoming hardship and discrimination: “Leaving behind nights of terror and fear, I rise/ Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear, I rise/ Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave/ I am the dream and the hope of the slave/ I rise, I rise, I rise.” 

Maya Angelou inspired this sign

What Are Some Historical Examples Of Persuasive Speech?

Maya Angelou is just one of the important figures who have delivered powerful speeches etched in history. These individuals have risen and relayed impactful messages, championing advocacies that would resonate with people during their time — and beyond.

Below are more moving examples of a persuasive speech:

The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln

Context: In November 1863, during the American Civil War, US President Abraham Lincoln delivered this speech in commemoration of the dedication of the Gettysburg National Ceremony (also known as the Soldiers’ National Ceremony).

Snippet: “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We come to dedicate a portion of it as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety, do. 

“ But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow, this ground, The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here. 

“ It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us that, from these honored dead, we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

The Finest Hour by Winston Churchill

Context: In his nearly 40-minute long speech in June 1940, over a month since Winston Churchill became the British Prime Minister, he sparked hope that they could win the impending Battle of Britain during the Second World War. 

Snippet: “What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. 

If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free, and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us, therefore, brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’”

I Have a Dream by Mary Wollstonecraft

Context: In her 1792 speech, the British writer and women’s rights advocate shared her dream — that a day will come when women will be treated as rational human beings.

Snippet: “These may be termed utopian dreams. – Thanks to that Being who impressed them on my soul, and gave me sufficient strength of mind to dare to exert my own reason, till, becoming dependent only on him for the support of my virtue, I view, with indignation, the mistaken notions that enslave my sex. 

“ I love man as my fellow; but his scepter, real or usurped, extends not to me unless the reason of an individual demands my homage; and even then, the submission is to reason and not to man. In fact, the conduct of an accountable being must be regulated by the operations of its own reason; or on what foundation rests the throne of God?”

These snippets of their persuasive speech capture the very essence of this form of communication: to convince the audience through compelling and valid reasoning, evoking their feelings and moral principles, and motivating them to act and join a movement, big or small. 

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17.3 Organizing Persuasive Speeches

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 in this text 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 Alan H. 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).

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 wanted to add this sidenote because we don’t want you to think that Monroe’s motivated sequence is a kind of magic persuasive bullet; the research simply doesn’t support this notion. 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.

Table 17.1 “Monroe’s Motivated Sequence” lists the basic steps of Monroe’s motivated sequence and the subsequent reaction a speaker desires from his or her audience.

Table 17.1 Monroe’s Motivated Sequence

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 previously discussed in Chapter 9 “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 know what your topic is quickly, 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. In Monroe’s conceptualization of need, he talks about four specific parts of the need: statement, illustration, ramification, and pointing. First, a speaker needs to give a clear and concise statement of the problem. This part of a speech should be crystal clear for an audience. Second, 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. Next, a speaker needs to provide some kind of evidence (e.g., statistics, examples, testimony) that shows the ramifications or consequences of the problem. Lastly, a speaker needs to point to the audience and show exactly how the problem relates to them personally.

Satisfaction

In the third step of Monroe’s motivated sequence, the satisfaction step , the speaker sets out to satisfy the need or solve the problem. Within this step, Monroe (1935) proposed a five-step plan for satisfying a need:

  • Explanation
  • Theoretical demonstration
  • Reference to practical experience
  • Meeting objections

First, you need to clearly state the attitude, value, belief, or action you want your audience to accept. The purpose of this statement is to clearly tell your audience what your ultimate goal is.

Second, you want to make sure that you clearly explain to your audience why they should accept the attitude, value, belief, or action you proposed. Just telling your audience they should do something isn’t strong enough to actually get them to change. Instead, you really need to provide a solid argument for why they should accept your proposed solution.

Third, you need to show how the solution you have proposed meets the need or problem. Monroe calls this link between your solution and the need a theoretical demonstration because you cannot prove that your solution will work. Instead, you theorize based on research and good judgment that your solution will meet the need or solve the problem.

Fourth, to help with this theoretical demonstration, you need 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.

Lastly, Monroe recommends that a speaker respond to possible objections. As a persuasive speaker, one of your jobs is to think through your speech and see what counterarguments could be made against your speech and then rebut those arguments within your speech. When you offer rebuttals for arguments against your speech, it shows your audience that you’ve done your homework and educated yourself 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 is, 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, visualization can be conducted in one of three ways: positive, negative, or contrast (Monroe, 1935). The positive method of visualization is where a speaker shows how adopting a proposal leads to a better future (e.g., recycle, and we’ll have a cleaner and safer planet). Conversely, the negative method of visualization is where 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). 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 one thousand dollars to 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 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 evil scheme?
  • Satisfaction: The United States should have stronger laws governing the use of for-profit medical experiments to ensure that uneducated and lower-socioeconomic-status citizens 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 basic values of American decency. 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 this preying 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.

Table 17.2 “Monroe’s Motivated Sequence Checklist” also contains a simple checklist to help you make sure you hit all the important components of Monroe’s motivated sequence.

Table 17.2 Monroe’s Motivated Sequence Checklist

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 the 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 noninteractive.
  • 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 his or her thoughts and organize them in a manner that will be more likely to persuade an audience.
  • Alan H. Monroe’s (1935) motivated sequence is a commonly used speech format that is used by many people 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 an audience’s attention. In the second stage, the speaker shows an audience that a need exists. In the third stage, the speaker shows how his or her 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.

Stand up, Speak out 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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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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Persuasive Speech: Actionable Writing Tips and Sample Topics

Persuasive Speech: Actionable Writing Tips and Sample Topics

What is Persuasive Speaking?

Factual persuasive speech, value persuasive speech, policy persuasive speech, how to start a persuasive speech: opening tips and examples.

  • Social Proof
  • Comparisons
  • Agitate and Solve
  • Storytelling

Bonus: Address Counter Arguments

How to close your persuasive speech: quick examples, easy persuasive speech topics, interesting persuasive speech topics, good persuasive speech topics on controversial issues, funny persuasive speech topics, designing persuasive visuals: slide elements for maximum impact, mastering delivery techniques: engaging body language and voice modulation, persuasive presentation structures: organizing your content for maximum influence, handling audience interaction: q&a sessions and audience engagement, persuasive call to action: inspiring and motivating your audience to act.

Business professionals, students, and others can all benefit from learning the principles of persuasive speech. After all, the art of persuasion can be applied to any area of life where getting people to agree with you is important. So without much further ado, let’s get into the basics of persuasive speaking, persuasive speech writing, and lastly persuasive speech topics!

A persuasive speech is a specific type of speech where the presenter attempts to convince the audience of their point of view. The ideal goal of a persuasive speech is to make the audience change their mind on the issue, or at least, become more accepting of their point of view.

You might give an informal persuasive speech when trying to convince your friends to agree to the movie you want to watch. If you are chosen to pitch a new product idea to stakeholders at work, you are essentially being asked to give a persuasive speech.

What are The 3 Types of Persuasive Speeches?

All the persuasive speech ideas can be organized into one of the next three categories:

When someone gives a factual persuasive speech, their goal is to convince the audience that something is true or false. In some cases that simply requires gathering evidence and presenting them in the form of arguments/counter-arguments. This approach works for all persuasive topics where true/false is a binary consideration.

You can also give a factual speech on a topic that isn’t as cut and dried. For example, you could make the argument that assimilation is the best way for cultures to mix even though there is no single piece of evidence proving that without a doubt.

In essence, you can select any topic and frame it into the factual persuasive speech as long as you have strong oratory and presentation skills .

In this case, you are trying to convince your audience that something is good or bad. You want your audience to understand your values on a topic, and then adopt those values as their own. For example, a speech written to convince people that it’s immoral to buy single-use plastics is a value persuasive speech.

In a policy persuasive speech, you describe a problem, then work to persuade the audience to agree with your proposed solutions. These speeches can be given to simply change the audiences perspective or convince them to take a specific action.

Policy persuasive speeches can be further spiced up with some nuggets of Nudge Theory to reinforce the idea you are trying to deliver.

How to Write a Persuasive Speech: The Essential Steps

Before we dive deep into the writing, let’s quickly recap the anatomy of a persuasive speech:

  • Opening:  start strong to capture the audiences attention and explain your agenda.
  • Key arguments:  present your key talking points and lay down the facts.
  • Counterpoints:  address the common objections.
  • Closure:  recap your key message once again and suggest further action.

Now, this isn’t a “set-in-stone” structure, but rather a base you can use when drafting your persuasive speech outline.

Below we are listing some extra tips for each section, along with persuasive speech examples.

Every good speech and presentation need a strong opening slide . After all, how can you persuade anyone if they do not feel compelled to listen to you in the first place? Right, you can’t and that’s exactly why you should spend quite a lot of time working and refining on your speech opening.

Here are some techniques you can try:

  • Start with a curious personal story/anecdote
  • Sharing a surprising statistic

Next, you must convince the audience that they should listen to you. You can do this by explaining what you have in common.

For example,  Everyone here is a concerned parent. I am also a mother of three who cares deeply about the lack of interest in STEM among girls.  This is also where you might share your credentials.  That’s why I’m here to speak to you as a professional with 30 years of experience as an educator.

Follow your intro statement with a quick explanation of your goal. Be direct here. In one or two sentences state your purpose, and what you want your audience to believe or do.

“I believe that women in STEM can close the looming tech skills gap and generate an extra $12 trillion in global GDP. That’s why I’m asking you to stop encouraging girls to learn dancing and encourage them to code instead.”

Finally, transition to the main part of your speech with a statement that lets the audience know what is coming. For example, Today, I am going to provide you with the evidence that some parental practices are alienating girls from STEM subjects.

Liked this primer? Great! Here are several more techniques you can use to frame your ideas for persuasive speeches.

What are The 5 Persuasive Techniques?

After the opening, it’s time to present your arguments and counter any arguments that could conflict with your point. The following five persuasive techniques tend to work like a charm for that purpose:

  • Social proof
  • Agitate and solve

More controversial persuasive speech topics, in particular, will require you to artfully work through various objections and mix different persuasion methods. Now let’s take a closer look at each one.

1. Repetition

There’s a reason that advertisements repeat the same thing over and over again. Research proves that people are more likely to believe something if they hear it multiple times. In addition to this, repetition simply helps people to remember key points that you want to stick with them.

When it comes to persuasive speeches, you should always repeat your most important points at the beginning and end of your speech.

Helpful template: 6 Steps Hexagonal Segmented Diagram

Repetition Persuasive Speech with a Buzz Metaphone

2. Social Proof

People are influenced by the actions and beliefs of others, whether they admit it or not. Use this during your speech. For example, you can share testimonials from people who agree with your POV or leverage the voice of customer data , expressing the same concerns as you do.

NB : When lining up social proof for your presentation, make sure that this data comes from a peer group that your audience relates to.

Helpful template: Voice of customer PowerPoint template

Social Proof Persuasive Speech Illustration

3. Comparisons

The point of using comparisons is to present a contrast of the idea/element that you support with the one that you do not. Then you’ll need to prove that yours is the best choice. For example, you might compare the features of two software applications to persuade that your team needs option A, not B.

Using comparisons also gives your speech more credibility since it appears that you are giving the opposing position a fair shake, even when you are only showcasing it to score points against it.

Helpful template: Two option comparison template

Comparison Persuasive Speech

4. Agitate and Solve

When you take the “agitate and solve” approach, you first make your audience vary and somewhat dissatisfied with a certain issue (agitate). Next, you present your idea as a solution (solve). The idea is to hit a nerve and get the audience to relate. Then, when you present your solution, it’s that much more persuasive to them. It also makes the entire scenario more emotionally compelling to them.

Here’s an example of this approach in action:

Nearly every one of us has been ripped off by an unscrupulous mechanic. Nobody deserves to be taken advantage of. That’s why every person needs to vote in favor of this consumer protection ballot measure.

Agitate and Solve Persuasive Speech Illustration

5. Storytelling

Many people opt to use a rhetorical triangle when building their persuasive argument s. These days storytelling may be more effective. Here’s why:

Stories create an emotional connection and relatability. Imagine listening to a speech where the speaker lists a variety of statistics about the harm that plastics cause to marine life. Now, imagine listening to the true story of a marine biologist who discovers a dolphin that has been badly injured by plastic trash it has encountered in its habitat.

