Tips on How to Write a Persuasive Speech

How to Write a Persuasive Speech

Persuasive speeches have the power to not only make a powerful point but create moments in time that define eras. From Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech to King George VI’s radio speech, persuasive speeches have the ability to live and inspire indefinitely.

Politicians, in particular, rely on the power of persuasive speeches when campaigning and after being elected. There are professional speech writers that make a very lucrative living writing persuasive speeches for political and corporate leaders.

A persuasive speech makes a strong emotional appeal and has a clear call to action

Persuasive speeches are not only for politicians and corporate leaders. Everyone is using or trying to use the art of persuasion each and every day as a call to action. You may find yourself needing to deliver a speech in a sales meeting to close a big client. You might find yourself in front of a local board in your community using the art of persuasion for a cause you strongly believe in. Whatever the situation, having an understanding of how to write a persuasive speech then deliver it is like having a superpower.

The great thing about learning how to write a persuasive speech is that anyone can do it. You don’t need to have any special talent for writing or speaking. There are creative elements, but those emerge as a result of mastering the fundamentals, which anyone can do.

In this article, you’re going to learn how to write a persuasive speech, so you can add that superpower to your talent stack and start getting more of what you want out of life. The most successful people in the business world and life, in general, all understand the power of persuasion to some degree, and now you can, too.

Define the Goal of Your Persuasive Speech

Know your objective—what you want the audience to do at the end of your persuasive speech
persuasive public speaker
The entire point of a persuasive speech is to persuade your audience to do or believe something, which is your call to action. The first and most common mistake people make when trying to persuade is to rely on facts over emotion. Spending a lot of time giving dry factual data and histories on a topic, although accurate, does little to move them to a new position or action. Likewise, your audience does not want to feel like you’re complaining. If whatever you’re talking about is so bad, then persuade change with some solutions.

The goal of all persuasive speeches is to get your audience to move from one viewpoint on a topic or issue to your viewpoint and often that means moving them to action. They may not go all the way, but if you can get them to move a little, you’ve done a decent job.

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Analyze Your Audience

Analyze Your Audience

Understanding who your audience is and what level of awareness they’re at is critical to a successful persuasive speech. For example, if you’re talking about an issue your audience knows very little about, you’ll need to spend some time educating them about the history and background. On the other hand, if your audience is coming with a high level of awareness, educating them on what they already know will weaken your speech, and your audience will quickly disengage, or worse, take a position against you before even hearing the heart of your argument.

Understanding the perspective of your audience is important any time you are writing a speech. This is especially true with a persuasive speech because not only are you seeking to get them to listen to you, but you’re also hoping they’ll take a particular action after listening to your presentation.

Things to Consider About Your Audience

Create Audience Advocacy which is the ability to see through the eyes of your audience and show you understand their point of view

Aristotle and Quintilian are the most famous ancient scholars to give public speaking definitive rules. Aristotle defined rhetoric as a means to persuade on any subject. Quintilian published a twelve-volume textbook on rhetoric, and many of his references are still used today by politicians.

Cicero is considered perhaps the most significant rhetorician that ever lived. He is famous in the field of public speaking for creating the five canons of rhetoric—a five-step process for developing a persuasive speech that is still used to this very day.

Who is in Your Audience?

To properly analyze your audience, you first must understand who they are. Depending on your topic, knowing about your audience member’s age, income, ethnicity, race, gender, religion, profession, political beliefs, membership, and hobbies can influence the way you frame your topic and overall approach.

Who are You to Your Audience?

Does your audience have a predetermined opinion about you, your organization, or your profession? If so, it’s important to call it out and recognize it. Your audience will view this as you seeing and understanding them, and a bridge of common ground will have been built from the outset.

What Does the Audience Value?

Having clarity on what matters most to your audience allows you to align your speech topic with their most deeply-held values. For example, if you’re speaking to a veterans group that values community service, you can place more emphasis on your organization’s local charitable endeavors.

How Relevant is Your Topic?

Is your audience already invested in your topic? If it is, then you don’t need to spend a lot of time explaining why they should care about it. On the other hand, if the audience has a low level of awareness, it’s important to draw a connection between your topic and their interests early on in the speech.

