If you’re attempting this for the very first time, congratulations! Who knows, you may find your metier here and discover that you’re a natural-born speaker with the gift of the gab.
On the other hand, if you’re a veteran public speaker but haven’t yet explored the art of persuasive speaking, this could be an exciting prospect for you.
The persuasive speech has been the backbone of public speaking ever since human beings decided that they wanted the support of others, used the speech route to share their opinions, celebrate or commemorate, memorialize, to inform about something new, or to enlighten, influence, motivate or inspire the audience.
The greatest persuasive speeches have moved audiences to tears, action, and even revolution.
Pericles’ Funeral Oration, Mark Antony’s speech in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream, Jawaharlal Nehru’s Tryst With Destiny, William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize acceptance, Sojourner Truth’s Ain’t I A Woman, Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and Nelson Mandela’s I Am Prepared To Die are some of the unforgettable speeches that changed history.
What Is A Persuasive Speech?
The main concept underlying a persuasive speech is that it seeks to persuade. By this, we mean not compulsion or coercion but a gentle nudge that results in a change of mind in an organic, natural way that comes from within.
The important thing to remember is that every individual in the audience is unique and may require different forms of persuasion to be convinced. Factors that play a huge role in the art of persuasion include:
- social acceptance
- proof of integrity
- consistency in words and actions
- personal attributes
Persuasive speeches may concern an issue such as littering or discrimination that would change your attitude and result in a behavioral and attitudinal change. Or it could remind you of the importance of an issue such as voting. It could be a sales pitch aimed at selling a product or service.
Persuasive speeches are different from other forms of speech-making. The persuasive speech:
- Has a specific goal – that of convincing the audience of your point of view.
- It aims at changing ideas, attitudes, and behavior.
- It is designed to instill an idea not previously held.
- It may be aimed at instigating an action as in election campaign speeches.
- Can stimulate and energize an audience that already shares your views.
- It is different from informative or academic speeches, but it may use the information and cite facts and figures to back the arguments.
- May rely heavily on emotion and creative language, verbal imagery.
- It relies on tone, voice modulation, personality, and charisma.
- Requires deep knowledge of the audience.
Experts have observed that persuasive speakers tend to form a relationship with their audience that helps them to overcome barriers. They develop keen skills in “reading” the audience, gauging their relationships, history, belief systems, cultural and financial background, interests, and needs.
That is why you would hear the same speaker saying the same things slightly differently in different venues or occasions to different audiences. They subtly tailor many aspects of the speech to align with their audiences and stay in sync with them.
How To Write A Persuasive Speech?
- Analyze: The first step is to understand the Why, What, Where, When, How, and Who of the process. Get as much information as you can about your audience and why there is a need to speak to them. This can help you to prepare what to say. Speeches may be given at a physical venue with a stage, podium, and microphone, or they may be broadcast over the radio or TV, in a vast ground, or the dining room of a club. The timing is important so that you can tailor the length of your speech – post-lunch speeches are notoriously tedious. How to modulate your voice, dress and appearance will be dictated by who your audience is.
- Learn: Don’t assume that you can ad-lib your way through a speech, no matter how experienced you are. Take the time to learn about the topic, buttress your argument with relevant, accurate, and up-to-date facts and figures. If your speech topic is controversial, stay tuned to all sides of the argument and include some of them in your speech so that it becomes more rounded and inclusive.
- Structure: Nothing is more annoying than a rambling, badly-structured, haphazard speech, no matter how well it’s delivered. Respect your audience’s time. Some of the greatest speech-writers had legal training to bring logic, clarity, cohesiveness, and consistency to their work. When you prepare to write, put down all your thoughts and ideas, then create a clear beginning, middle, and end structure.
- Approach: Classic persuasive speeches take up different positions: Ethos, Pathos, or Logos. You can appeal to the audience’s ethics/morals through Ethos, emotions through Pathos, or their logic/intelligence/intellect through Logos. You can also use a combination once you gain experience and skills to work the crowd.
- Length: This is a moot point because some great speeches have held the audience rapt for an hour, while others, like the Gettysburg Address, have just 300 words. Most experts recommend erring on the side of brevity. Keep it short, sweet, simple, and strong.
- Delivery: This is the crucial part of a persuasive speech. Remember that you’re writing something that needs to be spoken aloud, not read. Avoid complicated grammar. If there are unfamiliar words and names, clarify the correct pronunciation. You could lose your audience if you mispronounce the name of their city. Make the tone conversational, with short, punchy sentences. Include anecdotes and personal stories. One of the great speakers of our time, Barack Obama, would ask his speech-writers, “What’s the story we want to tell?” Make the end memorable. Don’t leave important points to the beginning or end – they belong like the meat in your sandwich, right in the middle. Also, remember that a speech is a performance. Involve the audience only if you’re comfortable with interaction. You could ruin the effect of your speech if you aren’t skilled at Q&A.
- Tips and Tricks: Start with a bang and end with another! Attention-getting slogans, one-liners, strong calls to action are great ways to begin and end. Connect with your audience immediately into the speech. Begin with a brief preview of your main points, and end with a summing up. Get right to the point or the “thesis” as quickly as possible so that your audience knows exactly why you’re here. If you’re changing subjects or tracks midway, explain that clearly with a transition phrase such as “By the way” or “Having said that, here’s something else.”