Clearly, the second one, if told correctly, will cast a much deeper impact on the audience.

Helpful template: Storytelling theme template .

Storytelling Persuasive Speech Illustration by SlideModel

It’s up to you to decide if you want to address any counterpoints to your arguments, and where you will do that in your speech. Some speakers choose to include an obvious counter-argument in the introduction, so they can effectively dismiss it before they begin.

Others address these points when they are relevant to the current argument they are making. Finally, you can address a counterpoint in its paragraph just above your concluding paragraph.

Here are some actionable techniques for addressing counter-arguments:

  • Provide a direct refutation of the point. Prove that it simply isn’t an issue.
  • Concede that it’s an issue, but show that it isn’t significant enough to derail your overall argument.
  • Acknowledge the plausibility of the counterpoint, but argue yours as the better option.

Recommended Reading:  Building a Persuasive Argument with the Rhetorical Triangle Concept

How you present your closing depends on your goal. If you want your audience to take a specific action, show them how to do it, and make it as easy as possible. Try this:

When you pay your trash bill next month, you’ll be asked if you want the city of Gravesdale to begin a recycling program. If you value water quality and marine life, please say yes.

If your goal is to simply influence a change in opinion, you might say: Both facts and experience prove that we can no longer afford to send plastics to the landfill. Please consider this the next time you go shopping.

Alright, now you may be wondering: what are the best persuasive speech topics? We’ve got you covered here too!

A List of Persuasive Speech Topics

Here is a list of persuasive speech topic examples, with writing tips .

The easiest topic to present on is the one that you are truly passionate and knowledgeable about. Also, easy persuasive speech topics usually don’t tackle any controversial issues with a lot of contrarian opinions, especially on complex matters regarding politics, religion, human rights, and so on. Instead, you choose an angle that may already resonate with a good fraction of your audience and require one or two good counterarguments, rather than using a host of persuasive techniques.

For example : Should all internships be paid?

Most people will instinctively say yes , especially if your audience consists of college graduates and former interns.

What makes an interesting speech? Topical ideas that get people engaged, agitated, and eager to follow your storyline.

In this case, you’d want to find a deeper subject that allows you to incorporate some storytelling elements and personal examples that would create some empathy with the audience and make them relate to your cause on a more personal level. As Lucinda Beaman, fact check editor at The Conversation said in her Ted talk :

“While you are listening to your opponent’s case, you are probably listening for an opportunity to refuse them”. 

A quality narrative can help you draw your opponent’s attention from their counterarguments and, instead, make them more sympathetic to your cause.

For example : Schools kill creativity. As a former drop-out, turned CEO of the Fortune 100 company, I can tell you why.

If you are ready to pick a bigger ‘fight’ with your audience, you may tackle a more complex and controversial issue that’s dividing the audience. In such cases, it’s best to rely on a mix of persuasive techniques:

  • Start with a strong opening, drawing the line in the sand
  • Line up social proof and data points to bake your key arguments
  • Rally people to understand your point of view and why you feel the way you do
  • Precisely address the common counterarguments on the matter.

For example : It’s time to realize that marijuana legalization is wrong.

Your opponents will argue that legalization reduces criminalization around the selling of marijuana, plus medical marijuana usage does help certain patient groups cope with their illness better. Acknowledge these ideas in your speech, but also provide extra facts that can speak to the opposite.

Did you know that humor itself is a powerful persuasive technique? That’s why it’s often used in advertising. Choosing a funny angle and topic for your persuasive speech is a sleek move if you know that you can really pull it off without offending anyone or downplaying the importance of the issue you are discussing.

For example: Millennials are definitely from outer space and our workplace isn’t ready for them.

You can start with a funny opening:

Millennials constantly chew on that weird greenish sandwich type of thing that they lovingly call the ‘avo toast’ and their fingers move inhumanly fast when they type things on their smartphones, amiright?

But that switch to a more serious accord:

But no matter how weird these Millennial folks may seem to us, boomers, they are a wonderful asset to every workplace. And we must make their point of few count, too!
  • Crafting persuasive presentations goes beyond words alone. Designing persuasive visuals is a strategic approach to captivate your audience and enhance your message’s impact.
  • Choosing Appropriate Visuals, Images, and Infographics: Select visuals that resonate with your message. High-quality images and relevant infographics can reinforce your points and aid audience comprehension.
  • Using Color Psychology and Font Selection: Utilize colors that evoke desired emotions and align with your message’s tone. Choose fonts that are easily readable and complement your presentation’s aesthetics.
  • Balancing Simplicity and Complexity: Strike a balance between simplicity and complexity in your slide content. Avoid overwhelming visuals while ensuring that complex concepts are presented clearly and succinctly.
  • The art of persuasion extends beyond content to encompass delivery. Engaging body language and voice modulation play a pivotal role in conveying credibility and connecting with your audience.
  • Significance of Body Language: Body language is a potent nonverbal tool. It influences the audience’s perception of your confidence, sincerity, and authority.
  • Gestures, Eye Contact, and Posture: Employ purposeful gestures, maintain consistent eye contact, and exhibit a confident posture to establish rapport and engage the audience.
  • Role of Vocal Variety, Tone, and Pacing: Utilize vocal variety to sustain audience interest. Vary your tone and pacing to emphasize key points, maintain engagement, and prevent monotony.
  • Rehearsal Methods: Effective rehearsal hones your delivery skills. Practice your presentation multiple times to refine your speaking style, enhance clarity, and ensure a polished performance.
  • Structuring your persuasive presentation optimally enhances its influence. Effective organization guides the audience’s understanding and reinforces your key arguments.
  • Analyzing Different Presentation Structures: Choose a structure that aligns with your persuasive objectives. Sequential, problem-solution, comparative, or chronological structures can be tailored to your message.
  • Crafting a Compelling Introduction: Your introduction should immediately grab attention. Use anecdotes, intriguing questions, statistics, or powerful quotes to pique interest and set the stage.
  • Logical and Coherent Organization: Organize your arguments logically. Each argument should flow naturally into the next, creating a cohesive narrative reinforcing your persuasive case.
  • Incorporating Emotional Appeals and Logical Reasoning: Blend emotional appeals with logical reasoning. Use relatable anecdotes, emotional stories, and compelling data to substantiate your points.
  • Effective handling of audience interaction involves: Interacting with your audience during a persuasive presentation enhances engagement and reinforces your message.
  • Preparing for Q&A Sessions: Anticipate potential questions and challenges. Prepare concise and confident responses to reinforce your message’s credibility.
  • Techniques for Active Audience Engagement: Encourage audience participation through questions, discussions, and interactive activities. Engaged audiences are more likely to internalize your persuasive message.
  • Using Audience Feedback and Questions: Leverage audience feedback and questions to enhance your presentation. Address concerns, clarify points, and demonstrate your expertise through thoughtful responses.
  • Strategies for Adapting to Audience Reactions: Remain adaptable to audience reactions. Gauge their responses and adjust your delivery in real time to maintain engagement and address uncertainties.
  • Concluding your persuasive presentation with a compelling call to action (CTA) is pivotal for motivating the desired response from your audience.
  • Essential Elements of an Effective CTA: Craft a concise and impactful CTA that aligns with your presentation’s goals. Clearly communicate the desired action and its benefits to the audience.
  • Crafting Persuasive and Actionable CTAs: Frame your CTA using persuasive language that resonates with your audience. Ensure the CTA’s feasibility and relevance to increase audience commitment.
  • Techniques for Memorable and Compelling CTAs: Employ rhetoric, vivid imagery, and emotional appeal in your CTA. Make it memorable by creating a strong emotional connection that resonates with the audience.
  • Measuring CTA Success and Tracking Audience Responses: Assess the effectiveness of your CTA through measurable outcomes. Monitor audience responses, track engagement, and gather feedback to evaluate success.

If you know how to give a convincing persuasive speech, you will be at a real advantage both in your personal life and at work! Commit the tips above to memory and start practicing on some of the good speech topics we’ve listed here to polish your tradecraft!

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present a persuasive speech

Tim David

Stage Fright

How to give a persuasive speech, 3 simple steps to influencing an audience.

Posted February 28, 2017

Tim David

If you’ve got to give a presentation, then chances are you want to make it persuasive. If the audience doesn’t believe or behave differently than they did before they heard you, then you simply didn’t do your job as a speaker.

You’ve probably heard the classic public speaking formula a zillion times:

  • Tell them what you’re going to tell them.
  • Tell them what you’ve told them.

That might be okay for informative speeches, but it’s terrible for persuasive speeches. And it’s boring . SOOOOO boring!

Telling is NOT selling.

As a professional speaker , I use a fairly complex process to craft my talks (which includes a 3-step framework and a 50-Point Public Speaking Checklist that I’ll never deliver a speech without.)

Whether it’s a 20-minute “lunch and learn” webinar or a 60-minute keynote address for a management conference, the basic formula remains the same.

You can have my 50-point checklist for free HERE . For my 3-step framework...just keep reading.

PUBLIC SPEAKING TIP: A maze is much easier to solve backwards .

Influencing someone is a complex, daunting task. The process of going from where they are to where you want them to be can often seem maze-like.

I have a secret: Do it backwards.

What do you want them to do after hearing your speech? Decide on that FIRST.

For example, let’s say you want to convince non-voters to get out and vote. That’s the end of your maze. Let's work our way backwards from there.

You can’t just say, “Go vote.” That won’t carry any weight. You’ve got to build a connection first.

So, the step before call to action is build connection .

But wait...how can you build connection if no one is listening to you? Before we build connection we must first earn their attention .

Bingo. That’s how I came to my 3-Step Public Speaking Framework: “ACA” (Attention, Connection, Action).

Follow these guidelines and you'll be well on your way to a great speech!

STEP ONE: “ATTENTION”

GOAL: Make them think, “This will be different, I like this person, and this will be FUN.”

You’ve only got a few moments, so think hard about what you can do to accomplish the important goals above.

Expressing similarity (“I remember sitting right where you are now…”), Humor (especially self-deprecating), Communicating novelty (”This will be unlike anything you’ve ever heard before on the topic of influence”), Dressing distinctly, Walking in from the back of the room instead of the wings, etc.

Body language is the fastest and best way to grab attention. Here’s a crash course on good body language .

STEP TWO: “CONNECTION”

GOAL: Make them think, “This relates to my life and it is simple enough for me to do.”

If it’s not relevant to my life, you’ve lost me. If it’s too complicated, you’ve lost me. I can’t fix global warming , but I can cast a vote. Connect your message to me (especially through storytelling), and you’ve got a chance.

Consider...

Stating their problem or their possibility. A problem is about pain and possibility is about gain. (Keep in mind, pain is twice as powerful as gain.)

Examples: “How many of you are tired of negative people and chronic complainers in the workplace?” (Problem)

“I’ve uncovered a little-known niche that can bring you more customers than you can imagine.” (Possibility)

present a persuasive speech

Simplifying your message. Just because you are an expert on your topic, doesn’t mean your audience wants to become one too. A confused mind does NOTHING. There’s no faster way to make an audience tune you out than to overload them with information.

Sharing a “mess to success” story - featuring you as the “guide”. Example: “Toni was failing as a manager. Her team wasn’t performing but yet she was the one taking all the blame. She wanted to be the ‘cool boss’ so she tried being everyone’s friend. That backfired. Then she tried "laying down the law". That backfired too! It all changed when she discovered the power of my influential communication framework. Suddenly, her team genuinely respects her, they are more productive and creative than ever before, and her boss gave her a raise!”

Toni is the hero. She’s the one everyone can relate to. If she can do it, they can do it. You’re merely the guide who helped make it all possible. Donald Miller of StoryBrand teaches that too many people try to be the hero. Instead, he suggests taking on the role of Yoda so the audience can feel like Luke Skywalker.

STEP THREE: ACTION

GOAL: Encourage them to ACT!

Too often, we either forget to ask, or we’re afraid to ask. Don’t forget a direct call-to-action in your speech. Tell them exactly what you want them to do. Don’t be shy and don’t make them guess.