Put Emphasis on Your Audience

Audience Advocacy is the reason your audience should accept your call to action

Your objective is not to merely get through your speech, you’re trying to persuade your audience to take action or think about a topic with a new perspective. You need to make your audience feel like you genuinely recognize and care about their opinions and beliefs. A persuasive speech is not about you, it’s about the people you’re trying to persuade. Talk to your audience, not at them. When writing a speech, you need to keep in mind these are words to be spoken, so reading aloud after you write and during the editing process can be extremely helpful.

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​​​​​​​Organize Your Points with a Strong Outline

Public speaking can be categorized into four main types: ceremonial, demonstrative, informative, and persuasive.

Open Strong

The Introduction, or Opening Sequence, creates a positive impression and paves the way for your story

Most of us will give a ceremonial speech during our lifetime. These are the speeches that mark special occasions. We’ve seen them at weddings, graduations, birthdays, office parties, and funerals. Often a ceremonial speech involves a toast and is delivered with intimacy and an emotional connection to the audience.

Attention Grabber

This can be a statement or even a visual that gets your audience’s attention. Often coming out of the gates with some drama works. This can be the most important line of your entire speech. If the audience does not engage from the start, it can be very difficult to get them back. Often this line comes in the form of a question that forces the audience to actively engage or think. It could be a riddle or unique question. The point is you want to grab attention and then do your best to hold on to it.

Link to the Audience

Showing that you have something in common with the audience builds trust. If possible, show that you have a similar background or share an emotional connection. This relies on you knowing your audience. For example, if you’re a parent, you can emphasize the common concern for your child’s future. If you share an ideological position with your audience, you may emphasize that.

Demonstrate Your Authority

Demonstrate to your audience that you’re a reliable source. Highlight the research you’ve done on the topic. If you have personal or professional experience with the topic, make sure to share that. If you’re speaking about teen drug addiction, and one of your teens had an addiction problem, it would be important to mention that experience.

Tell Them Your Goal

Be transparent about what you hope to accomplish. The more honest and upfront you are, the more that builds trust. This part can tie into your thesis statement.

Thesis Statement

The thesis statement is where you tell your audience your position on the topic you’ll be discussing. Your goal is to have the audience agree with your thesis by the conclusion of your speech. The thesis statement should be short and clearly state your views.

Reason #1
Your reasons are the main points of your persuasive speech, organized in a Flow Structure

After the introductory portion of the speech is over, the speaker starts presenting reasons to the audience. These reasons are various statements that provide support for the thesis statement. After each reason, the speaker lists examples as evidence to try and provide a factual argument to sway listeners’ opinions to agree with their own.

After you finish writing the speech introduction, you’ll start writing down the reasons you take the position you take. The reasons are a combination of statements that provide support for your thesis statement. After each reason, you want to persuade by giving examples that support your reasoning.

  • A. Example
  • B. Example
  • C. Example

The same format can be followed throughout the speech.

Reason #2
  • A. Example
  • B. Example
  • C. Example
Reason #3
  • A. Example
  • B. Example
  • C. Example

Conclusion/Final Appeal

The conclusion, or Closing Sequence, is the final emotional appeal to convince your audience to take action

The conclusion is considered the most important part of a persuasive speech, besides the introduction and thesis statement. This is where you must sum up and tie in all of your arguments into one final powerful point. From a persuasion standpoint, it’s usually best to make it an appeal to emotion, supported by the appeals to logic you made throughout your speech.

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Use the Power of Storytelling

public speaker giving a persuasive speech
Storytelling remains the most powerful way to put ideas into the world. The different formats and ways we tell stories have expanded, but the fundamentals remain the same. Telling stories during public speaking is a tool used by salespeople, comedians, keynote speakers, and anyone looking to make a lasting impact with their audience.

Telling a story is the most powerful way to connect with your audience. Stories have been told since the dawn of time. However, storytelling is a skill that must be learned in order for it to be effective.

The Key Elements of Storytelling in Your Persuasive Speech
  1. The story should build trust with your audience
  2. Every story has a conflict, hero, and solution
  3. Effective stories are simple and easy to understand

How Stories Build Trust

A great personal story will persuade your audience to adopt your opinion

Good stories find common ground between you and your audience. The story should include both yourself and your audience. But your audience is the most important character in your story. Knowing who your audience is will help you craft your story. What is their history? What obstacles do they face? What is their experience? When your audience sees themselves in your story, you’ve gone a long way to build an enormous amount of trust.

