Module 10: Persuasive Speaking
Types of persuasive speeches.
Persuasive speeches revolve around propositions that can be defended through the use of data and reasoning. Persuasive propositions respond to one of three types of questions: questions of fact, questions of value, and questions of policy. These questions can help the speaker determine what forms of argument and reasoning are necessary to support a specific purpose statement.
Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth. – Marcus Aurelius
Propositions of Fact
Questions of fact ask whether something “can potentially be verified as either true or false.”  These questions can seem very straightforward—something is or it is not—but in reality, the search for truth is a complex endeavor. Questions of fact rarely address simple issues such as, “is the sky blue?” They tend to deal with deep-seated controversies such as the existence of global warming, the cause of a major disaster, or someone’s guilt or innocence in a court of law. To answer these questions, a proposition of fact may focus on whether or not something exists. For example, in the U.S. there is a debate over the prevalence of racial profiling, the practice of law enforcement officers targeting people for investigation and arrest based on skin color. On one hand, the American Civil Liberties Union advances the proposition: “Racial profiling continues to be a prevalent and egregious form of discrimination in the United States.”  They verify this claim using data from government studies, crime statistics, and personal narratives. However, journalist Heather MacDonald proposes that studies confirming racial profiling are often based in “junk science”; in fact she says, “there’s no credible evidence that racial profiling exists.”  To substantiate her proposition, MacDonald relies on a study of traffic stops on the New Jersey turnpike along with personal narratives, policy analysis, and testimony from a criminologist. The claim that racial profiling exists is either true or false, but there is evidence for and against both propositions; therefore no consensus exists.
While some propositions of fact deal with the existence of a particular phenomenon or the accuracy of a theory, others focus on causality. For example, the U.S. government appointed a commission to evaluate the causes of the nation’s recent economic crisis. In their report the commission concluded by proposing that recklessness in the financial industry and failures on the part of government regulators caused the economic crisis. However, Congressman Paul Ryan has proposed that Medicare is to blame, and the chief investment officer at JP Morgan has proposed that U.S. housing policy is the root cause of the problem.  Each of these three propositions of fact is backed by its own set of historical and economic analysis.
“Interstate 10 looking east from Crenshaw Boulevard” by Downtowngal. CC-BY-SA .
Propositions of fact may also be used to make predictions concerning what will happen in the future. In the summer of 2011, ten miles of a popular Southern California freeway were closed for an entire weekend. Motorists, news outlets, and government officials called the closure “Carmageddon” because they proposed there would be an “inevitable and likely epic traffic tie-up.”  As a result of the predictions motorists stayed off the roads and made alternative plans that weekend resulting in much lighter traffic than expected. The proposition may have been true, but the prediction was not fulfilled because people were persuaded to stay off the freeway.
When advancing propositions of fact, you should focus on the evidence you can offer in support of your proposition. First, make sure that your speech contains sufficient evidence to back up your proposition. Next, take the time to interpret that evidence so that it makes sense to your audience. Last, emphasize the relationship between your evidence and your proposition as well as its relevance to the audience. 
Bitter experience has taught us how fundamental our values are and how great the mission they represent. – Jan Peter Balkenende
Propositions of Value
Persuasive speakers may also be called to address questions of value, which call for a proposition judging the (relative) worth of something. These propositions make an evaluative claim regarding morality, aesthetics, wisdom, or desirability. For example, some vegetarians propose that eating meat is immoral because of the way that animals are slaughtered. Vegetarians may base this claim in a philosophy of utilitarianism or animal rights. 
“McLarenF1” by Jagvar. Public domain.
Sometimes a proposition of value compares multiple options to determine which is best. Consumers call for these comparisons regularly to determine which products to buy. Car buyers may look to the most recent Car and Driver “10 Best Cars” list to determine their next purchase. In labeling a car one of the best on the market for a given year, Car and Driver says that the cars “don’t have to be the newest, and they don’t have to be expensive . . . They just have to meet our abundant needs while satisfying our every want.” 
Both the vegetarian and car examples offer standards for evaluating the proposition. Since propositions of value tend to be more subjective, speakers need to establish evaluation criteria by which the audience can judge and choose to align with their position. When advancing a proposition of value, offer a clear set of criteria, offer evidence for your evaluation, and apply the evidence to demonstrate that you have satisfied the evaluation criteria. 
An inner process stands in need of outward criteria. – Ludwig Wittgenstein
The 2005 disagreement between family members over removing a woman’s feeding tube after she had been in a coma for 15 years sparked a national debate over the value of life that highlights the importance of evaluation criteria. After years of failed medical treatments and rehabilitation attempts, Terri Schiavo’s husband petitioned the court to remove her feeding tube, initiating a legal battle with her parents that went all the way to the President of the United States.  Opposing sides in the debate both claimed to value life. To support his proposition that his wife had a right to die, Mr. Schaivo applied the evaluation criteria of quality of life and argued that she would not want to continue to live in a vegetative state.  Ms. Schiavo’s parents vehemently disagreed with his argument. They also claimed to value life and, with the support of religious groups, relied on the evaluation criteria of the sanctity of life to contend that she should be kept alive.  Both sides gained widespread support based on people’s agreement or disagreement with their evaluation criteria. Despite intervention on behalf of both state and federal legislators, the courts eventually ruled that Mr. Schiavo had the right to have his wife’s feeding tube removed and allow her to die.