Sharing a closing story. This last story should be in alignment with how you want the audience to feel when they leave. If you want them to feel energized, tell an energetic story. There is almost nothing more captivating or more persuasive than a good story.

Delivering one last one-liner that tells them exactly what you want them to do next. Example: “Remember...Grab your coat and go out to VOTE!” (Bonus points if it rhymes.)

Speaking of bonus...Ready to download my 50-Point Public Speaking Tips Checklist ? This guide will tell you exactly what you need to add to (or take away from) your speech. You'll never again miss an important point or forget to do something obvious during your presentation.

GET THE PUBLIC SPEAKING CHECKLIST FOR FREE: http://www.moreinfluential.com/business

Tim David

Tim David is an ex-magician turned author and speaker on the science of human connection at work and in life.

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How to Make a Persuasive Presentation [PRESENTATION TEMPLATES]

By Midori Nediger , Nov 06, 2019

persuasive presentation

No matter how many times you’ve done it, presenting in front of peers, clients, colleagues, or strangers is challenging, nerve-wracking, and stressful. Especially if you’ve been tasked with delivering a persuasive presentation.

As someone who has delivered a number of conference talks, calls and webinars   over the past few years, I know how impossible it can feel to put together a presentation that clearly conveys your content while also being persuasive and engaging.

But what I’ve learned from making and giving persuasive  presentations is that there are a few things that always get great reactions from the audience.

Here’s what you can do to make a persuasive presentation:

  • Make the first 30 seconds of your presentation count
  • Compare and contrast your solution with the status quo
  • Use visual aids to summarize and clarify your big ideas
  • Get your audience involved to build trust and rapport
  • Use a clean, consistent presentation layout and design
  • Eliminate extraneous detail to focus on core concepts
  • Sign off with a persuasive call-to-action

These persuasive presentation strategies apply whether you’re leading a workshop, keynoting a conference, creating or selling an online course , or pitching a potential client.

Want to make a persuasive presentation fast? Try using our presentation templates . Then, customize them using our simple online  presentation maker  tool.

Persuasive Presentation Template

Read on for plenty of persuasive presentation examples .

1. Make the first 30 seconds of your persuasive presentation count

The first 30 seconds of any presentation are far and away the most important of your entire presentation.

In those first 30 seconds, listeners are open to the ideas you’re going to present to them. They might even be enthusiastic and excited to hear what you have to say.

Inexperienced presenters often waste these first 30 seconds with things like introductions and agendas that will soon be forgotten. Seasoned presenters do something much more effective: state their big ideas right up front.

persuasive presentation

Like Steve Jobs did in 2007 with the iPhone (with “iPhone: Apple reinvents the phone”), try to state one big “headline” message within the first 30 seconds . A big idea for listeners to absorb and internalize.

Like an elevator pitch , you should be able to write this idea down in a single sentence, and it should be memorable and specific.

You can then turn it into the hook of your presentation. Use an opening story, surprising fact, joke, or personal anecdote to pique your listeners’ interest and lead into your big idea.

This will frame the rest of the talk and prep your listeners for what’s to come.

In this persuasive presentation example the importance of the message is outlined clearly on the title slide:

Venngage persuasive presentation template social media

2. Compare and contrast your solution with the status quo

Most presentations share some information, strategy, idea, or solution that challenges the status quo. You can use this to your advantage!

By presenting the drawbacks of the status quo before suggesting your solution, you’ll help your audience understand the scope of the problem while building a case for your big idea.

Mixpanel did this to great success in their first pitch deck (which got them a $865M valuation).

persuasive presentation

By comparing and contrasting these two states, you’ll make a much more persuasive case than you would with the solution alone. And when you get into the nitty-gritty details later on in the presentation, your audience will be more likely to stay engaged.

As always, the more visual you can be, the better (as seen in this Uber pitch deck template ):

example-uber

You could use a comparison infographic in your presentation to visualize your key differentiators.

Want to learn more about creating persuasive pitch decks? Read our pitch deck guide.

How to understand and address the struggles of your audience

To maximize the impact of this strategy, do your best to directly address the struggles of your specific audience.

Figure out what’s standing in the way of your audience performing the desired behavior, and tell them how your solution will improve that experience. If you can make a direct connection with your audience’s experiences, your argument will be all the more persuasive.

Taking a closer look at Steve Jobs’ 2007 keynote, we can see that he lays out the big problems for his audience (that smartphones that aren’t so smart and are hard to use) before proposing his solution (a smarter, easier-to-use device).

persuasive presentation

In this persuasive presentation example we can see that by studying the wants and needs of his audience, he frames his new device as the perfect solution. He understands what the audience needs to know, and structures the presentation around those needs.

One final point on this – it can be incredibly useful to let your audience know what to expect in your presentation. If people are already expecting your idea, they will be more receptive to it. Consider including your persuasive presentation outline up front. You can either create a slide of contents, or you could print out an outline and share it with your audiences before the meeting.

Either way – sharing your persuasive presentation outline is never a bad thing.

Persuasive presentation template modern agenda slide

3. Use visual aids to summarize and clarify your big ideas

More than ever, viewers expect engaging visual content . Creative, relevant visuals are no longer a nice-to-have addition to a persuasive presentation…they’re an integral part of an engaging experience.

Beyond that, visuals are great for explaining complex concepts in simple terms. You can use visuals to communicate big ideas without dealing with any jargon or technical terms.

Summarize your background research with charts and tables

Visual aids like tables, charts, and mind maps are perfect for summarizing any research you’ve done to back up the claims you make in your presentation.

I find these types of summative visuals are most helpful when I feel at risk of throwing too much information at my listeners. Forcing myself to transform that research into a digestible visual helps me organize my thoughts, and ensure my audience won’t be overwhelmed.

persuasive presentation

Visual aids should also be used anytime you’re communicating with data . Besides making insights more tangible, it’s been suggested that charts can make claims more persuasive and make information more memorable .

Let’s say, for example, that you’re trying to convince a client to hire you as a consultant. If you can show the financial impact you’ve made for other clients visually, your argument will be much more persuasive than if you mention a few numbers without visuals to back you up.

persuasive presentation

Learn how to customize this template:

Organize information meaningfully with timelines and flowcharts

There are plenty of concepts that naturally lend themselves to structured visuals like Venn diagrams , flowcharts , and timelines .

If you’re presenting a project plan you might include a Gantt chart -style product roadmap or project timeline:

persuasive presentation

Or a more abstract Venn diagram like this one from Boston Consulting Group’s persuasive presentation pictured below.

persuasive presentation

Visuals like these can help you move past minor details so you can communicate directly about more fundamental ideas. Simple visuals can help make key ideas crystal-clear and easy to remember.

template-user-journey

Entertain and engage with visual metaphors

I like to integrate visual metaphors into the denser portions of my presentations. This way, when I know I’m going to start losing my audience to boredom or confusion, I can jump into a fun example that will bring them right back on board with me.

Like a shortcut to understanding, visual metaphors are a great way to get everyone on the same page.

persuasive presentation

But it can be hard to come up with good visual metaphors that don’t feel cliché. If you’re out of design ideas, don’t be afraid to get some inspiration from our infographic templates .

persuasive presentation

I can’t stress enough that simple, visual slides are the best way to make your presentation understandable and persuasive. The right visuals keep the audience engaged, make your points memorable, and give your presentation impact.

For more tips on designing a persuasive presentation with impact, check out our presentation design guide .

4. Get your audience involved to build trust and rapport

No one likes to be talked at.

And most listeners will be more engaged and receptive to your ideas if they’re engaged in a dialogue instead of passively absorbing what you’re saying.

The top qualities of a good presentation include making your presentation an interactive experience by encouraging questions, fostering discussions and maybe even throwing in a fun activity.

Imagine you’re pitching a potential client who’s looking to hire a marketing specialist for an upcoming job. You could try to impress them with an extensive presentation that shows off all of your background research and past success stories:

persuasive presentation

Or, you could use the presentation as an opportunity to learn more about your potential clients by engaging them in a dialogue. You’ll build trust and credibility, all without making a gigantic slide deck.

You can put together a deck of 5-10 slides with your big ideas, then build a conversation around each slide.

persuasive presentation

Even if you’re speaking in front of a large crowd, a great persuasive presentation should feel like a conversation. There should be some give and take from both sides. Simply asking a question and getting your audience to respond can instantly raise the energy level in a room.

Engaging audiences changes when we no longer present in-person is a unique challenge, but easily overcome. Lisa Schneider, Chief Growth Officer at Merriam-Webster, has plenty of experience presenting to crowds in-person as well as online. She recently wrote for Venngage on how to adapt an in-person presentation into a virtual presentation . Check it out for actionable tips on your next virtual presentation. 

In this persuasive speech presentation the key points have been broken into powerful, punchy slides that engage the audience.

The art of giving awesome speeches persuasive presentation template

5. Use a clean, consistent layout and design

Why does it seem like every time I’m putting together a presentation, it’s at the last minute!?

When I’m rushing to get all of my content together and my presentation rehearsed, the layout and design of the presentation usually become an afterthought.

But when you’re presenting an idea and building a case for yourself or your business, the last thing you want is for the design your slide deck to get in the way of your success. And a big part of being persuasive is having a slide deck that shows your information in a clear, consistent manner.

Let’s say, for example, that you’re a financial consultant presenting a solution to a new client. When you’re trying to justify why your skills and knowledge are worth paying a premium for, you simply can’t have a messy, unprofessional-looking slide deck.

A professional presentation design should have:

  • Consistent layouts with plenty of white space
  • A simple color scheme with one highlight color
  • Clear distinctions between headers and body text, with minimal font styles

persuasive presentation

With the layout and design locked down, you’ll have the confidence to hold your own with big clients and senior management. A polished presentation will go a long way toward reinforcing your credibility.

6. Eliminate extraneous detail to focus on core concepts

Take a second to think about the last presentation you sat through that didn’t hit the mark. What was it that made you lose interest?

Was there too much text on the slides? Was it bland, with not enough visuals? Was it disorganized, with no clear takeaways?

For me, it was that the presenter rambled on and on. They tried to cram way too much detail into their 20-minute talk, and I walked away without really learning anything.

Like the persuasive presentation example below, a well-designed presentation should have no more than one takeaway per slide (with a healthy balance of text and visuals):

persuasive presentation

So cut the fluff! Eliminate everything that isn’t absolutely necessary for you to get your point across.

For me, this is the hardest part of making a persuasive presentation. I want to include every little detail that I think will help persuade my audience to change their behavior or accept my new idea. But when diving too deep into the details, I always end up losing my audience along the way.

And if you think about it, have you ever complained that a presentation was too short? I don’t think so. We really appreciate presenters who can get their point across quickly and concisely.

persuasive presentation

7. Sign off with a persuasive call-to-action

Most presenters’ go-to for the end of a presentation is a summary slide that reviews all of the main points of the talk. But these summaries are boring…they don’t tell the audience anything new, so listeners completely tune them out.

A better way to conclude a presentation is to give your audience something to do with the information you’ve just given them, in the form of a call-to-action (like the persuasive presentation example below).

persuasive presentation

Audiences must be prompted to do take action! Even if they’ve been given all of the tools they need to get something done, if you don’t prompt them directly, it’s not going to happen.

A call-to-action can be as simple as asking a question that encourages listeners to think about the topics you’ve raised, or posing a challenge that will change their behavior.

If it’s a simple ask, they’ll be likely to follow through.

Putting together a truly persuasive presentation is not an easy task.

The good thing is, if you’re here reading this article, you’re a few steps ahead of most people. Putting these strategies to use might just mean the difference between landing your next client and walking away empty-handed.

Choose a presentation template to get creating (and persuading) today!

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How to Write an Introduction for a Persuasive Speech

Last Updated: October 2, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Gale McCreary and by wikiHow staff writer, Kyle Hall . Gale McCreary is the Founder and Chief Coordinator of SpeechStory, a nonprofit organization focused on improving communication skills in youth. She was previously a Silicon Valley CEO and President of a Toastmasters International chapter. She has been recognized as Santa Barbara Entrepreneurial Woman of the Year and received Congressional recognition for providing a Family-Friendly work environment. She has a BS in Biology from Stanford University. There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. 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 149,650 times.

