Careful definition of “persuasion” is necessary for good understanding and effective practice.


Persuasion develops naturally from informing; since both informing and persuading require good organization; interesting supporting material, well-chosen language, smooth transitions, and fluent delivery.


Persuasive speeches reinforce or change in your audience’s attitudes, beliefs, values or behaviour.


To achieve the further speech purpose of persuasion evidence and argument must be added to information.


Speaker credibility is even more critical for persuasion than for informing.


What is persuasion?


Persuasion attempts to reinforce, modify or change attitudes which is an “a learned” disposition.


A persuasive speech could also change or reinforce beliefs, which structure our perceptions of reality as either false or true.


A persuasive speech may also attempt to change or reinforce a value, which is a person’s enduring conception of right or wrong, good or bad.


Why is it useful to make distinctions among attitudes, beliefs and values?


The three personal qualities persuasion seeks to reinforce, modify, or change are not equally susceptible to persuasive speaking.


The order of change difficulty for a persuasive speaker is (1) Values (2) Beliefs (3) Attitudes.

1.    Values-guiding principals

2.    Beliefs-something you believe in

3.    Attitude-is your relative position on an issue


Persuasive messages may go beyond reinforcement, modification or change: persuasion may seek behaviour change.


Since a speaker cannot reasonably expect to “reach” all of the audience, a certain portion of the audience will be selected as the “target” audience.


Speakers may “appeal” to any of the five levels of need.


1.    Physiological needs: food, air and water

2.    Safety needs: when physiological needs are met, audiences are concerned about safety, security, and protection for themselves and loved ones.


3.    Social needs: with safety needs met, audiences become desirous of contact and reassurance from others to be loved and valued.


4.    Self esteem needs: with the esteem of others audiences seek to think well of themselves, to feel “they are somebody”.


5.    Self-actualization: the highest level of need, to achieve our greatest potential, to “Be all that you can be”.


Follow four stages in developing a persuasive speech”


1. Consider your audience.

·        Select and narrow your persuasive speech.

·        Speakers should choos4e topics they fell strongly about.

·        Controversial topics make excellent training topics.

·        Speakers should pay attention to the media to keep current on important issues.


2. Determine your persuasive purpose.


3. Develop your central idea and main ideas.


4. Speakers should develop a “claim” as a “proposition” or a statement that audiences agree with.


·        Proposition of Fact: “When women joined the military the quality of life improved.


·        Proposition of Value: “It is wrong to turn away immigrants who want to come to Canada”.


·        Proposition of Policy: “Each student at our school should receive a new personal computer”.


5. The final stages in developing a persuasive speech are parallel to all speech presentation.

·        Develop a central idea

·        Identify the main ideas

·        Gather supporting material

·        Organize

·        Rehearse

·        Deliver


6.    Speakers need to follow three guidelines when putting the persuasive principals into practice:


·       Make your speech consistent with the audience’s beliefs, attitudes and values.

·       Make sure that the advantages or your claim is greater than the disadvantages.

·       Make sure that your proposal meets the audience’s needs.






Beebe, Steven., and Beebe, Susan. (2003). Public Speaking. “An Audience-Centered Approach. Fifth Edition. Pearson Education Inc. Boston, Mass.


Villagran, Morris; Wise, Charles and Ivy, Diana. (2003). Public Speaking. “An Audience Centered Approach”. Instructor’s Resource Manual for Beebe and Beebe. Pearson Education Inc. Boston, Mass.



Zeuschner, Raymond. (1997). Communicating Today. Allyn and Bacon. Needham Heights, Massachusetts.