A policy is a temporary creed liable to be changed, but while it holds good, it has got to be pursued with apostolic zeal. – Mahatma Gandhi
Propositions of Policy
Although the Schiavo case was rooted in a question of value, the debate resulted in a question of policy. Questions of policy ask the speaker to advocate for an appropriate course of action. This form of persuasive speech is used every day in Congress to determine laws, but it is also used interpersonally to determine how we ought to behave. A proposition of policy may call for people to stop a particular behavior, or to start one. For example, some U.S. cities have started banning single use plastic bags in grocery stores. Long before official public policy on this issue was established, organizations such as The Surfrider Foundation and the Earth Resource Foundation advocated that people stop using these bags because of the damage plastic bags cause to marine life. In this case local governments and private organizations attempted to persuade people to stop engaging in a damaging behavior— shopping with single use plastic bags. However, the organizations also attempted to persuade people to start a new behavior—shopping with reusable bags.
When answering a question of policy, speakers will typically begin by describing the status quo. If you are arguing that a change must be made, you must first identify the problem inherent in the current behavior, and then demonstrate that the problem is significant enough to warrant immediate consideration. Once you have established that there is a problem which the audience ought to consider, you can then offer your proposal for a preferable course of action.  Then, it is up to you to demonstrate that your proposed policy will have more benefits than costs.
“USPS mailboxes” by EraserGirl. CC-BY .
In 2011 the U.S. Postal Service, the nation’s second-largest employer, told Congress it was facing an $8.3 billion budget shortfall.  To solve the problem, the Postal Service proposed that be permitted to end Saturday mail delivery and close some post offices. To make their argument, they first described the status quo saying that the demand for their service had dramatically decreased with the popularity of email and online bill-pay services. They explained that in preceding years they laid off workers and cut spending to help with the shortfall of revenue, but now another plan was necessary to avoid defaulting on their financial obligations. They offered evidence that people preferred ending Saturday mail to alternatives such as paying more for stamps or allocating more tax money to post offices.  Although they made a compelling case, the USPS still needed to overcome perceived disadvantages to their proposition such as the negative impact on businesses and rural towns.   A full year later, the policy proposition passed the U.S. Senate but continues to await approval in the House. 
- Herrick, J.A. (2011). Argumentation: Understanding and Shaping Arguments . State College, PA: Strata Publishing. ↵
- American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). (2012). Racial Profiling. Retrieved from: http://www.aclu.org/racialjustice/racial-profiling ↵
- MacDonald, H. (2002, March 27). The racial profiling myth debunked. City Journal . Retrieved from: http://www.city-journal.org/html/eon_3_27_02hm.html ↵
- Angelides, P. (2011, June 28). The real causes of the economic crisis? They’re history. The Washington Post . Retrieved from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-real-causes-of-theeconomic-crisis-theyrehistory/2011/06/27/AG2nK4pH_story.html ↵
- Kandel, J. (2011, July 14). Los Angeles braces for weekend of “Carmageddon.” Reuters. Retrieved from: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/15/us-carmageddon-losangeles-idUSTRE76D2D720110715 ↵
- Herrick 2011 ↵
- DeGrazia, D. (2009). Moral vegetarianism from a very broad basis. Journal of Moral Philosophy , 6 . Retrieved from: https://philosophy.columbian.gwu.edu/sites/philosophy.columbian.gwu.edu/files/image/DeGraziaMoral.pdf ↵
- Car and Driver (2011, December). 2012 10Best Cars. Car and Driver. Retrieved from: http://www.caranddriver.com/features/2012-10best-cars-feature ↵
- Cerminara, K. & Goodman, K. (2012). Schiavo Timeline. Retrieved from University of Miami Ethics Program: http://www.miami.edu/index.php/ethics/projects/schiavo/schiavo_timeline/ ↵
- Caplan, A. (2005). The time has come to let Terri Schiavo die: Politicians, courts must allow husband to make final decision. NBC News . Retrieved from: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/7231440/ns/health-health_care/t/time-has-come-let-terri-schiavo-die/ ↵
- Catholic Culture. (2005). The death of Terri Schiavo. Catholic World News . Retrieved from: https://www.catholicculture.org/news/features/index.cfm?recnum=37860 ↵
- Bingham, A. (2011, July 22). Postal Service pushes to end Saturday delivery. ABC News . Retrieved from: http://abcnewsradioonline.com/business-news/postal-service-pushes-to-end-saturday-delivery.html ↵
- Bingham 2011 ↵
- Stephenson, E. (2012, August 1). Senators blast House leaders over Postal Service default. Reuters . Retrieved from: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/01/us-usa-postal-default-idUSBRE8701HO20120801 ↵
- Stephenson 2012 ↵
- Chapter 16 Types of Persuasive Speeches. Authored by : Sarah Stone Watt, Ph.D. and Joshua Trey Barnett. Provided by : Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA and Indiana University, Bloomington, IN. Located at : http://publicspeakingproject.org/psvirtualtext.html . Project : The Public Speaking Project. License : CC BY-NC-ND: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives
- Interstate 10 looking east from Crenshaw Boulevard. Authored by : Downtowngal. Located at : http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Interstate_10_looking_east_from_Crenshaw_Boulevard.jpg . License : CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike
- USPS mailboxes. Authored by : EraserGirl. Located at : http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USPS_mailboxes.jpg . License : CC BY: Attribution
- McLarenF1. Authored by : Jagvar. Located at : http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MclarenF1.JPG . License : Public Domain: No Known Copyright
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10 Chapter 10: Persuasive Speaking
Amy Fara Edwards and Marcia Fulkerson, Oxnard College
Victoria Leonard, Lauren Rome, and Tammera Stokes Rice, College of the Canyons
Adapted by Jamie C. Votraw, Professor of Communication Studies, Florida SouthWestern State College
Figure 10.1: Abubaccar Tambadou 1
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was founded on April 10, 1866. You may be familiar with their television commercials. They start with images of neglected and lonely-looking cats and dogs while the screen text says: “Every hour… an animal is beaten or abused. They suffer… alone and terrified…” Cue the sad song and the request for donations on the screen. This commercial causes audiences to run for the television remote because they can’t bear to see those images! Yet it is a very persuasive commercial and has proven to be very successful for this organization. According to the ASPCA website, they have raised $30 million since 2006, and their membership has grown to over 1.2 million people. The audience’s reaction to this commercial showcases how persuasion works! In this chapter, we will define persuasive speaking and examine the strategies used to create powerful persuasive speeches.