A persuasive speech is meant to convince an audience to agree with your point of view or argument relating to a specific topic. While the body of your persuasive speech is where the bulk of your argument will go, it’s important that you don’t overlook the introduction. A good introduction will capture your audience’s attention, which is crucial if you want to persuade them. Fortunately, there are some simple rules you can follow that will make the introduction to your persuasive essay more engaging and memorable.

Organizing Your Introduction

Step 1 Start off with a hook to grab the audience’s attention.

  • For example, if your speech is about sleep deprivation in the workplace, you could start with something like “Workplace accidents and mistakes related to sleep deprivation cost companies $31 billion every single year.”
  • Or, if your speech is about animal rights, you could open with a quote like “The English philosopher Jeremy Bentham once said, ‘The question is not, Can they reason? Nor, Can they talk? But, Can they suffer?’”
  • For a speech about unpaid internships, you could start with a relevant anecdote like “In 2018, Tiffany Green got her dream internship, unpaid, working for a rental company. Unfortunately, a few months later Tiffany returned home from work to find an eviction notice on the door of her apartment, owned by that same rental company, because she was unable to pay her rent.

Step 2 Introduce your thesis statement.

  • For example, your thesis statement could look something like “Today, I’m going to talk to you about why medical marijuana should be legalized in all 50 states, and I’ll explain why that would improve the lives of average Americans and boost the economy.”

Step 3 Demonstrate to the audience that your argument is credible.

  • For example, if you’re a marine biologist who’s writing a persuasive speech about ocean acidification, you could write something like “I’ve studied the effects of ocean acidification on local marine ecosystems for over a decade now, and what I’ve found is staggering.”
  • Or, if you’re not an expert on your topic, you could include something like “Earlier this year, renowned marine biologist Ayana Elizabeth Johnson published a decade-long study on the acidification of our oceans, and what she found is deeply concerning.”

Step 4 Conclude your introduction by briefly previewing the main points you’ll cover.

  • For example, you could sum up your conclusion by writing something like, “To show you that a shorter work week would benefit not only employees but also their employers, first I will touch on the history of the modern average work week. Then, I’ll discuss the mental and physical toll that a long work week can take on a person. Finally, I’ll wrap up by going over fairer, better systems that we as a society could implement.”

Step 5 Limit your introduction to 10-15% of the total length of your speech.

  • For example, if you time yourself giving your speech (introduction included) and it takes you 5 minutes, your introduction should only take up about 45 seconds of your speech.
  • However, if you were giving a speech that’s 20 minutes long, your introduction should be around 3 minutes.
  • On average, you’ll want about 150 words for every 1 minute you need to speak for. For example, if your introduction should be 2 minutes, you’d want to write around 300 words.

Tip: If you know how long your speech is going to be before you write it, make the first draft of your introduction the right length so you don’t have to add or delete a lot later.

Polishing Your Writing

Step 1 Write in a conversational tone.

  • To make your writing more conversational, try to use brief sentences, and avoid including jargon unless you need it to make your point.
  • Using contractions, like “I’ll” instead of “I will,” “wouldn’t” instead of “would not,” and “they’re” instead of “they are,” can help make your writing sound more conversational.

Step 2 Be concise when you’re writing your introduction.

Tip: An easy way to make your writing more concise is to start your sentences with the subject. Also, try to limit the number of adverbs and adjectives you use.

Step 3 Tailor your writing to your audience.

  • For example, if your audience will be made up of the other students in your college class, including a pop culture reference in your introduction might be an effective way to grab their attention and help them relate to your topic. However, if you’re giving your speech in a more formal setting, a pop culture reference might fall flat.

Step 4 Connect with your audience.

  • For example, you could write something like, “I know a lot of you may strongly disagree with me on this. However, I think if you give me a chance and hear me out, we might end up finding some common ground.”
  • Or, you could include a question like “How many of you here tonight have ever come across plastic that's washed up on the beach?” Then, you can have audience members raise their hands.

Step 5 Practice reading your introduction out loud.

  • You can even record yourself reading your introduction to get a sense of how you'll look delivering the opening of your speech.

Example Introduction for a Persuasive Speech

present a persuasive speech

Community Q&A

Community Answer

You Might Also Like

Be Persuasive

  • ↑ https://open.lib.umn.edu/communication/chapter/11-2-persuasive-speaking/
  • ↑ https://2012books.lardbucket.org/books/public-speaking-practice-and-ethics/s12-introductions-matter-how-to-be.html
  • ↑ https://www.middlesex.mass.edu/ace/downloads/tipsheets/persvsargu.pdf
  • ↑ https://www.speechanddebate.org/wp-content/uploads/Tips-for-Writing-a-Persuasive-Speech.pdf
  • ↑ https://open.lib.umn.edu/publicspeaking/chapter/14-1-four-methods-of-delivery/
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/academic_writing/essay_writing/argumentative_essays.html
  • ↑ https://www.gvsu.edu/speechlab/connecting-with-the-audience-26.htm
  • ↑ https://www.gvsu.edu/speechlab/practicing-presentations-33.htm

About This Article

Gale McCreary

To write an introduction for a persuasive speech, start with a hook that will grab your audience's attention, like a surprising statistic or meaningful quote. Then, introduce your thesis statement, which should explain what you are arguing for and why. From here, you'll need to demonstrate the credibility of your argument if you want your audience to believe what you're saying. Depending on if you are an expert or not, you should either share your personal credentials or reference papers and studies by experts in the field that legitimize your argument. Finally, conclude with a brief preview of the main points you'll cover in your speech, so your audience knows what to expect and can follow along more easily. For more tips from our co-author, including how to polish your introduction, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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112 Persuasive Speech Topics That Are Actually Engaging

What’s covered:, how to pick an awesome persuasive speech topic, 112 engaging persuasive speech topics, tips for preparing your persuasive speech.

Writing a stellar persuasive speech requires a carefully crafted argument that will resonate with your audience to sway them to your side. This feat can be challenging to accomplish, but an engaging, thought-provoking speech topic is an excellent place to start.

When it comes time to select a topic for your persuasive speech, you may feel overwhelmed by all the options to choose from—or your brain may be drawing a completely blank slate. If you’re having trouble thinking of the perfect topic, don’t worry. We’re here to help!

In this post, we’re sharing how to choose the perfect persuasive speech topic and tips to prepare for your speech. Plus, you’ll find 112 persuasive speech topics that you can take directly from us or use as creative inspiration for your own ideas!

Choose Something You’re Passionate About

It’s much easier to write, research, and deliver a speech about a cause you care about. Even if it’s challenging to find a topic that completely sparks your interest, try to choose a topic that aligns with your passions.

However, keep in mind that not everyone has the same interests as you. Try to choose a general topic to grab the attention of the majority of your audience, but one that’s specific enough to keep them engaged.

For example, suppose you’re giving a persuasive speech about book censorship. In that case, it’s probably too niche to talk about why “To Kill a Mockingbird” shouldn’t be censored (even if it’s your favorite book), and it’s too broad to talk about media censorship in general.

Steer Clear of Cliches

Have you already heard a persuasive speech topic presented dozens of times? If so, it’s probably not an excellent choice for your speech—even if it’s an issue you’re incredibly passionate about.

Although polarizing topics like abortion and climate control are important to discuss, they aren’t great persuasive speech topics. Most people have already formed an opinion on these topics, which will either cause them to tune out or have a negative impression of your speech.

Instead, choose topics that are fresh, unique, and new. If your audience has never heard your idea presented before, they will be more open to your argument and engaged in your speech.

Have a Clear Side of Opposition

For a persuasive speech to be engaging, there must be a clear side of opposition. To help determine the arguability of your topic, ask yourself: “If I presented my viewpoint on this topic to a group of peers, would someone disagree with me?” If the answer is yes, then you’ve chosen a great topic!

Now that we’ve laid the groundwork for what it takes to choose a great persuasive speech topic, here are over one hundred options for you to choose from.

  • Should high school athletes get tested for steroids?
  • Should schools be required to have physical education courses?
  • Should sports grades in school depend on things like athletic ability?
  • What sport should be added to or removed from the Olympics?
  • Should college athletes be able to make money off of their merchandise?
  • Should sports teams be able to recruit young athletes without a college degree?
  • Should we consider video gamers as professional athletes?
  • Is cheerleading considered a sport?
  • Should parents allow their kids to play contact sports?
  • Should professional female athletes be paid the same as professional male athletes?
  • Should college be free at the undergraduate level?
  • Is the traditional college experience obsolete?
  • Should you choose a major based on your interests or your potential salary?
  • Should high school students have to meet a required number of service hours before graduating?
  • Should teachers earn more or less based on how their students perform on standardized tests?
  • Are private high schools more effective than public high schools?
  • Should there be a minimum number of attendance days required to graduate?
  • Are GPAs harmful or helpful?
  • Should schools be required to teach about standardized testing?
  • Should Greek Life be banned in the United States?
  • Should schools offer science classes explicitly about mental health?
  • Should students be able to bring their cell phones to school?
  • Should all public restrooms be all-gender?
  • Should undocumented immigrants have the same employment and education opportunities as citizens?
  • Should everyone be paid a living wage regardless of their employment status?
  • Should supremacist groups be able to hold public events?
  • Should guns be allowed in public places?
  • Should the national drinking age be lowered?
  • Should prisoners be allowed to vote?
  • Should the government raise or lower the retirement age?
  • Should the government be able to control the population?
  • Is the death penalty ethical?

Environment

  • Should stores charge customers for plastic bags?
  • Should breeding animals (dogs, cats, etc.) be illegal?
  • Is it okay to have exotic animals as pets?
  • Should people be fined for not recycling?
  • Should compost bins become mandatory for restaurants?
  • Should electric vehicles have their own transportation infrastructure?
  • Would heavier fining policies reduce corporations’ emissions?
  • Should hunting be encouraged or illegal?
  • Should reusable diapers replace disposable diapers?

Science & Technology

  • Is paper media more reliable than digital news sources?
  • Should automated/self-driving cars be legalized?
  • Should schools be required to provide laptops to all students?
  • Should software companies be able to have pre-downloaded programs and applications on devices?
  • Should drones be allowed in military warfare?
  • Should scientists invest more or less money into cancer research?
  • Should cloning be illegal?
  • Should societies colonize other planets?
  • Should there be legal oversight over the development of technology?

Social Media

  • Should there be an age limit on social media?
  • Should cyberbullying have the same repercussions as in-person bullying?
  • Are online relationships as valuable as in-person relationships?
  • Does “cancel culture” have a positive or negative impact on societies?
  • Are social media platforms reliable information or news sources?
  • Should social media be censored?
  • Does social media create an unrealistic standard of beauty?
  • Is regular social media usage damaging to real-life interactions?
  • Is social media distorting democracy?
  • How many branches of government should there be?
  • Who is the best/worst president of all time?
  • How long should judges serve in the U.S. Supreme Court?
  • Should a more significant portion of the U.S. budget be contributed towards education?
  • Should the government invest in rapid transcontinental transportation infrastructure?
  • Should airport screening be more or less stringent?
  • Should the electoral college be dismantled?
  • Should the U.S. have open borders?
  • Should the government spend more or less money on space exploration?
  • Should students sing Christmas carols, say the pledge of allegiance, or perform other tangentially religious activities?
  • Should nuns and priests become genderless roles?
  • Should schools and other public buildings have prayer rooms?
  • Should animal sacrifice be legal if it occurs in a religious context?
  • Should countries be allowed to impose a national religion on their citizens?
  • Should the church be separated from the state?
  • Does freedom of religion positively or negatively affect societies?

Parenting & Family

  • Is it better to have children at a younger or older age?
  • Is it better for children to go to daycare or stay home with their parents?
  • Does birth order affect personality?
  • Should parents or the school system teach their kids about sex?
  • Are family traditions important?
  • Should parents smoke or drink around young children?
  • Should “spanking” children be illegal?
  • Should parents use swear words in front of their children?
  • Should parents allow their children to play violent video games?

Entertainment

  • Should all actors be paid the same regardless of gender or ethnicity?
  • Should all award shows be based on popular vote?
  • Who should be responsible for paying taxes on prize money, the game show staff or the contestants?
  • Should movies and television shows have ethnicity and gender quotas?
  • Should newspapers and magazines move to a completely online format?
  • Should streaming services like Netflix and Hulu be free for students?
  • Is the movie rating system still effective?
  • Should celebrities have more privacy rights?