Basic Story Structure

Just like your persuasive speech must have structure, so will the story you tell within the speech. All good stories have a conflict or problem. They all have a hero – usually the person telling the story or, even better, the audience. The third element of a basic story is a villain or enemy. In the context of your persuasive speech, you’ll need to shape the story around the topic. The story brings the topic to life in a way the audience can visualize. Your story may be an anecdotal story, but even that needs to obey the rules of story structure in order to draw the audience in.

Keep the Story Simple

The story is just a small part of your speech. It needs to be economical, impactful, and easy to follow. When you’re writing your story, you need to keep the time it will take to tell the story in mind. Make the story as simple as possible without sacrificing the impact. Stand Up comedians are some of the best short storytellers you can study. Many of their jokes are, in fact, stories. And the best ones make you laugh and persuade you at the same time. If you can do that, you’ll be way ahead of the game.

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Persuasive Speech Writing FAQs

If you spend any time researching how to write a persuasive speech, you’ll quickly find that people have a lot of questions about the topic. We’ve gathered some of the most frequently asked questions and answered them here in one place.

What are the Top 5 Persuasive Techniques?

1. Repetition

Anyone who has studied psychology understands the power of repetition. Your audience will never agree with you if they don’t truly get what you’re saying. Good repetition involves making your point in several different ways. Make it directly, use examples, tell a story, use quotes, and revisit it in your summary.

2. Give Reasons Why

Never forget the power of the word because. Psychological studies show that people are much more likely to comply with a request no matter how absurd if you give them a reason why.

3. Be Consistent

Consistency in our thoughts and actions is a valued social trait. When we view someone as inconsistent, we lose trust. Use this in your writing by getting the audience to agree with something up front that most people would have a hard time disagreeing with. Then make your case with supporting evidence while relating your thesis back to the opening scenario your audience already accepted as true.

4. Social Proof

We’re always looking to others for implicit or explicit advice on what to accept. Social proof is so powerful it can determine whether we give help to a person in need. For a persuasive speech giving statistics that support your thesis can be a powerful way to use social proof.

5. Storytelling

Stories have the power to get people to persuade themselves. Storytelling lies at the heart of persuasion. Do everything you can to tell better stories, you’ll soon find yourself to be a powerfully persuasive person.

What is Persuasive Writing?

The common denominator of persuasive speeches: your idea or argument is delivered through the power of language

Persuasive writing is basically a written form of an oral debate. Persuasive Writing is used to convince or persuade a reader that the writer’s opinion of a topic or cause is correct. When writing persuasive speeches, you need to be well versed in word selection, framing logical arguments, and creating a strong, cohesive closing argument.

What are the Three Types of Persuasive Speeches?

There are three kinds of persuasive speeches most often used in the area of beliefs and attitudes. These are speeches of fact, value, and policy. You can argue about what is, what should be, or how it should be.

What is a Good Persuasive Speech Topic?

The best topic for a persuasive speech is a topic you’re interested in. There are endless types of topics one can persuade on. It’s good to use a somewhat relevant and current topic so your audience will be familiar, but most important is your interest. If you’re not passionate about your position on a topic, your audience will notice quickly and lose interest.

What Persuasive Technique is the Most Effective?

If you can use storytelling to its maximum effect, you’ll be a powerful storyteller. The beauty of storytelling is putting the audience in a position where they persuade themselves to your position. They aren’t agreeing with you, they’re agreeing with themselves, and that element of autonomy has the biggest impact when it comes to persuasion.

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Writing a Persuasive Speech Conclusion

Writing a Persuasive Speech

Five books in 14 languages by Suasive founder, Jerry Weissman, provide in-depth coaching on your Story, Slides, Delivery, and Q&A.

Now you can see that persuasive speech writing is more skill than talent. These tips for writing hopefully have changed your point of view and given you the confidence you need to write a great persuasive speech.

Effective persuasion is about knowing the principles and using the right structure. Of course, when you deliver your speech, your body language and eye contact will influence the audience’s impression, but a properly written speech will give you the confidence you need for delivering a memorable, persuasive speech.