Figure 10.2: Caged Dogs 2
Defining Persuasive Speaking
Persuasion is the process of creating, reinforcing, or changing people’s beliefs or actions. It is not manipulation, however! The speaker’s intention should be clear to the audience in an ethical way and accomplished through the ethical use of methods of persuasion. When speaking to persuade, the speaker works as an advocate. In contrast to informative speaking, persuasive speakers argue in support of a position and work to convince the audience to support or do something.
As you learned in chapter five on audience analysis, you must continue to consider the psychological characteristics of the audience. You will discover in this chapter the attitudes, beliefs, and values of the audience become particularly relevant in the persuasive speechmaking process. A key element of persuasion is the speaker’s intent. You must intend to create, reinforce, and/or change people’s beliefs or actions in an ethical way.
Types of Persuasive Speeches
There are three types of persuasive speech propositions. A proposition , or speech claim , is a statement you want your audience to support. To gain the support of our audience, we use evidence and reasoning to support our claims. Persuasive speech propositions fall into one of three categories, including questions of fact, questions of value, and questions of policy. Determining the type of persuasive propositions your speech deals with will help you determine what forms of argument and reasoning are necessary to effectively advocate for your position.
Questions of Fact
A question of fact determines whether something is true or untrue, does or does not exist, or did or did not happen. Questions of fact are based on research, and you may find research that supports competing sides of an argument! You may even find that you change your mind about a subject when researching. Ultimately, you will take a stance and rely on credible evidence to support your position, ethically.
Today there are many hotly contested propositions of fact: humans have walked on the moon, the Earth is flat, Earth’s climate is changing due to human action, we have encountered sentient alien life forms, life exists on Mars, and so on.
Here is an example of a question of fact:
Recreational marijuana does not lead to hard drug use.
Recreational marijuana does lead to hard drug use.
Questions of Value
A question of value determines whether something is good or bad, moral or immoral, just or unjust, fair or unfair. You will have to take a definitive stance on which side you’re arguing. For this proposition, your opinion alone is not enough; you must have evidence and reasoning. An ethical speaker will acknowledge all sides of the argument, and to better argue their point, the speaker will convince the audience why their position is the “best” position.
Here is an example of a question of value:
Recreational marijuana use is immoral .
Recreational marijuana use is moral .
Questions of Policy
A question of policy advances a specific course of action based on facts and values. You are telling the audience what you believe should be done and/or you are asking your audience to act in a particular way to make a change. Whether it is stated or implied, all policy speeches focus on values. To be the most persuasive and get your audience to act, you must determine their beliefs, which will help you organize and argue your proposition.
Persuasive speeches on questions of policy must address three elements: need, plan, and practicality . First, the speaker must demonstrate there is a need for change (i.e., there is a problem). Next, the speaker offers the audience a plan (i.e., the policy solution) to address the problem. Lastly, the speaker shows the audience that the solution is practical . This requires that the speaker demonstrate how their proposed plan will address the identified problem without creating new problems.
Consider the topic of car accidents. A persuasive speech on a question of policy might focus on reducing the number of car accidents on a Florida highway. First, the speaker could use evidence from their research to demonstrate there is a need for change (e.g., statistics showing a higher-than-average rate of accidents). Then, the speaker would offer their plan to address the problem. Imagine their proposed plan was to permanently shut down all Florida highways. Would this plan solve the problem and reduce the number of accidents on Florida highways? Well, yes. But is it practical? No. Will it create new problems? Yes – side roads will be congested, people will miss work, kids will miss school, emergency response teams will be slowed, and tourism will decrease. The speaker could not offer such a plan and demonstrate that it is practical. Alternatively, maybe the speaker advocates for a speed reduction in a particularly problematic stretch of highway or convinces the audience to support increasing the number of highway patrol cars.
Here is an example of a question of policy:
Recreational marijuana use should be legal in all 50 states.
Recreational marijuana use should not be legal in all 50 states.
Persuasive Speech Organizational Patterns
There are several methods of organizing persuasive speeches. Remember, you must use an organizational pattern to outline your speech (think back to chapter eight). Some professors will specify a specific pattern to use for your assignment. Otherwise, the organizational pattern you select should be based on your speech content. What pattern is most logical based on your main points and the goal of your speech? This section will explain five common formats of persuasive outlines: Problem-Solution, Problem-Cause-Solution, Comparative Advantages, Monroe’s Motivated Sequence, and Claim to Proof.
Sometimes it is necessary to share a problem and a solution with an audience. In cases like these, the problem-solution organizational pattern is an appropriate way to arrange the main points of a speech. It’s important to reflect on what is of interest to you, but also what is critical to engage your audience. This pattern is used intentionally because, for most problems in society, the audience is unaware of their severity. Problems can exist at a local, state, national, or global level.
For example, the nation has recently become much more aware of the problem of human sex trafficking. Although the US has been aware of this global issue for some time, many communities are finally learning this problem is occurring in their own backyards. Colleges and universities have become engaged in the fight. Student clubs and organizations are getting involved and bringing awareness to this problem. Everyday citizens are using social media to warn friends and followers of sex-trafficking tricks to look out for.
Let’s look at how you might organize a problem-solution speech centered on this topic. In the body of this speech, there would be two main points; a problem and a solution. This pattern is used for speeches on questions of policy.
Topic: Human Sex Trafficking
General Purpose: To persuade
Specific Purpose: To persuade the audience to support increased legal penalties for sex traffickers.
