call of action- persuasion

A Comprehensive Guide to Writing a Persuasive Speech

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

Research your way to credibility!

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

THESIS

BODY OR SUPPORTING STATEMENTS( ATLEAST 3 ARGUMENTS)

CONCLUSION OR A CALL TO ACTION

1. INTRODUCTION

Grab attention of your audience

know your audience

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.

Be silent

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

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.

2. THESIS

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.

1. Ethos

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.

2. Pathos

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.

3. Logos

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.

Conclusion

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:

Hrideep Barot is the founder and chief writer at Frantically Speaking, a portal to help people learn everything about public speaking. The purpose of franticallyspeaking.com is to showcase the lessons that he has learned (and still learning) from his numerous stage experiences and mentors over all these years.