How to Create a Persuasive Speech Outline

Persuasive Speech Outline

Chances are your first encounter with writing a persuasive speech goes back to your high school English class or first year in college. It’s one of the fundamental techniques we’re supposed to learn along our journey to writing competency.

And if you’re like most people, your memory of the techniques you were supposed to learn disappeared the day after you submitted your final draft to your teacher or professor. It’s understandable when you’re young and just trying to make the grades to get by. You’re not thinking about the long-term value of every new lesson coming your way. And let’s be honest—there are a lot of lessons you learned back then that you don’t need in your day-to-day.

Only if you knew then what you know now. Understanding persuasive speech and how to write one is a lesson you’ll go back to repeatedly throughout your career.

Writing is the best way to clarify your thoughts. It makes you take a clear look at your argument, examine it for weakness, and see if it will accomplish your goal. What’s the goal? To convince or persuade your audience that your argument is valid, of course. When that happens, you get what you want in both your professional and personal life—or at least dramatically increase the odds.

In this article, we’re going to break down the fundamentals of writing a successful persuasive speech. The persuasive speech outline is always the starting point. You’ll learn what makes a good outline, how to prepare for your audience, how to organize your outline, and a lot more.

How do you write an outline for a persuasive speech?

Persuasive Speech Outlines

Before you can start writing your persuasive speech outline you’ll need to make some decisions about your topic and goals.

Choose Your Topic and Angle

You might be assigned a topic or be tasked with coming up with a narrow focus for a broader topic. Even if you’re given a list of persuasive speech topics to choose from, you’ll need to determine the unique angle you want to take when making your argument. This means spending some time researching to make sure you understand all of the arguments on all sides of the topic. Research the topic thoroughly, focusing on key facts, and all the arguments for and against, looking for the strengths and weaknesses. The better your research, the more likely the angle you choose will be unique and persuasive.

Share Useful Information

After you’ve chosen your topic and thoroughly researched it, you’ll want to zero in on your call to action. Will you be trying to persuade your audience in favor of a certain position or issue? Is your goal to change the assumptions and beliefs your audience already has about a topic? Are you trying to persuade them to purchase a product or service, or donate money to a cause? You must have clarity on the primary goal because it keeps your speech glued together and will influence your strategy when writing your outline.

Your call to action is called your Point B — what you want the audience to do after listening to your presentation.

Know Your Audience

Understanding where your audience is when they come into your speech is critical. This means knowing how many people will listen to your presentation, and what their roles are in their organization. If possible, know what their hesitations may be so you can address those in your presentation. It’s not persuasive to tell an audience what they already know, you must anticipate where they are now, and what they need to hear to move them to a different way of thinking.

Make sure you identify the gap between what the audience knows now, and what they need to know, so they will say yes to your Point B.

Construct Your Persuasive Argument

Now that you know your topic, goal, and audience, you need to think about the persuasive techniques that will give you the best chance to achieve your goal. Would an emotional and physiological appeal help persuade your audience? Or do you think your audience would be swayed by an argument with more logic and reason? Knowing your audience will help you select the best persuasive techniques to rely on as you construct your outline.

Outline Your Speech

After you’ve decided on your persuasive techniques, your next step is constructing your persuasive speech outline. The outline will consist of an introduction, body, and conclusion. Let’s get into the mechanics of how to turn your foundational work into a powerful outline.

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What Makes a Good Outline?

what makes a good outline

If you’ve ever looked at a good sample persuasive speech and compared it to others you’ll notice some structural similarities, and chances are the outlines have the same characteristics.

Making a good outline means identifying your main points as well as the related ideas. To identify the main points, use a brainstorming process that begins with a data dump of every possible idea your story could include. Eliminate all logic as you do the data dump, which means no censoring, sequencing, or ranking of your ideas. Every random thought matters and should be included.

Then distill these ideas by selecting 2-6 main points and call these your parents. Place them on a separate sheet of paper and cluster around them the related ideas, or children, that belong with each parent. Use the data dump you created to make these clusters. Feel free to add or delete from the original data dump.

Once you have your clusters, you can decide on an outline type. The most common persuasive speech outline examples include alphanumeric, full sentence, and decimal. Once you find one you like you can create a persuasive speech outline template to use for each new presentation.

Alphanumeric Outlines

The alphanumeric outline is the most common type of outline and the one most people are familiar with. The formatting follows these characters, in this order:

  • Roman Numerals
  • Capitalized Letters
  • Arabic Numerals
  • Lowercase Letters

For even further subdivisions, you can use Arabic numerals inside parentheses and then lowercase letters inside parentheses. When writing an alphanumeric outline, write headlines or short notes, not full sentences.

Alphanumeric Outline Example


  • II. BODY
    • A. Paragraph 1
      • 1. Point 1
        • a. Sub-point 1
        • b. …

Decimal Outlines

The decimal outline format is similar to the alphanumeric outline. The difference is the numbering system it uses (1, 1.1, 1.2, etc.). Just like the alphanumeric outline, the text is written in the form of headlines, or short notes, not full sentences.