Thesis (Central Idea): Human sex trafficking is a global challenge with local implications, but it can be addressed through multi-pronged efforts from governments and non-profits.
Preview of Main Points: First, I will define and explain the extent of the problem of sex trafficking within our community while examining the effects this has on the victims. Then, I will offer possible solutions to take the predators off the streets and allow the victims to reclaim their lives and autonomy.
- The problem of human sex trafficking is best understood by looking at the severity of the problem, the methods by which traffickers kidnap or lure their victims, and its impact on the victim.
- The problem of human sex trafficking can be solved by working with local law enforcement, changing the laws currently in place for prosecuting the traffickers and pimps, and raising funds to help agencies rescue and restore victims.
To review the problem-solution pattern, recall that the main points do not explain the cause of the problem, and in some cases, the cause is not necessary to explain. For example, in discussing the problem of teenage pregnancy, most audiences will not need to be informed about what causes someone to get pregnant. However, there are topics where discussing the cause is imperative to understanding the solution. The Problem-Cause-Solution organizational pattern adds a main point between the problem and solution by discussing the cause of the problem. In the body of the speech, there will be three main points: the problem, the cause, and finally, the solution. This pattern is also used for speeches dealing with questions of policy. One of the reasons you might consider this pattern is when an audience is not familiar with the cause. For example, if gang activity is on the rise in the community you live in, you might need to explain what causes an individual to join a gang in the first place. By explaining the causes of a problem, an audience might be more likely to accept the solution(s) you’ve proposed. Let’s look at an example of a speech on gangs.
Topic: The Rise of Gangs in Miami-Dade County
Specific Purpose: To persuade the audience to urge their school boards to include gang education in the curriculum.
Thesis (Central Idea): The uptick in gang affiliation and gang violence in Miami-Dade County is problematic, but if we explore the causes of the problem, we can make headway toward solutions.
Preview of Main Points: First, I will explain the growing problem of gang affiliation and violence in Miami-Dade County. Then, I will discuss what causes an individual to join a gang. Finally, I will offer possible solutions to curtail this problem and get gangs off the streets of our community.
- The problem of gang affiliation and violence is growing rapidly, leading to tragic consequences for both gang members and their families.
- The causes of the proliferation of gangs can be best explained by feeling disconnected from others, a need to fit in, and a lack of supervision after school hours.
- The problem of the rise in gangs can be solved, or minimized, by offering after-school programs for youth, education about the consequences of joining a gang, and parent education programs offered at all secondary education levels.
Let’s revisit the human sex trafficking topic from above. Instead of using only a problem-solution pattern, the example that follows adds “cause” to their main points.
Preview of Main Points: First, I will define and explain the extent of the problem of sex trafficking within our community while examining the effects this has on the victims. Second, I will discuss the main causes of the problem. Finally, I will offer possible solutions to take the predators off the streets and allow the victims to reclaim their lives.
- The cause of the problem can be recognized by the monetary value of sex slavery.
- The problem of human sex trafficking can be solved by working with local law enforcement, changing the current laws for prosecuting traffickers, and raising funds to help agencies rescue and restore victims.
Sometimes your speech will showcase a problem, but there are multiple potential solutions for the audience to consider. In cases like these, the comparative advantages organizational pattern is an appropriate way to structure the speech. This pattern is commonly used when there is a problem, but the audience (or the public) cannot agree on the best solution. When your goal is to convince the audience that your solution is the best among the options, this organizational pattern should be used.
Consider the hot topic of student loan debt cancellation. There is a rather large divide among the public about whether or not student loans should be canceled or forgiven by the federal government. Once again, audience factors come into play as attitudes and values on the topic vary greatly across various political ideologies, age demographics, socioeconomic statuses, educational levels, and more.
Let’s look at how you might organize a speech on this topic. In the body of this speech, one main point is the problem, and the other main points will depend on the number of possible solutions.
Topic: Federal Student Loan Debt Cancellation
Specific Purpose: To persuade the audience to support the government cancellation of $10,000 in federal student loan debt.
Thesis (Central Idea): Student loans are the largest financial hurdle faced by multiple generations, and debt cancellation could provide needed relief to struggling individuals and families.
Preview of Main Points: First, I will define and explain the extent of the student loan debt problem in the United States. Then, I will offer possible solutions and convince you that the best solution is a debt cancellation of $10,000.
- Student loan debt is the second greatest source of financial debt in the United States and several solutions have been proposed to address the problem created by unusually high levels of educational debt.
- The first proposed solution is no debt cancellation. This policy solution would not address the problem.
- The second proposed solution is $10,000 of debt cancellation. This is a moderate cancellation that would alleviate some of the financial burden faced by low-income and middle-class citizens without creating vast government setbacks.
- The third proposed solution is full debt cancellation. While this would help many individuals, the financial setback for the nation would be too grave.
- As you can see, there are many options for addressing the student loan debt problem. However, the best solution is the cancellation of $10,000.
Monroe’s Motivated Sequence Format
Alan H. Monroe, a Purdue University professor, used the psychology of persuasion to develop an outline for making speeches that will deliver results and wrote about it in his book Monroe’s Principles of Speech (1951). It is now known as Monroe’s Motivated Sequence . This is a well-used and time-proven method to organize persuasive speeches for maximum impact. It is most often used for speeches dealing with questions of policy. You can use it for various situations to create and arrange the components of any persuasive message. The five steps are explained below and should be followed explicitly and in order to have the greatest impact on the audience.
Step One: Attention
In this step, you must get the attention of the audience. The speaker brings attention to the importance of the topic as well as their own credibility and connection to the topic. This step of the sequence should be completed in your introduction like in other speeches you have delivered in class. Review chapter 9 for some commonly used attention-grabber strategies.