Arts & Humanities

  • Are libraries becoming obsolete?
  • Should all schools have mandatory art or music courses in their curriculum?
  • Should offensive language be censored from classic literary works?
  • Is it ethical for museums to keep indigenous artifacts?
  • Should digital designs be considered an art form? 
  • Should abstract art be considered an art form?
  • Is music therapy effective?
  • Should tattoos be regarded as “professional dress” for work?
  • Should schools place greater emphasis on the arts programs?
  • Should euthanasia be allowed in hospitals and other clinical settings?
  • Should the government support and implement universal healthcare?
  • Would obesity rates lower if the government intervened to make healthy foods more affordable?
  • Should teenagers be given access to birth control pills without parental consent?
  • Should food allergies be considered a disease?
  • Should health insurance cover homeopathic medicine?
  • Is using painkillers healthy?
  • Should genetically modified foods be banned?
  • Should there be a tax on unhealthy foods?
  • Should tobacco products be banned from the country?
  • Should the birth control pill be free for everyone?

If you need more help brainstorming topics, especially those that are personalized to your interests, you can  use CollegeVine’s free AI tutor, Ivy . Ivy can help you come up with original persuasive speech ideas, and she can also help with the rest of your homework, from math to languages.

Do Your Research

A great persuasive speech is supported with plenty of well-researched facts and evidence. So before you begin the writing process, research both sides of the topic you’re presenting in-depth to gain a well-rounded perspective of the topic.

Understand Your Audience

It’s critical to understand your audience to deliver a great persuasive speech. After all, you are trying to convince them that your viewpoint is correct. Before writing your speech, consider the facts and information that your audience may already know, and think about the beliefs and concerns they may have about your topic. Then, address these concerns in your speech, and be mindful to include fresh, new information.

Have Someone Read Your Speech

Once you have finished writing your speech, have someone read it to check for areas of strength and improvement. You can use CollegeVine’s free essay review tool to get feedback on your speech from a peer!

Practice Makes Perfect

After completing your final draft, the key to success is to practice. Present your speech out loud in front of a mirror, your family, friends, and basically, anyone who will listen. Not only will the feedback of others help you to make your speech better, but you’ll become more confident in your presentation skills and may even be able to commit your speech to memory.

Hopefully, these ideas have inspired you to write a powerful, unique persuasive speech. With the perfect topic, plenty of practice, and a boost of self-confidence, we know you’ll impress your audience with a remarkable speech!

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Are you struggling to find good persuasive speech topics? It can be hard to find a topic that interests both you and your audience, but in this guide we've done the hard work and created a list of 105 great persuasive speech ideas. They're organized into ten categories and cover a variety of topics, so you're sure to find one that interests you.

In addition to our list, we also go over which factors make good persuasive speech topics and three tips you should follow when researching and writing your persuasive speech.

What Makes a Good Persuasive Speech Topic?

What makes certain persuasive speech topics better than others? There are numerous reasons, but in this section we discuss three of the most important factors of great topics for a persuasive speech.

It's Something You Know About or Are Interested in Learning About

The most important factor in choosing and creating a great persuasive speech is picking a topic you care about and are interested in. You'll need to do a lot of research on this topic, and if it's something you like learning about, that'll make the process much easier and more enjoyable. It'll also help you sound passionate and informed when you talk, both important factors in giving an excellent persuasive speech.

It's a Topic People Care About

In fourth grade, after being told I could give a persuasive speech on any topic I wanted to , I chose to discuss why the Saguaro cactus should be the United State's national plant. Even though I gave an impassioned talk and drew a life-size Saguaro cactus on butcher paper to hang behind me, I doubt anyone enjoyed the speech much.

I'd recently returned from a family vacation to Arizona where I'd seen Saguaro cacti for the first time and decided they were the coolest thing ever. However, most people don't care that much about Saguaro cacti, and most people don't care what our national plant is or if we even have one (for the record, the US has a national flower, and it's the rose).

Spare yourself the smattering of bored applause my nine-old self got at the end of my speech and choose something you think people will be interested in hearing about. This also ties into knowing your audience, which we discuss more in the final section.

It Isn't Overdone

When I was in high school, nearly every persuasive speech my classmates and I were assigned was the exact same topic: should the drinking age be lowered to 18? I got this prompt in English class, on standardized tests, in speech and debate class, etc. I've written and presented about it so often I could probably still rattle off all the main points of my old speeches word-for-word.

You can imagine that everyone's eyes glazed over whenever classmates gave their speeches on this topic. We'd heard about it so many times that, even if it was a topic we cared about, speeches on it just didn't interest us anymore.

The are many potential topics for a persuasive speech. Be wary of choosing one that's cliche or overdone. Even if you give a great speech, it'll be harder to keep your audience interested if they feel like they already know what you're going to say.

An exception to this rule is that if you feel you have a new viewpoint or facts about the topic that currently aren't common knowledge. Including them can make an overdone topic interesting. If you do this, be sure to make it clear early on in your speech that you have unique info or opinions on the topic so your audience knows to expect something new.

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105 Topics for a Persuasive Speech

Here's our list of 105 great persuasive speech ideas. We made sure to choose topics that aren't overdone, yet that many people will have an interest in, and we also made a point of choosing topics with multiple viewpoints rather than simplistic topics that have a more obvious right answer (i.e. Is bullying bad?). The topics are organized into ten categories.

Arts/Culture

  • Should art and music therapy be covered by health insurance?
  • Should all students be required to learn an instrument in school?
  • Should all national museums be free to citizens?
  • Should graffiti be considered art?
  • Should offensive language be removed from works of classic literature?
  • Are paper books better than e-books?
  • Should all interns be paid for their work?
  • Should employees receive bonuses for walking or biking to work?
  • Will Brexit hurt or help the UK's economy?
  • Should all people over the age of 65 be able to ride the bus for free?
  • Should the federal minimum wage be increased?
  • Should tipping in restaurants be mandatory?
  • Should Black Friday sales be allowed to start on Thanksgiving?
  • Should students who bully others be expelled?
  • Should all schools require students wear uniforms?
  • Should boys and girls be taught in separate classrooms?
  • Should students be allowed to listen to music during study hall?
  • Should all elementary schools be required to teach a foreign language?
  • Should schools include meditation or relaxation breaks during the day?
  • Should grades in gym class affect students' GPAs?
  • Should teachers get a bonus when their students score well on standardized tests?
  • Should children of undocumented immigrants be allowed to attend public schools?
  • Should students get paid for getting a certain GPA?
  • Should students be allowed to have their cell phones with them during school?
  • Should high school students be allowed to leave school during lunch breaks?
  • Should Greek life at colleges be abolished?
  • Should high school students be required to volunteer a certain number of hours before they can graduate?
  • Should schools still teach cursive handwriting?
  • What are the best ways for schools to stop bullying?
  • Should prostitution be legalized?
  • Should people with more than one DUI lose their driver's license?
  • Should people be required to shovel snow from the sidewalks in front of their house?
  • Should minors be able to drink alcohol in their home if they have their parent's consent?
  • Should guns be allowed on college campuses?
  • Should flag burning as a form of protest be illegal?
  • Should welfare recipients be required to pass a drug test?
  • Should white supremacist groups be allowed to hold rallies in public places?
  • Should assault weapons be illegal?
  • Should the death penalty be abolished?
  • Should beauty pageants for children be banned?
  • Is it OK to refuse to serve same-sex couples based on religious beliefs?
  • Should transgender people be allowed to serve in the military?
  • Is it better to live together before marriage or to wait?
  • Should affirmative action be allowed?
  • Should prisoners be allowed to vote?
  • Should Columbus Day be replaced with Indigenous Peoples' Day?

Government/Politics

  • Should the government spend more money on developing high-speed rail lines and less on building new roads?
  • Should the government be allowed to censor internet content deemed inappropriate?
  • Should Puerto Rico become the 51st state?
  • Should Scotland declare independence from the United Kingdom?
  • Whose face should be on the next new currency printed by the US?
  • Should people convicted of drug possession be sent to recovery programs instead of jail?
  • Should voting be made compulsory?
  • Who was the best American president?
  • Should the military budget be reduced?
  • Should the President be allowed to serve more than two terms?
  • Should a border fence be built between the United States and Mexico?
  • Should countries pay ransom to terrorist groups in order to free hostages?
  • Should minors be able to purchase birth control without their parent's consent?
  • Should hiding or lying about your HIV status with someone you're sleeping with be illegal?
  • Should governments tax soda and other sugary drinks and use the revenue for public health?
  • Should high schools provide free condoms to students?
  • Should the US switch to single-payer health care?
  • Should healthy people be required to regularly donate blood?
  • Should assisted suicide be legal?
  • Should religious organizations be required to pay taxes?
  • Should priests be allowed to get married?
  • Should the religious slaughter of animals be banned?
  • Should the Church of Scientology be exempt from paying taxes?
  • Should women be allowed to be priests?
  • Should countries be allowed to only accept refugees with certain religious beliefs?
  • Should public prayer be allowed in schools?

Science/Environment

  • Should human cloning be allowed?
  • Should people be allowed to own exotic animals like tigers and monkeys?
  • Should "animal selfies" in tourist locations with well-known animal species (like koalas and tigers) be allowed?
  • Should genetically modified foods be sold in grocery stores?
  • Should people be allowed to own pit bulls?
  • Should parents be allowed to choose the sex of their unborn children?
  • Should vaccinations be required for students to attend public school?
  • What is the best type of renewable energy?
  • Should plastic bags be banned in grocery stores?
  • Should the United States rejoin the Paris Agreement?
  • Should puppy mills be banned?
  • Should fracking be legal?
  • Should animal testing be illegal?
  • Should offshore drilling be allowed in protected marine areas?
  • Should the US government increase NASA's budget?
  • Should Pluto still be considered a planet?
  • Should college athletes be paid for being on a sports team?
  • Should all athletes be required to pass regular drug tests?
  • Should professional female athletes be paid the same as male athletes in the same sport?
  • Are there any cases when athletes should be allowed to use steroids?
  • Should college sports teams receive less funding?
  • Should boxing be illegal?
  • Should schools be required to teach all students how to swim?
  • Should cheerleading be considered a sport?
  • Should parents let their children play tackle football?
  • Will robots reduce or increase human employment opportunities?
  • What age should children be allowed to have a cell phone?
  • Should libraries be replaced with unlimited access to e-books?
  • Overall, has technology helped connect people or isolate them?
  • Should self-driving cars be legal?
  • Should all new buildings be energy efficient?
  • Is Net Neutrality a good thing or a bad thing?
  • Do violent video games encourage players to become violent in real life?

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3 Bonus Tips for Crafting Your Persuasive Speech

Of course, giving a great persuasive speech requires more than just choosing a good topic. Follow the three tips below to create an outstanding speech that'll interest and impress your audience.

Do Your Research

For a persuasive speech, there's nothing worse than getting an audience question that shows you misunderstood the issue or left an important piece out. It makes your entire speech look weak and unconvincing.

Before you start writing a single word of your speech, be sure to do lots of research on all sides of the topic. Look at different sources and points of view to be sure you're getting the full picture, and if you know any experts on the topic, be sure to ask their opinion too.

Consider All the Angles

Persuasive speech topics are rarely black and white, which means there will be multiple sides and viewpoints on the topic. For example, for the topic "Should people be allowed to own pit bulls?" there are two obvious viewpoints: everyone should be allowed to own a pit bull if they want to, and no one should be allowed to own a pit bull. But there are other options you should also consider: people should only own a pit bull if they pass a dog training class, people should be able to own pit bulls, but only if it's the only dog they own, people should be able to own pi tbulls but only if they live a certain distance from schools, people should be able to own pit bulls only if the dog passes an obedience class, etc.

Thinking about all these angles and including them in your speech will make you seem well-informed on the topic, and it'll increase the quality of your speech by looking at difference nuances of the issue.

Know Your Audience

Whenever you give a speech, it's important to consider your audience, and this is especially true for persuasive speeches when you're trying to convince people to believe a certain viewpoint. When writing your speech, think about what your audience likely already knows about the topic, what they probably need explained, and what aspects of the topic they care about most. Also consider what the audience will be most concerned about for a certain topic, and be sure to address those concerns.

