The 6 Elements of a Persuasive Speech

Martin Luther King Jr. delivers his "I have a dream" persuasive speech

Speeches can be incredibly exhilarating, or mind numbingly boring. The difference between the two lies in writing a captivating speech and presenting it in a powerful way. Both of these criteria must be met, or you run the risk of putting the audience to sleep. By following the below five elements of a persuasive speech, you can ensure your audience stays attentive and hanging on your every word.

Craft a Persuasive Speech

Writing a speech is different from every other style of writing. The audience doesn’t want to hear someone simply read a report or a prepared essay. They want to be on the edge of their seat, unaware of the time, completely attentive. The Public Affairs Council (PAC), an independent organization and authority on public affairs and speech writing, suggests that every speech has one out of three possible goals: educate, persuade or entertain. Before you begin writing, decide what the goal of your speech is. Do you want the audience to purchase a product after you’re done? Are you going strictly for laughs? Should they leave with a solid grasp of new information?

  1. Use a Simple Structure – Have a clear beginning, middle and end to your speech. Do not use an overcomplicated structure. Scholastic.com, a website devoted to reading and writing, states that the opening of your speech can make or break the rest of the presentation. They have found that audience members will decide within the first few sentences if your speech is worth their time. Spend quality time creating an opening that intrigues the audience.

    After your powerful opening, immediately tell them what you’re going to talk about. Plant a seed that will grow throughout the speech. Once the overall theme is directly stated, continue with the main points that water the seed you planted. Grow the overall theme of your speech in their minds by providing compelling evidence and resources about your topic. End your speech in a way that concludes your overall point, conveys your message and gives the audience a fully matured plant they can take with them.

  2. Know Your Audience – The most important aspect of creating a powerful speech is addressing who will be hearing it, according to PAC. Ask a few questions about the event: How big is the audience? Why have they been brought together? What are they expecting, and what do they already know? By considering the types of people who will comprise your audience, you can craft the information in your speech to appeal directly to them. Focus on conveying a message that is relevant to your audience.
  3. Use Creative, Visual Language – PAC suggests that effective speeches use as few words as possible. Shorter sentences with a varying sentence structure will keep the audience’s attention. Use rhetorical questions that will intrigue the audience. Use language that will excite them. Choose words that help them paint an image in their mind, or transport them directly into the theme or message you are conveying.

Create a Powerful Presentation

You’ve written a powerful speech, practiced it and know exactly how to deliver it. Once the writing is done, it’s time to consider how it will be presented. There are two primary elements of presentation: visual aids and venue selection/preparation.

  1. Use PowerPoint Wisely – Visual aids come in many forms. PowerPoint is the most common visual aide. Consider if a PowerPoint presentation is really required. Will it add to your presentation, or detract? Will a captivating video or physical aide convey your point more directly? If PowerPoint is still your visual aide of choice, craft your presentation wisely. Consider how it will be displayed: on a television or a projection screen. Use big, readable fonts and contrasting colors. Avoid complicated transitions, a simple wipe or dissolve is more powerful than a distracting transition.  Fonts should only be in bullet point format. If applicable, use charts and diagrams that help convey your overall message.
  2. Prepare the Venue – Perhaps the most important element of creating a persuasive speech is having a properly prepared venue. Regardless of the size of your venue, everyone must be able to read any visual presentations and hear crisp, enjoyable sound. While these two aspects seem simple, they can be surprisingly complicated. It is worth considering hiring a production company to prepare the venue for you. The Leading Authority Speaker’s Bureau is a production company that specializes in creating an environment to help convey your persuasive speech. Visit their website to determine if they can help you create a compelling event.
  3. Know Your Emotions – When it comes to delivering a speech, never underestimate the influence of your emotional state. If you enter into your speech nervous, then odds are this will reflect poorly on you. Your audience will pick up on your feelings and they, in turn, will become uncomfortable. However, if you enter into your speech poised and calm, the audience will react in your favor. In order to master your emotions before giving the speech, make sure to practice so you can increase your own comfort level.

Write, Prepare, Perform

A persuasive speech begins by writing a carefully crafted outline that directly addresses your audience and keeps their attention. Visual aids must be prepared to help emphasize your main point. Preparing the event venue is crucial to ensuring your speech is easily heard and absorbed by the audience. And remember:  you control your emotions, they don’t control you. Keep these factors in mind and a truly persuasive speech is well within your reach.

About the author Tim Wilson

Tim Wilson is a contributing writer who makes a living as a speech consultant. Corporations and governments all over the nation seek his consultation services for writing speeches.

7 Comments

  • Zen Presence

    August 27, 2012

    A lot of this advice can be used for written communication as well. Thanks for the info!

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  • Myrko

    August 27, 2012

    Good point Zen Presence. I personally think controlling your own emotions so you can keep cool and deliver a natural speech is one of the most important things with public speaking. I personally found that to be most difficult as well :-)

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  • Derek

    September 6, 2012

    So, while I would not be considered an orator, I do speak in front of groups of 3-to-20 people for a living. And, being in software sales, I better be PERSUASIVE or I’ll be looking for another job! Great list. It’s really tough to boil the ocean of possible skills down into a short list of just 6, but I think you picked 6 good ones. One I might as is: BE YOU! When I first started speaking, I had this false notion that I should speak like a politician or a self-help guru (poise, cadence, stoic posture, etc.). I thought that because those are the only types of people I had ever seen present. So, in trying to emulate them, I automatically was “acting” instead of just “being”. It’s a lot easier to be you, quirks and all, and focus on the material. Steve Jobs was a master of this, oftentimes channeling his inner nerd. I like to do the same, because comfort and confidence are two of the most attractive qualities in a presenter. ;)

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  • Myrko

    September 6, 2012

    Great point, really. Being instead of acting, I’d say that’s the most important one too. Everything else becomes easier then. I can remember my first real speech, it was in front of say 150 people and I was extremely nervous, to the point where I just couldn’t be myself anymore. It’s a learning process from experiences. But being comfortable in your own skin, being you, is probably the best goal.

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  • Ben

    September 28, 2012

    Excellent point about PowerPoint (pardon the semi-pun). I have sat through so many horrible speakers who have just used PowerPoint as a crutch….it’s not a good strategy, to say the least.

    ReplyReply
  • Fortuna

    November 29, 2012

    I have to deliver a speech in a few weeks and in my research, I’ve found such varying advice. This all seems solid, however. Thanks!

    ReplyReply
  • Myrko

    November 29, 2012

    Glad it made sense for you Fortuna. Good luck with the speech then!

    ReplyReply

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