Step Two: Need
In this step, you will establish the need; you must define the problem and build a case for its importance. Later in this chapter, you will find that audiences seek logic in their arguments, so the speaker should address the underlying causes and the external effects of a problem. It is important to make the audience see the severity of the problem, and how it affects them, their families, and/or their community. The harm , or problem that needs changing, can be physical, financial, psychological, legal, emotional, educational, social, or a combination thereof. It must be supported by evidence. Ultimately, in this step, you outline and showcase that there is a true problem that needs the audience’s immediate attention. For example, it is not enough to say “pollution is a problem in Florida,” you must demonstrate it with evidence that showcases that pollution is a problem. For example, agricultural runoff is said to cause dangerous algal blooms on Florida’s beaches. You could show this to your audience with research reports, pictures, expert testimony, etc.
Step Three: Satisfaction
In this step, the need must be “satisfied” with a solution. As the speaker, this is when you present the solution and describe it, but you must also defend that it works and will address the causes and symptoms of the problem. Do you recall “need, plan, and practicality”? This step involves the plan and practicality elements. This is not the section where you provide specific steps for the audience to follow. Rather, this is the section where you describe “the business” of the solution. For example, you might want to change the voting age in the United States. You would not explain how to do it here; you would explain the plan – what the new law would be – and its practicality – how that new law satisfies the problem of people not voting. Satisfy the need!
Step Four: Visualization
In this step, your arguments must look to the future either positively or negatively, or both. If positive, the benefits of enacting or choosing your proposed solution are explained. If negative, the disadvantages of not doing anything to solve the problem are explained. The purpose of visualization is to motivate the audience by revealing future benefits or using possible fear appeals by showing future harms if no changes are enacted. Ultimately, the audience must visualize a world where your solution solves the problem. What does this new world look like? If you can help the audience picture their role in this new world, you should be able to get them to act. Describe a future where they fail to act, and the problem persists or is exacerbated. Or, help them visualize a world where their adherence to the steps you outlined in your speech remediates the problem.
Step Five: Action
In the final step of Monroe’s Motivated Sequence, we tell the audience exactly what needs to be done by them . Not a general “we should lower the voting age” statement, but rather, the exact steps for the people sitting in front of you to take. If you really want to move the audience to action, this step should be a full main point within the body of the speech and should outline exactly what you need them to do. It isn’t enough to say “now, go vote!” You need to tell them where to click, who to write, how much to donate, and how to share the information with others in their orbit. In the action step, the goal is to give specific steps for the audience to take, as soon as possible, to move toward solving the problem. So, while the satisfaction step explains the solution overall, the action section gives concrete ways to begin making the solution happen. The more straightforward and concrete you can make the action step, the better. People are more likely to act if they know how accessible the action can be. For example, if you want your audience to be vaccinated against the hepatitis B virus (HBV), you can give them directions to a clinic where vaccinations are offered and the hours of that location. Do not leave anything to chance. Tell them what to do. If you have effectively convinced them of the need/problem, you will get them to act, which is your overall goal.
A claim-to-proof pattern provides the audience with reasons to accept your speech proposition (Mudd & Sillars, 1962). State your claim (your thesis) and then prove your point with reasons (main points). The proposition is presented at the beginning of the speech, and in the preview, tells the audience how many reasons will be provided for the claim. Do not reveal too much information until you get to that point in your speech. We all hear stories on the news about someone killed by a handgun, but it is not every day that it affects us directly, or that we know someone who is affected by it. One student told a story of a cousin who was killed in a drive-by shooting, and he was not even a member of a gang.
Here is how the setup for this speech would look:
Thesis and Policy Claim: Handgun ownership in America continues to be a controversial subject, and I believe that private ownership of handguns should have limitations.
Preview: I will provide three reasons why handgun ownership should be limited.
When presenting the reasons for accepting the claim, it is important to consider the use of primacy-recency . If the audience is against your claim, put your most important argument first. For this example, the audience believes in no background checks for gun ownership. As a result, this is how the main points may be written to try and capture the audience who disagrees with your position. We want to get their attention quickly and hold it throughout the speech. You will also need to support these main points. Here is an example:
- The first reason background checks should be mandatory is that when firearms are too easily accessed by criminals, more gun violence occurs.
- A second reason why background checks should be mandatory is that they would lower firearm trafficking.
Moving forward, the speaker would select one or two other reasons to bring into the speech and support them with evidence. The decision on how many main points to have will depend on how much time you have for this speech, and how much research you can find on the topic. If this is a pattern your instructor allows, speak with them about sample outlines. This pattern can be used for fact, value, or policy speeches.
Methods of Persuasion
The three methods of persuasion were first identified by Aristotle, a Greek philosopher in the time of Ancient Greece. In his teachings and book, Rhetoric, he advised that a speaker could persuade their audience using three different methods: Ethos (persuasion through credibility), Pathos (persuasion through emotion), and Logos (persuasion through logic). In fact, he said these are the three methods of persuasion a speaker must rely on.
Figure 10.3: Aristotle 3
By definition, ethos is the influence of a speaker’s credibility, which includes character, competence, and charisma. Remember in earlier chapters when we learned about credibility? Well, it plays a role here, too. The more credible or believable you are, the stronger your ethos. If you can make an audience see you believe in what you say and have knowledge about what you say, they are more likely to believe you and, therefore, be more persuaded by you. If your arguments are made based on credibility and expertise, then you may be able to change someone’s mind or move them to action. Let’s look at some examples.