For example, if you're giving a speech to a Catholic organization on why you think priests should be allowed to marry, you don't need to go over the history of Catholicism or its core beliefs (which they probably already know), but you should mention any research or prominent opinions that support your view (which they likely don't know about). They may be concerned that priests who marry won't be as committed to God or their congregations, so be sure to address those concerns and why they shouldn't worry about them as much as they may think. Discussing your topic with people (ideally those with viewpoints similar to those of your future audience) before you give your speech is a good way to get a better understanding of how your audience thinks.

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More Resources for Writing Persuasive Speeches

If you need more guidance or just want to check out some examples of great persuasive writing, consider checking out the following books:

  • Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History by William Safire—This collection of great speeches throughout history will help you decide how to style your own argument.
  • The Essentials of Persuasive Public Speaking by Sims Wyeth—For quick direct tips on public speaking, try this all-purpose guide.
  • Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World's Top Minds by Carmine Gallo—This popular book breaks down what makes TED talks work and how you can employ those skills in your own presentations.
  • We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman—These two recent speeches by contemporary writers offer stellar examples of how to craft a compelling (and engaging) argument.

Conclusion: Persuasive Speech Ideas

Good persuasive speech topics can be difficult to think of, but in this guide we've compiled a list of 105 interesting persuasive speech topics for you to look through.

The best persuasive speech ideas will be on a topic you're interested in, aren't overdone, and will be about something your audience cares about.

After you've chosen your topic, keep these three tips in mind when writing your persuasive speech:

  • Do your research
  • Consider all the angles
  • Know your audience

What's Next?

Now that you have persuasive speech topics, it's time to hone your persuasive speech techniques. Find out what ethos, pathos, logos, and kairos are and how to use them here .

Looking to take your persuasive technique from speech to sheets (of paper)? Get our three key tips on how to write an argumentative essay , or learn by reading through our thorough breakdown of how to build an essay, step by step .

Want a great GPA? Check out our step-by-step guide to getting good grades in high school so you can have a stellar transcript.

Interested in learning about other great extracurricular opportunities? Learn more about job shadowing , community service , and volunteer abroad programs.

Still trying to figure out your courses? Check out our expert guide on which classes you should take in high school.

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

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Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.

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75 Persuasive Speech Topics and Ideas

October 4, 2018 - Gini Beqiri

To write a captivating and persuasive speech you must first decide on a topic that will engage, inform and also persuade the audience. We have discussed how to choose a topic and we have provided a list of speech ideas covering a wide range of categories.

What is persuasive speech?

The aim of a persuasive speech is to inform, educate and convince or motivate an audience to do something. You are essentially trying to sway the audience to adopt your own viewpoint.

The best persuasive speech topics are thought-provoking, daring and have a clear opinion. You should speak about something you are knowledgeable about and can argue your opinion for, as well as objectively discuss counter-arguments.

How to choose a topic for your speech

It’s not easy picking a topic for your speech as there are many options so consider the following factors when deciding.

Familiarity

Topics that you’re familiar with will make it easier to prepare for the speech.

It’s best if you decide on a topic in which you have a genuine interest in because you’ll be doing lots of research on it and if it’s something you enjoy the process will be significantly easier and more enjoyable. The audience will also see this enthusiasm when you’re presenting which will make the speech more persuasive.

The audience’s interest

The audience must care about the topic. You don’t want to lose their attention so choose something you think they’ll be interested in hearing about.

Consider choosing a topic that allows you to be more descriptive because this allows the audience to visualize which consequently helps persuade them.

Not overdone

When people have heard about a topic repeatedly they’re less likely to listen to you as it doesn’t interest them anymore. Avoid cliché or overdone topics as it’s difficult to maintain your audience’s attention because they feel like they’ve heard it all before.

An exception to this would be if you had new viewpoints or new facts to share. If this is the case then ensure you clarify early in your speech that you have unique views or information on the topic.

Emotional topics

Emotions are motivators so the audience is more likely to be persuaded and act on your requests if you present an emotional topic.

People like hearing about issues that affect them or their community, country etc. They find these topics more relatable which means they find them more interesting. Look at local issues and news to discover these topics.

Desired outcome

What do you want your audience to do as a result of your speech? Use this as a guide to choosing your topic, for example, maybe you want people to recycle more so you present a speech on the effect of microplastics in the ocean.

Jamie Oliver persuasive speech

Persuasive speech topics

Lots of timely persuasive topics can be found using social media, the radio, TV and newspapers. We have compiled a list of 75 persuasive speech topic ideas covering a wide range of categories.

Some of the topics also fall into other categories and we have posed the topics as questions so they can be easily adapted into statements to suit your own viewpoint.

  • Should pets be adopted rather than bought from a breeder?
  • Should wild animals be tamed?
  • Should people be allowed to own exotic animals like monkeys?
  • Should all zoos and aquariums be closed?

Arts/Culture

  • Should art and music therapy be covered by health insurance?
  • Should graffiti be considered art?
  • Should all students be required to learn an instrument in school?
  • Should automobile drivers be required to take a test every three years?
  • Are sports cars dangerous?
  • Should bicycles share the roads with cars?
  • Should bicycle riders be required by law to always wear helmets?

Business and economy

  • Do introverts make great leaders?
  • Does owning a business leave you feeling isolated?
  • What is to blame for the rise in energy prices?
  • Does hiring cheaper foreign employees hurt the economy?
  • Should interns be paid for their work?
  • Should employees receive bonuses for walking or biking to work?
  • Should tipping in restaurants be mandatory?
  • Should boys and girls should be taught in separate classrooms?
  • Should schools include meditation breaks during the day?
  • Should students be allowed to have their mobile phones with them during school?
  • Should teachers have to pass a test every decade to renew their certifications?
  • Should online teaching be given equal importance as the regular form of teaching?
  • Is higher education over-rated?
  • What are the best ways to stop bullying?
  • Should people with more than one DUI lose their drivers’ licenses?
  • Should prostitution be legalised?
  • Should guns be illegal in the US?
  • Should cannabis be legalised for medical reasons?
  • Is equality a myth?
  • Does what is “right” and “wrong” change from generation to generation?
  • Is there never a good enough reason to declare war?
  • Should governments tax sugary drinks and use the revenue for public health?
  • Has cosmetic surgery risen to a level that exceeds good sense?
  • Is the fast-food industry legally accountable for obesity?
  • Should school cafeterias only offer healthy food options?
  • Is acupuncture a valid medical technique?
  • Should assisted suicide be legal?
  • Does consuming meat affect health?
  • Is dieting a good way to lose weight?

Law and politics

  • Should voting be made compulsory?
  • Should the President (or similar position) be allowed to serve more than two terms?
  • Would poverty reduce by fixing housing?
  • Should drug addicts be sent for treatment in hospitals instead of prisons?
  • Would it be fair for the government to detain suspected terrorists without proper trial?
  • Is torture acceptable when used for national security?
  • Should celebrities who break the law receive stiffer penalties?
  • Should the government completely ban all cigarettes and tobacco products
  • Is it wrong for the media to promote a certain beauty standard?
  • Is the media responsible for the moral degradation of teenagers?
  • Should advertising be aimed at children?
  • Has freedom of press gone too far?
  • Should prayer be allowed in public schools?
  • Does religion have a place in government?
  • How do cults differ from religion?

Science and the environment

  • Should recycling be mandatory?
  • Should genetically modified foods be sold in supermarkets?
  • Should parents be allowed to choose the sex of their unborn children?
  • Should selling plastic bags be completely banned in shops?
  • Should smoking in public places be banned?
  • Should professional female athletes be paid the same as male athletes in the same sport?
  • Should doping be allowed in professional sports?
  • Should schools be required to teach all students how to swim?
  • How does parental pressure affect young athletes?
  • Will technology reduce or increase human employment opportunities?
  • What age should children be allowed to have mobile phones?
  • Should libraries be replaced with unlimited access to e-books?
  • Should we recognize Bitcoin as a legal currency?
  • Should bloggers and vloggers be treated as journalists and punished for indiscretions?
  • Has technology helped connect people or isolate them?
  • Should mobile phone use in public places be regulated?
  • Do violent video games make people more violent?

World peace

  • What is the safest country in the world?
  • Is planetary nuclear disarmament possible?
  • Is the idea of peace on earth naive?

These topics are just suggestions so you need to assess whether they would be suitable for your particular audience. You can easily adapt the topics to suit your interests and audience, for example, you could substitute “meat” in the topic “Does consuming meat affect health?” for many possibilities, such as “processed foods”, “mainly vegan food”, “dairy” and so on.

After choosing your topic

After you’ve chosen your topic it’s important to do the following:

  • Research thoroughly
  • Think about all of the different viewpoints
  • Tailor to your audience – discussing your topic with others is a helpful way to gain an understanding of your audience.
  • How involved are you with this topic – are you a key character?
  • Have you contributed to this area, perhaps through blogs, books, papers and products.
  • How qualified are you to speak on this topic?
  • Do you have personal experience in it? How many years?
  • How long have you been interested in the area?

While it may be difficult to choose from such a variety of persuasive speech topics, think about which of the above you have the most knowledge of and can argue your opinion on.

For advice about how to deliver your persuasive speech, check out our blog  Persuasive Speech Outline and Ideas .

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HBR On Leadership podcast series

How to Become More Persuasive at Work

If you’re a leader, you need to know how to influence people.

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If you’re a leader, you need to know how to influence people. Maybe you’re trying to get clients to buy into your idea, trust your expertise, or sign on with your company. Or perhaps you want to convince colleagues to start a new initiative or kill one you think is doomed to fail.

In this episode, Vanessa Bohns , a professor of organizational behavior at Cornell University, and Raven Hoffman , who works in a construction role that involves recruiting new clients to her firm, break down how to build influence at work.

They discuss which persuasion tactics are most effective and how to tell if someone is being swayed by your reasoning. And if you’ve failed to persuade someone but still believe in the cause, they offer smart tactics for trying again.

Key episode topics include: leadership, persuasion, power and influence, business communication, industrial sector, construction and engineering, education institutions.

HBR On Leadership curates the best case studies and conversations with the world’s top business and management experts, to help you unlock the best in those around you. New episodes every week.

  • Listen to the original Women at Work episode: The Essentials: Persuading People (2022)
  • Find more episodes of Women at Work .
  • Discover 100 years of Harvard Business Review articles, case studies, podcasts, and more at HBR.org .

HANNAH BATES: Welcome to HBR On Leadership , case studies and conversations with the world’s top business and management experts, hand-selected to help you unlock the best in those around you. We all need to be persuasive. Maybe you’re trying to get clients to buy into your idea, trust your expertise, or sign on with your company. Or perhaps you want to convince colleagues to start a new initiative, or kill one you think is doomed to fail.  Today we bring you a conversation about how to build influence at work – with the help of Vanessa Bohns, a professor of organizational behavior at Cornell University and the author of the book You Have More Influence Than You Think: How We Underestimate Our Power of Persuasion, and Why It Matters,  and Raven Hoffman, who works in a construction role that involves recruiting new clients to her firm. In this episode, you’ll learn which persuasion tactics are the most effective and how to tell if someone is being swayed by your reasoning. And if you’ve failed to persuade someone but still believe in the cause, you’ll learn some smart tactics for trying again. This episode originally aired on Women at Work in April 2022, as part of a special series called “The Essentials.” Here it is.

AMY GALLO: You’re listening to Women at Work from Harvard Business Review. I’m Amy Gallo. Raven Hoffman, like a lot of us, is trying to figure out how to better persuade others. She works in the construction industry as a senior estimator at a tile and stone contractor.

RAVEN HOFFMAN: I spend my entire day looking at blueprints pricing things out, convincing guys I know what I’m talking about, telling the guys what to do so that they do it right when they get to the job. Not much time at my desk, I get up and I’m out in the warehouse looking for stuff, I’m on the phone calling people. Most of my day is putting out fires.

