Keys to Effective Persuasion

You are a natural persuader! You have done it all your life. Every time you enter a conversation, you engage in persuasion techniques. It is true, that any time you make a statement of fact, you are asserting its validity and assuming that your listener agrees.

This speech takes it a step further: now you have to assume that not everyone will agree with you from the start, and it is your job to make them see things your way. The goal of this speech is to change someone's mind or way of thinking about a topic. This is not a speech to sell, as you do not ask that the listener do anything except to agree with you or to begin to listen to your way of thinking. Your message is, of course, very important in this speech, but your voice and body language are also important.

Outline of Persuasive Speech

Paragraph I:  Statement of Position or Opinion

bullet A statement of proposition or opinion including acknowledgement of the oppositions stand and showing why that opposition is false or weak. 
bullet Begin with a hook!  (startling statement, quotation, etc.)  It should grab the reader's attention.
bullet State the three arguments you plan to develop (this is your thesis statement).
bullet Conclude with a transition sentence that lead to the next paragraph.

Paragraph 2-4:  Arguments (using propaganda techniques)

bullet In each, develop ONE of your arguments as fully as you can, restating the argument and then expanding on it using one of the techniques of propaganda (bandwagon, fear, name-calling, etc.) and cited support from sources you research.
bullet Arrange paragraphs in order of importance or logic.
bullet Use a variety of TRANSITION WORDS (rather than starting each paragraph and/or sentence the same…keep it interesting in order to keep the attention of your audience)!
bullet Write each paragraph with an introductory sentence and a concluding sentence.
bullet Use an educated vocabulary.  NO SLANG.  NO CURSE WORDS!

Paragraph 5:  Conclusion

bullet Save the very best argument for the ending--the clincher, OR
bullet Summarize arguments from the body above and then give specific recommendation for action that you want your reader to take.
bullet Appeal to emotions, sense of reasoning, morality, integrity, etc.
bullet The audience should feel enlightened, thoroughly satisfied that your thesis can withstand opposing arguments, and willing to reconsider or to act upon issues you have presented. Although you may include quotations as you summarize, close the speech by reinforcing your arguments with your own memorable words.


You will be required to deliver your speech to the class, while being videotaped. You do not have to memorize your speech word for word, but you should not have to read the speech; you will need to practice the speech enough so that you are able to deliver the speech with EYE CONTACT. I suggest you write (or type) the speech on note cards that you use for assistance during the speech.  Any student READING their speech will receive a failing grade on the presentation portion of the assignment.

You will also be required to turn in a typed (or written in pen) copy of your speech.

As outlined above, the speech must be a minimum of five paragraphs. You must use a minimum of three different propaganda techniques in your speech (one in each of the three argument paragraphs).

Your grade will consist of the presentation (70%) and written (30%) components.

Important Points to Keep in Mind

1. Body language - make sure that you have a proper posture. If your shoulders are sagging and your legs are crossed, you will not appear as being sincere and people just will not accept your message.

2. Articulation – speak your points clearly in a strong voice; appear confident in the words you choose.  PRACTICE often boosts your confidence in your own ability to clearly articulate.

3. Pronunciation - pronounce each word. Avoid slang, and do not slur your words. Avoid saying, "you know,” “you know what I mean,” “something like that,” “like,” “and um,” “I mean,” and other phrases like these.

4. Pitch - pitch refers to the highs and lows of your voice. Whatever you do, avoid a monotone!

5. Speed - your speed, or pace, is an important variable to control. By speaking too fast you may appear to be insincere; speaking too slow makes you sound like you are lecturing, and your listeners' minds are going to start to wander.

6. Pauses - the pause is a critical persuasive tool. When you want to emphasize a certain word, just pause for one second before; this highlights the word. If you really want to punch it, pause before and after the word!

7. Volume - volume is another good tool for persuasive speech, but you should use it with caution. If you scream all the way through your speech, people will become accustomed to it and it will lose its effectiveness. On the other hand, a few well-timed shouts can liven up a speech.

8. Variance - Change your pitch, volume, and speed periodically. Never go more than one paragraph without a vocal variance. This keeps your group locked into your speech.

The Strategy

When you are trying to convince someone of something, you must first establish your credibility, or in other words, you must sell yourself before you sell your message. If people feel that you are not being reasonable or rational, you do not stand a chance. You must be committed to the goals of your speech and what you are saying. Do not use words such as "maybe" or "might"- use positive words such as "will" and "must."

You are the authority figure in this speech, so you had better supply enough information to prove your points so that you can seem knowledgeable, and you had better know your material cold. People can usually spot someone who is trying to "wing" a speech. You should also appear to be truthful -even when you are really stretching a point (and using persuasive propaganda techniques). If you do not appear to be sincere, people will doubt your word and tune out your speech.

Lastly, do not be afraid to show a little emotion. Your body and voice must match the tone of your words. If your language is strong, you must present a physical force to go along with your delivery.