If you are considering joining the U.S. Air Force, do you think someone in a military uniform would be more persuasive than someone who was not in uniform? Do you think a firefighter in uniform could get you to make your house more fire-safe than someone who was not in uniform? Their uniform contributes to their ethos. Remember, credibility comes from audience perceptions – how they perceive you as the speaker. You may automatically know they understand fire safety without even opening their mouths to speak. If their arguments are as strong as the uniform, you may have already started putting your fire emergency kit together! Ultimately, we tend to believe in people in powerful positions. We often obey authority figures because that’s what we have been taught to do. In this case, it works to help us persuade an audience.
Advertising campaigns also use ethos well. Think about how many celebrities sell you products. Whose faces do you regularly see? Taylor Swift, Kerry Washington, Kylie Jenner, Jennifer Aniston? Do they pick better cosmetics than the average woman, or are they using their celebrity influence to persuade you to buy? If you walk into a store to purchase makeup and remember which ones are Kylie Jenner’s favorite makeup, are you more likely to purchase it? Pop culture has power, which is why you see so many celebrities selling products on social media. Now, Kylie may not want to join you in class for your speech (sorry!), so you will have to be creative with ethos and incorporate experts through your research and evidence. For example, you need to cite sources if you want people to get a flu shot, using a doctor’s opinion or a nurse’s opinion is critical to get people to make an appointment to get the shot. You might notice that even your doctor shares data from research when discussing your healthcare. Similarly, y ou have to be credible. You need to become an authority on your topic, show them the evidence, and persuade them using your character and charisma.
Finally, ethos also relates to ethics. The audience needs to trust you and your speech needs to be truthful. Most importantly, this means ethical persuasion occurs through ethical methods – you should not trick your audience into agreeing with you. It also means your own personal involvement is important and the topic should be something you are either personally connected to or passionate about. For example, if you ask the audience to adopt a puppy from a rescue, will your ethos be strong if you bought your puppy from a pet store or breeder? How about asking your audience to donate to a charity; have you supported them yourself? Will the audience want to donate if you haven’t ever donated? How will you prove your support? Think about your own role in the speech while you are also thinking about the evidence you provide.
The second appeal you should include in your speech is pathos , an emotional appeal . By definition, pathos appeals evoke strong feelings or emotions like anger, joy, desire, and love. The goal of pathos is to get people to feel something and, therefore, be moved to change their minds or to act. You want your arguments to arouse empathy, sympathy, and/or compassion. So, for persuasive speeches, you can use emotional visual aids or thoughtful stories to get the audience’s attention and hook them in. If you want someone to donate to a local women’s shelter organization to help the women further their education at the local community college, you might share a real story of a woman you met who stayed at the local shelter before earning her degree with the help of the organization. We see a lot of advertisement campaigns rely on this. They show injured military veterans to get you to donate to the Wounded Warriors Project , or they show you injured animals to get you to donate to animal shelters. Are you thinking about how your own topic is emotional yet? We hope so!
In addition, we all know that emotions are complex. So, you can’t just tell a sad story or yell out a bad word to shock them and think they will be persuaded. You must ensure the emotions you engage relate directly to the speech and the audience. Be aware that negative emotions can backfire, so make sure you understand the audience, so you will know what will work best. Don’t just yell at people that they need to brush their teeth for two minutes or show a picture of gross teeth; make them see the benefits of brushing for two minutes by showing beautiful teeth too.
Emotional appeals also need to be ethical and incorporated responsibly. Consider a persuasive speech on distracted driving. If your audience is high school or college students, they may be mature enough to see an emotional video or photo depicting the devastating consequences of distracted driving. If you’re teaching an elementary school class about car safety (e.g., keeping your seatbelt on, not throwing toys, etc.), it would be highly inappropriate to scare them into compliance by showing a devastating video of a car accident. As an ethical public speaker, it is your job to use emotional appeals responsibly.
One way to do this is to connect to the theory by Abraham Maslow, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which states that our actions are motivated by basic (physiological and safety), psychological (belongingness, love, and esteem), and self-fulfillment needs (self-actualization). To persuade, we have to connect what we say to the audience’s real lives. Here is a visual of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid:
Figure 10.4: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs 4
Notice the pyramid is largest at the base because our basic needs are the first that must be met. Ever been so hungry you can’t think of anything except when and what you will eat? (Hangry anyone?) Well, you can’t easily persuade people if they are only thinking about food. It doesn’t mean you need to bring snacks to your speech class on the day of your speech (albeit, this might be relevant to a food demonstration speech). Can you think about other ways pathos connects to this pyramid? How about safety and security needs, the second level on the hierarchy? Maybe your speech is about persuading people to purchase more car insurance. You might argue they need more insurance so they can feel safer on the road. Or maybe your family should put in a camera doorbell to make sure the home is safe. Are you seeing how we can use arguments that connect to emotions and needs simultaneously?
The third level in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, love and belongingness, is about the need to feel connected to others. This need level is related to the groups of people we spend time with like friends and family. This also relates to the feeling of being “left out” or isolated from others. If we can use arguments that connect us to other humans, emotionally or physically, we will appeal to more of the audience. If your topic is about becoming more involved in the church or temple, you might highlight the social groups one may join if they connect to the church or temple. If your topic is on trying to persuade people to do a walk for charity, you might showcase how doing the event with your friends and family becomes a way of raising money for the charity and carving out time with, or supporting, the people you love. For this need, your pathos will be focused on connection. You want your audience to feel like they belong in order for them to be persuaded. People are more likely to follow through on their commitments if their friends and family do it. We know that if our friends go to the party, we are more likely to go, so we don’t have FOMO (fear of missing out). The same is true for donating money; if your friends have donated to a charity, you might want to be “in” the group, so you would donate also.
Finally, we will end this pathos section with an example that connects Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to pathos. Maybe your speech is to convince people to remove the Instagram app from their phones, so they are less distracted from their life. You could argue staying away from social media means you won’t be threatened online (safety), you will spend more real-time with your friends (belongingness), and you will devote more time to writing your speech outlines (esteem and achievement). Therefore, you can use Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a roadmap for finding key needs that relate to your proposition which helps you incorporate emotional appeals.