AMY GALLO: Construction is one of the most male-dominated industries in the world. Raven has been in it for twenty years thriving and with no plans to leave. Lately, though, she’s been struggling with a new important part of her job, selling people she hasn’t met before on doing business with her and her company. Conversations and meetings she’s initiated haven’t consistently forged the sorts of trusting relationships that lead to contracts. xBut Raven’s determined to become more persuasive with prospective and existing clients, as well as with long time colleagues. So, she was excited, as was I, to talk to and learn from a woman who studied and mastered this skill. Vanessa Bohns is a social psychologist. She teaches at Cornell and is the author of the book, You Have More Influence Than You Think: How We Underestimate Our Power of Persuasion and Why it Matters , and she’s here with advice for pitching ideas, preempting people from doubting your expertise and getting coworkers to start or stop doing something. Raven, Vanessa, thank you so much for joining us on the show today.

RAVEN HOFFMAN: Thank you for the invitation.

VANESSA BOHNS: Yeah. Thanks so much for having me.

AMY GALLO: So, Raven, I want to start with you and understand a little bit more about your work and where exactly you feel like you have influence and where you think you currently lack influence.

RAVEN HOFFMAN: So, I am fortunate. The company I work for, the current ownership came on when their grandmother was running the company; they believe in hiring strong women. They believe in letting us do what we do best. So, I feel they listen within the company. So often externally, my knowledge seems to be under question.

AMY GALLO: Is that with customers, with subcontractors?

RAVEN HOFFMAN: Customers. So often I will call with an issue on a project to say, “I foresee this as an upcoming problem,” and the response I will get is, “Hey, is your boss there? Can I talk to him about it?” Usually I transfer them over to him and he laughs at them and says, “You need to talk to Raven. She knows what’s going on more than I do,” and sends them back. But I think they’ve already disengaged from me as an authority who knows what she’s talking about.

AMY GALLO: Okay. So, Vanessa, in your research, you explore people’s perception of their influence and how that compares with reality. Your book is called You Have More Influence Than You Think. What did you hear in Raven’s answer there that speaks to the common perceptions or misperceptions that women tend to have about their power to be persuasive?

VANESSA BOHNS: So, I definitely hear some elements of the difference between the way we use stereotypes to understand people we don’t know well. If I go into an interaction with someone and I don’t know how to behave with this person, I don’t know what I think of this person, stereotypes guide us in a sort of way of thinking about this person and how this interaction is going to go, and unfortunately, still in many places in the world, seeing a woman brings to mind the stereotype that they don’t have as much expertise as me, particularly if it’s in a field that it tends to be a male dominated field. On the other hand, describing these people who really do know you, who know that you have this expertise or you have these established relationships, now they don’t need to rely on a stereotype, right? They actually know you they’ve gotten to know you. So, this is very sort of classic way of coding people that we don’t know. One of the things that women tend to get sort of dinged on, in terms of the stereotypes, is this idea that we aren’t authorities on something. Again, particularly if it’s in a sort of male dominated field.

AMY GALLO: Like construction, right?

VANESSA BOHNS: Exactly. Right. So, one thing that we know from the influence literature is that we listen to people who we think are authorities. If someone we think knows what they’re talking about, tells us that we should do something, not surprisingly, we assume that we should do it more so than if we think, oh, this person doesn’t know what they’re talking about. But women often face this sort of double whammy. So, there’s this coding of like, Okay, this person is not as much of an authority as maybe their male counterpart. But women also often struggle to profess their own authority. I was part of something called the op-ed project, where we learn how to write op-eds to get more female and underrepresented minorities into public discourse, and one of the activities they had us do was to establish our authority. Why am I the one to write this op-ed? So, we would go around the room and we would say, “Here’s who I am. I went to this school, I have this background…” and women with these extraordinary backgrounds would play them down. Women who had done amazing things were like, “yeah, I know how to do this little thing,” when in fact they had studied it for, like, ten years and were masters at it. So, one thing women can struggle to do at times is to make up for that authority gap that we’re missing by actually professing our authority by saying, “Hi, I’m so and so. Here’s my long list of expertise and this is why I’m talking to you.” Right? To say, “Okay, you may have had a stereotype about me. We’re going to get rid of that right here and now, and I’m going to tell you exactly why I have the authority to be talking to you.” At the same time, women tend to hesitate to do that. So, in this case, the fact that they’re just saying, “you should talk to Raven,” without giving you that buildup… I think it’s kind of putting you at a disadvantage.

AMY GALLO: Raven, how do you introduce yourself when you’re working with new clients? Have you tried what Vanessa’s describing?

RAVEN HOFFMAN: I have not, and I’m really intrigued about what that would end up looking like in a conversation – to not come across as arrogant and, “Hey, I know you’re new. So let me pile on you how many years I’ve been doing this and how much I know,” and then try to build the relationship, is how I perceive something like that. So, I’m wondering how you would work that into the conversation and have that dialogue without coming across as arrogant.

VANESSA BOHNS: That’s exactly why the women in my group hesitated to talk about all their accolades was because they were worried they were going to come across as bragging and arrogant. Really what people often talk about when we’re judged by other people, we’re judged on two main things: warmth and competence, and women tend to be judged even more on warmth. So, if we overplay our competence, people think we’re cold and that’s where we come across as arrogant, et cetera. So, the best way, unfortunately, to sort of counteract that is to couple your expressions of competence with something warm. So, it could be something like, “I am so excited to work with you because I have worked with so many other clients, I have worked with these big clients,” or whatever it is that sounds really good. “I have been working in this field for fifteen years or twenty years because I just love it, and so I can’t wait to work with you.” So, something that says, “look at all this experience I have,” but in this warm, friendly, cooperative sort of way.

AMY GALLO: How does that land with you, Raven?

RAVEN HOFFMAN: I like that. I can do that.

AMY GALLO: Yeah. I mean, I can even imagine something simple – and Vanessa, tell me if this would work – but even saying, “I’ve been assigned to this project because I’ve done 4,000 just like it. I’m really excited to collaborate with you to get your project done on time and under budget,” or whatever metrics matter to your clients. What do you think of that?

VANESSA BOHNS: Yeah, I think that would be great. As you said, you want to know the metrics that matter to them – like what would establish to them that you’re an expert and you put that out there and you just add something that says, “and I’m telling you this so that we can have a great relationship, and so I can be helpful,” and I think that gets that across for sure.

AMY GALLO: Raven, I can imagine that you do a lot of influencing already. Can you tell me about a time where you needed to persuade people at work to either do something or to stop doing something and it was successful?

RAVEN HOFFMAN: Most recently there was a product line that I wanted to bring back on that we had carried for a while and did not. I went in, presented the facts of what products they had that were good that filled gaps. I stuck to the facts. I knew what I needed to present, and we brought the line back on. It has worked very well for us.

AMY GALLO: And can you give us an example of a time where it didn’t go so well?

RAVEN HOFFMAN: Yes – with my coworkers and emails and “do not reply all.” I have requested quite a few times that we don’t all need to be on these back and forth conversations between two people. If you’re having this conversation… I get a hundred plus emails a day easily. Nno one listens, and unfortunately, I’ve had a few meltdowns over it, which I’m sure did not help the persuasion. I was hoping that it was just going to be one of those things where, Raven’s had a meltdown. We don’t want another one. Let’s quit doing this. That didn’t work either work.

AMY GALLO: So, what do you hear in those two examples, Vanessa, about what worked and why, and what didn’t work and why?

VANESSA BOHNS: Yeah. It’s interesting because they are pretty different influence topics, right? One is about facts, and I imagine you sort of outlined, “here’s this thing I think we should do” to a group of people who probably were pretty expert in what you were talking about. Right? They probably knew quite a bit about it already. There’s work on the difference between when we try to influence someone on something that they know really well and care about quite a bit, and when you’re trying to do that, you really want to stick to the facts like you said, and come up with arguments because they’re going to get it. They know the counterarguments, they know their facts, they know how to interpret the facts you’re giving them and they care enough. Then there are other kinds of things we try to influence people about where they’re less expert or less invested is a big part. Right? They just don’t care that much, and so often in those cases, the facts are not going to get them to go along with you. It’s all these other sort of peripheral aspects. It’s just, are other people going along with what you said? I’m not going to pay that much attention to all your arguments for why I should do this. But as long as I know that, like, Bob is doing it, I’ll do it.

AMY GALLO: Well what about the reply all situation? Why do you think Raven was less successful there?

VANESSA BOHNS: That one I actually fascinated by because that just sparks my curiosity. Why don’t they stop doing it? Is it because they actually aren’t persuaded that they should? Is this a question of persuasion or is it something else? Is it a question of motivation or just the ease? Are they forgetting? Do you have any insight into why they haven’t stopped doing it?

RAVEN HOFFMAN: It’s easier to just hit reply all than to reply just to one person.

VANESSA BOHNS: Interesting,

AMY GALLO: In that case, what would be persuasive? And it’s funny. I know this example is, I think some might say silly, but I actually think this is something people deal with all the time. As someone who talks about conflict and difficult coworkers, I hear about the reply all messages all the time. So, I do think this is quite relevant. So, what would be persuasive?

VANESSA BOHNS: As I said, it sparks my curiosity because I can’t imagine that the reason is that they feel strongly about being able to reply all. It must be sort of an automatic behavior that they’re not even thinking about it in the moment, and so those are the kinds of things where you want to be able to change either just the default response, the norm of everybody, so that when you’re about to hit that, you’re like, “oh wait, I don’t want to be that person who hits reply all because there’s this norm that’s not a good thing to do.” Or, it could just be one of these things where it really is, they need a reminder, they forget, right? So, putting something in a signature line or putting something on people’s computers like a sticky note, something that just… It sounds like it could just be a habit that they don’t care enough to break. So, I think the ways to break habits are either to make them more automatic, right? The opposite habit, more automatic. So, you kind of get rid of just that default click, or you make it so counter normative to do that thing, that people actually do care enough to stop before they hit that button. Right? I know that enough people make fun of you here if you hit reply all, that no one wants to do that, and so many times I have actually triple-checked to make sure I didn’t accidentally hit reply all, but that’s because of a norm that’s been set. So, you could do something where you start teasing people who don’t know how to not hit reply at all, or just get some people to stop doing it, and then eventually other people stop doing it.

AMY GALLO: Yeah. Vanessa, can you tell us about an experience you’ve had recently where you’ve had to persuade someone or a group and how you used your own research to be effective at it?

VANESSA BOHNS: I was thinking actually about this person I used to work with when I first came to the job I have now, who is an incredible persuader. He just could get any group to sort of see his version, and when I first came to the job I have now, we would get together as a group and decide on a candidate to hire – that was a common thing, or a graduate student to admit… those kinds of decisions. My expectation was, we’re all going to go into this meeting and we’re all going to lay out our ideas and who we think should be the candidate, and then we’re going to make a decision right then. But I quickly learned that so much of what happened in that meeting was predetermined by all the leg work that person would do before the meeting, and it really made me realize that so much of influence is these informal conversations that you have to get people on your side, this coalition-building and setting the stage for arguments that are going to be made, and less about that sort of formal presentation. I had in my head that, like, almost movie version of someone stands up in the front of the room, gives this big presentation, and everybody’s like, “That’s the one,” and clapping. It’s this kind of formal persuasive attempt, but so much was about garnering support before you went in so that once you got into that meeting, you knew who was on your side already and you could kind of point to them. So, you could say like, “So-and-so, and I really think this person’s the best.” Right? Now, all of a sudden you’ve got a little team that’s started the momentum in that meeting. You also have done your reconnaissance so you know what people’s objections are going to be. So, you know that so-and-so cares about this and they’re probably going to say that, and so-and-so cares about this and they’re probably going to say that. So, you kind of are already lined up to be able to have a counter argument. Then you also know who’s not going to care. As long as the rest of the group is going in this direction, this person’s just going to go in that direction as well. So, now I realize that almost all of, say maybe 90%, of the attempt to persuade in a meeting happens before that meeting.

AMY GALLO: Raven, is that a tactic you’ve used? Sort of, the meetings before the meeting.

RAVEN HOFFMAN: Absolutely. Generally, if I know I’m going to be meeting with a group of people, especially if there’s somebody new in there, I kind of get a feel for who they are from people that know them. So, I know what to talk to and how to present. Some people are going to want more facts, more detail, some are going to want it as short as possible so they can get on with the rest of their day, and some are going to be entirely focused on building a relationship and not care about any of the facts. So, it’s really determining what your audience needs before you get into that meeting.