For even further subdivisions, you can use Arabic numerals inside parentheses and then lowercase letters inside parentheses. When writing an alphanumeric outline, write headlines or short notes, not full sentences.

Decimal Outline Example


  • II. BODY
    • 1.1 Paragraph 1
      • 1.1.1 Point 1
      • 1.1.2 Point 2
      • 1.1.3 …

Full-Sentence Outlines

The full-sentence outline format is also similar to the alphanumeric outline. The difference is that the points are written out in complete sentences, and not as headlines or short notes. A sentence outline gives you the space to specify details directly in the headings rather than creating a longer outline consisting of more brief phrases.

Full-sentence Outline Example


  • I. Introduction and the thesis statement
  • II. Paper Body
    • A. First paragraph of the paper
      • 1. First point of supporting material for the central idea
      • a. Sub-point that elaborates on point A
      • b. …

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How Do You Organize Your Outline?

organizing an outline

Once you have developed your clusters, it’s time to put them in order so your story has a logical flow and progression. Use a Flow Structure to organize 2-6 big ideas, or parents, so that your story is easy to tell and easy for the audience to follow. Learn more on the seven most common Flow Structures so you can pick the one that’s right for your persuasive speeches.

Get the Audience’s Attention

It can be argued that the opening sentence or two is the most critical part of your speech. If your audience members are going to stay with you for the entirety of your speech, you better give them a good reason to do so. The key here is making it relevant for them. How does your argument affect them? How does it benefit them? What pain does it help them avoid?

Learn more about the seven most effective ways to open your speech so you can decide which one of the techniques below will grab your audience’s attention:

  • Rhetorical Question
  • Factoid
  • Anecdote
  • Retrospective/Prospective
  • Quotation
  • Aphorism
  • Analogy

Become a Better Listener

The ability to listen well is just as important if not more important than speaking. When you attend conferences, meetings, or have an important conversation you’ll be more in tune to listening for key points that matter. When it’s your turn to speak, showing your audience that you listened to their points enhances your responses and credibility. Becoming a better listener also helps you understand why other speeches work and you can leverage those strong elements for your future speeches.

Power Words

Continue to build the rest of your presentation by completing your opening paragraph with a persuasive call to action. Preview your agenda and presentation time. Close by recapping the agenda and again stating your call to action. When you complete the structure, it’s time to stylize your language. You want the audience to see, hear, and feel what you’re suggesting contrasted against what will happen if they don’t follow your solution.

Here you’ll need to use vivid imagery. To do this, use assertive, descriptive, and engaging language. Use visual aids and stories. Use powerful language to help your audience to imagine what XYZ would be like if your solution was adopted.

Talk about the snowball effect your solution might have on the community or the world as a whole. The key here is to paint a vivid picture in the minds of your audience. For credibility, make sure to acknowledge and talk about any disadvantages your solution may introduce. Use adjectives and metaphors to bring your story to life.

At the conclusion of this step in your persuasive speech, you want your audience to have transitioned into seeing how your argument could be a good thing for them personally.


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Tips For Delivering Your Persuasive Speech

Delivering Your Persuasive Speech

Now that you have your persuasive speech outline prepared and understand the persuasion structure that supports it, you’ll need to prepare to deliver a compelling speech. Your outline is the blueprint for giving an unforgettable speech. Because it’s organized, you become organized on the stage or in the boardroom. The more familiar and comfortable you are with the outline and its points, the more confident and persuasive you’ll be. Here are some final tips for getting the most out of your completed outline.

Study Great Public Speakers

If you try memorizing your speech word for word it will look like you tried memorizing your speech. In other words, you won’t sound natural, nor will you be engaging. When you’re not in the moment and connecting with your audience they will tune out. This is why having a strong outline with key points and verbalizing it over and over is so important for your preparation.

Use the technique of verbalization to practice by repeatedly saying your presentation aloud to an imaginary audience so it sounds polished and smooth.

Show confidence through body language

When the day comes and you find yourself standing in front of your audience, demonstrate your authority and trustworthiness by looking confident through your body language. Stand with your legs hip-width apart and keep your shoulders back. Don’t lock your knees or lean to one side. Square up to the audience when you can. Don’t forget your hands. Move your arms and hands with purpose. You don’t have to overdo it, but if you appear stiff and closed off you’ll be sending an unconscious signal to your audience that you’re not comfortable which hurts the impact of your persuasion.

There’s no need to let the stress of public speaking affect your mental or physical health. Stress can really take a toll on the body. If you’re rusty on public speaking, need help with storytelling techniques, or want to ensure your next presentation makes a lasting impact, Suasive can help.

Suasive, Inc. is a Silicon Valley-based communication consulting company that offers public speaking classes for organizations and individuals.

To date, we’ve coached over 600 CEOs and helped individuals in some of the world’s largest companies including Netflix, eBay, Sonos, Lyft, and Freshworks.

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