The third and final appeal Aristotle described is logos , which, by definition, is the use of logical and organized arguments that stem from credible evidence supporting your proposition. When the arguments in your speech are based on logic, you are utilizing logos. You need experts in your corner to persuade; you need to provide true, raw evidence for someone to be convinced. You can’t just tell them something is good or bad for them, you have to show it through logic. You might like to buy that product, but how much does it cost? When you provide the dollar amount, you provide some logos for someone to decide if they can and want to purchase that product. How much should I donate to that charity? Provide a dollar amount reasonable for the given audience, and you will more likely persuade them. If you asked a room full of students to donate $500.00 to a charity, it isn’t logical. If you asked them to donate $10.00 instead of buying lattes for two days, you might actually persuade them.
So, it is obvious that sources are a part of logos, but so is your own honest involvement with the topics. If you want people to vote, you need to prove voting matters and make logical appeals to vote. We all know many people say, “my vote doesn’t count.” Your speech needs to logically prove that all votes count, and you need to showcase that you always vote in the local and national elections. In this example, we bring together your ethos and your pathos to sell us on the logos. All three appeals together help you make your case. Audiences are not only persuaded by experts, or by emotions, they want it all to make sense! Don’t make up a story to “make it fit”. Instead, find a real story that is truthful, emotional, and one your audience can relate to make your speech logical from beginning to end and, therefore, persuasive.
Reasoning and Fallacies in Your Speech
In this chapter, we have provided you with several important concepts in the persuasive speech process, including patterns of organization and methods of persuasion. Now, we want to make sure your speech content is clear and includes strong and appropriate arguments. You have done extensive research to support the claims you will make in your speech, but we want to help you ensure that your arguments aren’t flawed. Thus, we will now look at different forms of reasoning and fallacies (or errors) to avoid in your logic.
Thus far, you have read how Aristotle’s proofs can and should be used in a persuasive speech. But, you might wonder how that influences the approach you take in writing your speech outline. You already know your research needs to be credible, and one way to do this is through research. Let’s now put this all together by explaining how reasoning is used in a speech, as well as the fallacies, or errors in reasoning, that often occur when speechwriting.
You may have seen graduation requirements include the category of critical thinking, which is the ability to think about what information you are given and make sense of it to draw conclusions. Today, colleges, universities, and employers are seeking individuals who have these critical thinking skills. Critical thinking can include abilities like problem-solving or decision-making. How did you decide on which college to start your higher educational journey? Was it a decision based on finances, being close to home, or work? This decision involved critical thinking. Even if you had an emotional investment in this decision (pathos), you still needed to use logic, or logos, in your thought process. Reasoning is the process of constructing arguments in a logical way. The use of evidence, also known as data , is what we use to prove our claims. We have two basic and important approaches for how we come to believe something is true. These are known as induction and deduction. Let us explain.
You have probably used inductive reasoning in your life without even knowing it! Inductive reasoning is a type of reasoning in which examples or specific instances are used to provide strong evidence for (though not absolute proof of) the truth of the conclusion (Garcia, 2022). In other words, you are led to a conclusion through your “proof”. With inductive reasoning, we are exposed to several different examples of a situation, and from those examples, we conclude a general truth because there is no theory to test. Think of it this way: you first make an observation, then, observe a pattern, and finally, develop a theory or general conclusion.
For instance, you visit your local grocery store daily to pick up necessary items. You notice that on Sunday, two weeks ago, all the clerks in the store were wearing football jerseys. Again, last Sunday, the clerks wore their football jerseys. Today, also a Sunday, they’re wearing them again. From just these three observations, you may conclude that on Sundays, these supermarket employees wear football jerseys to support their favorite teams. Can you conclude that this pattern holds indefinitely? Perhaps not; the phenomenon may only take place during football season. Hypotheses typically need much testing before confirmation. However, it seems likely that if you return next Sunday wearing a football jersey, you will fit right in.
In another example, imagine you ate an avocado, and soon afterward, the inside of your mouth swelled. Now imagine a few weeks later you ate another avocado and again the inside of your mouth swelled. The following month, you ate yet another avocado, and you had the same reaction as the last two times. You are aware that swelling on the inside of your mouth can be a sign of an allergy to avocados. Using induction, you conclude, more likely than not, you are allergic to avocados.
Data (evidence): After I ate an avocado, the inside of my mouth was swollen (1st time).
Data (evidence): After I ate an avocado, the inside of my mouth was swollen (2nd time).
Data (evidence): I ate an avocado, and the inside of my mouth was swollen (3rd time).
Additional Information: Swollen lips can be a sign of a food allergy.
Conclusion: Likely, I am allergic to avocados.
Inductive reasoning can never lead to absolute certainty. Instead, induction allows you to say, given the examples provided for support, the conclusion is most likely true. Because of the limitations of inductive reasoning, a conclusion will be more credible if multiple lines of reasoning are presented in its support. This is how inductive reasoning works. Now, let’s examine four common methods of inductive reasoning to help you think critically about your persuasive speech.
An analogy allows you to draw conclusions about an object or phenomenon based on similarities to something else (Garcia, 2022). Sometimes the easiest way to understand reasoning is to start with a simple analogy. An avid DIY enthusiast may love to paint -walls, furniture, and objects. To paint well, you need to think about what materials you will need, a knowledge of the specific steps to paint, and the knowledge of how to use an approach to painting so that your paint doesn’t run and your project comes out perfectly! Let’s examine how this example works as an analogy.