VANESSA BOHNS: So, this is kind of how I think about it, and I’m curious if this works with customers as well: pre-selling before you get into that meeting. I feel like in many cases, people feel cornered if you just give them all the information. They didn’t have anything before and you expect them to kind of make a decision there, and that’s really hard to get people to actually commit in that moment. But if you kind of pre-sell it and you’re like, “this is what I’m going to present to you,” and they’ve kind of got their mind halfway made up already. It’s so much easier in that moment to sort of close and get them the rest of the way. Would you agree with that too? Or…

RAVEN HOFFMAN: Absolutely, and I usually don’t anticipate leaving a meeting with an answer. I anticipate leaving the information with the clients and probably getting another week’s worth of questions after it.

AMY GALLO: Raven, other than the reply all situation, are there other things that you’d like your team or company to start doing or stop doing that you haven’t yet pushed for?

RAVEN HOFFMAN: I have been saying for years that we need to be more proactive about getting in with the trade schools and the high school trade programs to recruit staff, and for a lot of times I’ve just been shut down on it. It’s kind of a perception of not being quality people in those programs. Having come from an alternative school background, I highly disagree.

AMY GALLO: Yeah. Where do most employees come from now, Raven, if they’re not from these trade schools or high schools?

RAVEN HOFFMAN: At the moment, nowhere. We’re not getting applications, we’re not having any luck. We’re trying all sorts of things we have not in the past. It used to be entirely word of mouth and reference.

AMY GALLO: Right. Vanessa, any advice for Raven on how she might push this issue?

VANESSA BOHNS: Sure, and first I’ll say that it’s great that she wants to keep pushing it. Because I do think that a lot of people here know or don’t get an enthusiastic enough sort of response and assume that no is forever or there’s no way they’re going to change this person’s mind, when that’s really rarely the case. So, I think it’s great that you do want to keep pushing forward once you do have the time. I think one piece of advice that we give in negotiations a lot, if you’re kind of at a stalemate, is to ask the other party for advice – something that Zoe Chance calls “the magic question,” which is basically saying to someone, “What would it take for you to actually consider people from trade schools? What would it take for you to agree with this thing that I’m coming to you with?” What that does is that brings the other party to your side, right? So, now it’s not like a confrontation. I’m trying to convince, you’re pushing back. Right? Now, we’re both going to look at this problem from the same side and you might get some insight into the hesitations and they might even be more willing to reflect on their hesitations than you would otherwise get. Right? When you’re playing a guessing game of, I say this, and then I see if that resonates with you or not. Right? It may be that they come them back and say, “Well, if I saw this kind of data, maybe I would consider it. If I saw competitors using people from trade schools, maybe I would consider it. If you could get so-and-so on board, maybe I would consider it,” and maybe you wouldn’t have thought of one of those things. It also kind of gets them thinking a little further down. Right? So, there is a way I might consider it and it sets up an expectation. If they say, “If you could show me this, I would consider it.” Okay. Find that, and now they’ve already kind of pre-committed. So, now you have, sort of, already gotten them a little closer towards your position.

RAVEN HOFFMAN: Awesome. I can definitely do that. Vanessa, I have a question for you. I’m largely an introvert and I’m not good with soft skills. So, I’m not always good at picking up on the nonverbal cues. So, anything that can help me know what I need to be looking for other than the really blatantly obvious arms crossed, leaned away, fidgeting – what are some smaller cues out there that might indicate that I’m not being as persuasive as I would like to be?

VANESSA BOHNS: Ultimately, it’s actually really hard for people to say no, and to kind of come out and tell you, “I don’t like what you’re selling me. I don’t agree with the things that you’re saying.” Often people will sort of hem and haw instead of actually coming out and saying, “forget about it,” because people are polite at the end of the day. People want to be agreeable. They don’t want to be disagreeable. So, I do think you kind of have to look in many cases for these non-verbals – these kind of hesitations and try to lock in some enthusiasm for something. Get them talking about some real problem that they have or something they really don’t about their current situation. Something that gets them out of this sort of defensive, “I don’t want to say no, but I also don’t want to say yes,” kind of thing, and gets them opening up a little bit and maybe sharing a little bit of the problems they have, and the ways in which you could then jump in and talk about your solutions.

RAVEN HOFFMAN: Yeah.

AMY GALLO: Are there questions that people who don’t feel confident reading non-verbal cues – are there questions that you can ask to take temperature along the way to see how is this going? Again, if you’re not confident reading someone’s body language, can you be a little more explicit?

VANESSA BOHNS: I think you can be explicit, and there’s research showing actually that we hesitate to ask people questions because we think they’re going to be hesitant to answer them. But in fact, the best way to get insight into how someone’s feeling is to ask them. There’s other research showing that if you tell people, try to figure out what’s going on in this person’s mind. We think that we know what’s going on. We think we can read body language, but we’re actually pretty bad at it, and our guesses are often wrong. But if you just tell people, “ask this person what they think, ask what’s on this person’s mind,” of course, all of a sudden they’re so much more accurate because the person is quite willing to open up and say “Well, actually I wasn’t so sure about this thing that you were saying,” or, “Here’s my hesitations,” or, “Here’s the person I would have to convince.” Right? Now you kind of know what you’re dealing with. So, I definitely would say, if you can ask an open-ended question that’s like, “how do you see this potentially applying to your situation? Are you hearing things that you like in this or things that you’re not so sure about,” is a great way to take their temperature.

AMY GALLO: If this is something you’re working on and you want to be more persuasive at work, you’re going to be looking for opportunities to do this and it can feel like you’re pushing, pushing, pushing. Can you talk about, Vanessa, how pulling back on an effort or even letting an issue go all together is actually part of the skill or part of the tactic that can be effective.

VANESSA BOHNS: Yeah, it’s funny. We really have this sort of need for closure and to feel effective when we’re trying to persuade someone., and so we kind of want to know right away that we’ve made some progress at least, or that we’ve gotten somewhere and often people aren’t ready to show that, and we have to give them space to digest. But we also want to keep what we’re trying to persuade them of top-of-mind. So, gentle check-ins can be helpful. This is another sort of skill that comes from Zoe Chance – saying, “Can I follow up with you in a few days?” Or, “Can I follow up with you next week?” That says, I’m going to give you space and time to think about this, to digest what I’ve said. You’ve given me permission to follow up so I’m not just annoying you by following up. Then you can keep it top-of-mind and give them a little space. The research shows that if we’re given the chance to try to persuade someone who is completely against what we want to persuade them to believe, or someone who’s actually kind of close to what we want to persuade them to, we want to persuade the person who’s totally on the opposite side. We want to feel that satisfaction of like, I flipped that person, right? We just want that satisfaction. But in fact, it’s so much easier to persuade the person who’s closer and you’re more likely to be successful, but we tend to not derive the same kind of satisfaction. I think it’s a similar thing. It’s like, I want that “yes” right now. Right? But sometimes we just need to relax and take the small wins and take the tiny steps that are getting someone a little bit closer to where you want to close them, and be okay with patience and space.

AMY GALLO: One of the pieces of advice I’ve heard given often in sort of negotiation context, that is if you want to persuade someone, you need to demonstrate that you yourself are persuadable. Is that advice that you agree with Vanessa? And if so, how do you show that you’re willing to change your mind?

VANESSA BOHNS: Yeah, I do think that’s a really helpful sort of tactic, because one of the fundamental aspects of human behavior is reciprocity. So, I give a little, you give a little. Right? Once I give, you feel this kind of urge or this need to give a little back. No one wants to be the jerk who like… you just made this major concession and now I’m just going to stand my ground. Right? It also, I think, makes the other person feel listened to, right? If you can give something, it shows that, actually, you’re not just in it for yourself. That makes it a more cooperative integrative kind of discussion, which I think we tend to forget when we’re trying to persuade someone. We think we’re on two sides, and I’m just trying to push and you’re pulling or whatever. But when you give a little, it says, “I see your side, I am willing to consider this integratively. I’m willing to give up a little bit myself. Now, what are you willing to do?” It becomes more of a cooperative discussion.

RAVEN HOFFMAN: One of our company owners says that quite often with customers, I go from their salesperson Raven, to, by the end of the project, I’m their friend Raven. Well, if I’m their friend, they’re going to be more likely to refer me. So, it is getting to that point where they realize I do actually care. You cannot fake wanting someone to have a successful project, and they feel that.

VANESSA BOHNS: Yeah.

AMY GALLO: Yeah.

VANESSA BOHNS: So many people are uncomfortable with things like negotiation. So many people are uncomfortable with sales, and I think part of it is that discomfort makes us think of one-shot interactions. I’m just going to get in there. I’m going to do it. I’m going to make the sale. I’m going to convince someone. I’m going to get it done. When in fact, the best kinds of sales and negotiations are long term relationships, right? They’re not one-shot interactions, and as soon as you start thinking of it like that – the next time I have to sell to this person, the next time we negotiate – it changes the way you approach the one that you’re in right now, I think, for the better.

AMY GALLO: Vanessa, let’s say you have tried to persuade your boss or your team to do something and it hasn’t gone well. You’ve failed. Maybe we even talk about the reply all situation here… but you still believe it’s a cause worth pursuing or pushing. What should you do before you try again before you sort of get back in there? What do you do in your mind, or in terms of preparing yourself, to be more effective the next time around?

VANESSA BOHNS: I definitely think that this is a case where I would try to generate as much curiosity as possible because especially if I think it’s an important enough issue that I’m willing to go back and push for it, but other people don’t seem to see my side, I’d be really curious. What’s happening? What’s keeping people from doing this. How are they seeing things so differently for me? I would definitely get into question-asking mode. I would probably take a step out of my initial, I’m going to change things, I’m going to persuade kind of mode and get into, okay, I’m going to understand, I’m going to ask questions. I’m going to go and say, “I’m curious, why do you hit reply all? What is it that happens in that moment?” I think that’s where you really learn what it is that are the actual barriers to getting them to see your side, and you might actually learn that there is an advantage. They’re getting something out of doing this their way that I didn’t see, and I didn’t understand, maybe, and I find a way for them to still get that thing and still get what I need, as well. So, I think a lot of what you do next is dependent on the answers you get from those follow-up interviews after you’ve failed to persuade.

AMY GALLO: Before we wrap up, Raven, what are you taking away from this conversation? What do you feel like you might do differently?

RAVEN HOFFMAN: I’m definitely going to work on building allies when I’m going into conversations and meetings with new people. I’m going to keep in the front of my mind becoming that authority, and ways to do it gently as opposed to with a sledgehammer so that I can build those relationships because everything in life is about those continued relationships. So, if I do something incorrectly in the beginning, it can cause damage moving forward, and I want to use the correct persuasion tactics, and I’ve gotten a lot of wonderful tools to be able to do that. Thank you.

AMY GALLO: That’s great. Well, Raven, Vanessa, thank you both so much. This has been a really useful conversation for me. I’ve learned a lot, and Raven, I appreciate you sharing your experience around all-things persuasion.

RAVEN HOFFMAN: Yes. Thank you for having me, and thank you, Vanessa, for your insights. They’ve been valuable.

VANESSA BOHNS: Thank you. It’s been really, really, really interesting listening to you. Thank you, as well. Thanks for sharing.

HANNAH BATES: That was Cornell professor Vanessa Bohns and Raven Hoffman, a senior estimator for a tile and stone contractor – in conversation with Amy Gallo on Women at Work . We’ll be back next Wednesday with another hand-picked conversation about leadership from the Harvard Business Review. If you found this episode helpful, share it with your friends and colleagues, and follow our show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. While you’re there, be sure to leave us a review. We’re a production of the Harvard Business Review. If you want more podcasts, articles, case studies, books, and videos like this, find it all at HBR dot org. This episode was produced by Amanda Kersey, Anne Saini, and me, Hannah Bates. Ian Fox is our editor. Music by Coma Media. Special thanks to Rob Eckhardt, Tina Tobey Mack, Erica Truxler, Maureen Hoch, Adi Ignatius, Karen Player, Ramsey Khabbaz, Nicole Smith, Anne Bartholomew, and you – our listener. See you next week.

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