Analogies can be figurative or literal. A figurative analogy compares two things that share a common feature, but are still different in many ways. For example, we could say that painting is like baking; they both involve making sure that you have the correct supplies and follow a specific procedure. There are similarities in these features, but there are profound differences. However, a literal analogy is where the two things under comparison have sufficient or significant similarities to be compared fairly (Garcia, 2022). A literal analogy might compare different modalities at the school where your authors teach. If we claim that you should choose Florida SouthWestern State College’s face-to-face courses rather than enrolling in online courses , we could make literal comparisons of the courses offered, available student services, or the classroom atmosphere, for instance.
If we use the more literal analogy of where you choose to go to college, we are using an analogy of two similar “things,” and hopefully, this makes your analogy carry more weight. What this form of reasoning does is lead your audience to a conclusion. When we address fallacies later in this chapter, you will see that comparing two things that are not similar enough could lead you might make an error, or what we call a false analogy fallacy.
Another effective form of reasoning is through the use of generalizations. Generalization is a form of inductive reasoning that draws conclusions based on recurring patterns or repeated observations (Garcia, 2022), observing multiple examples and looking for commonalities in those examples to make a broad statement about them. For example, if I tried four different types of keto bread (the new craze), and found that each of them tasted like Styrofoam , I could generalize and say all keto bread is NOT tasty! Or, if in your college experience, you had two professors that you perceived as “bad professors,” you might take a big leap and say that all professors at your campus are “bad.” As you will see later in the discussion on fallacies, this type of reasoning can get us into trouble if we draw a conclusion without sufficient evidence, also known as a hasty generalization. Have you ever drawn a conclusion about a person or group of people after only one or two experiences with them? Have you ever decided you disliked a pizza place because you didn’t like the pizza the first time you tried it? Sometimes, we even do this in our real lives.
Causal reasoning is a form of inductive reasoning that seeks to make cause-effect connections (Garcia, 2022). We don’t typically give this a lot of thought. In the city where one of your authors lives, there are periodic street closures with cones up or signs to redirect drivers. The past several times this has happened, it has been because there was a community 5K run. It is easy to understand why each time I see cones I assume there is a 5K event. However, there could be a completely different cause that I didn’t even think about. The cones could be there due to a major accident or road work.
Reasoning from Sign
Reasoning from sign is a form of inductive reasoning in which conclusions are drawn about phenomena based on events that precede or co-exist with (but do not cause) a subsequent event (Garcia, 2022). In Southern California, a part of the country with some of the worst droughts, one may successfully predict when summer is coming. The lawn begins to die, and the beautiful gardens go limp. All of this occurs before the temperature reaches 113 degrees and before the calendar changes from spring to summer. Based on this observation, there are signs that summer has arrived.
Like many forms of reasoning, it is easy to confuse “reasoning from sign” with “causal reasoning.” Remember, that for this form of reasoning, we looked at an event that preceded another, or co-existed, not an event that occurred later. IF the weather turned to 113 degrees, and then the grass and flowers began to die, then it could be causal.
The second type of reasoning is known as deductive reasoning , or deduction, which is a conclusion based on the combination of multiple premises that are generally assumed to be true (Garcia, 2022). Whereas with inductive reasoning, we were led to a conclusion, deductive reasoning starts with the overall statement and then identifies examples that support it to reach the conclusion.
Deductive reasoning is built on two statements whose logical relationship should lead to a third statement that is an unquestionably correct conclusion, as in the following example:
Grocery store employees wear football jerseys on Sundays.
Today is Sunday.
Grocery store employees will be wearing football jerseys today.
Suppose the first statement is true (Grocery store employees wear football jerseys on Sundays) and the second statement is true (Today is Sunday). In that case, the conclusion (Grocery store employees will be wearing football jerseys today) is reasonably expected. If a group must have a certain quality, and an individual is a member of that group, then the individual must have that quality.
Unlike inductive reasoning, deductive reasoning allows for certainty as long as certain rules are followed.
Fallacies in Reasoning
As you might recall from our discussion, we alluded to several fallacies. Fallacies are errors in reasoning logic or making a mistake when constructing an inductive or deductive argument. There are dozens of fallacies we could discuss here, but we will highlight those we find to be the most common. Our goal is to help you think through the process of writing your persuasive speech so that it is based on sound reasoning with no fallacies in your arguments.
Table 10.1 describes fifteen fallacies that can be avoided once you understand how to identify them.
Table 10.1: Fallacies
In this chapter, you can feel confident that you have learned what you need to know to complete an effective persuasive speech. We have defined persuasion, explained speech propositions and patterns, and offered strategies to persuade, including ways to use logic. We also helped you learn more about inductive and deductive reasoning, and all of the various ways these methods help you construct your speeches. Finally, we provided you with the most common fallacies that could trip you up if you aren’t careful. The goal is to be clear, logical, and persuasive! Motivate your audience. Hey, have you been persuaded to start your speech outline yet? We hope so!
- What is the difference between propositions of fact, value, and policy?
- How will you determine which pattern of organization to use for your persuasive speech?
- How might you use ethos, pathos, and logos effectively in your speech? How can you write these three proofs into your content?
- What form(s) of reasoning will you use in your speech? How can you ensure you are not using any fallacies?
Appeal to Novelty
Appeal to Tradition
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Monroe’s Motivated Sequence
Question of Fact
Question of Policy
Question of Value
Two Wrongs Make a Right
Garcia, A. R. (2022). Inductive and Deductive Reasoning. Retrieved May 5, 2022, from https://englishcomposition.org/advanced-writing/inductive-and-deductive-reasoning/.
Monroe, A. H. (1949). Principles and types of speech . Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman and Company.
Mudd, C. S. & Sillars, M.O. (1962), Speech; content and communication. San Francisco, CA: Chandler Publishing Company.
Introduction to Public Speaking Copyright © by Jamie C. Votraw, M.A.; Katharine O'Connor, Ph.D.; and William F. Kelvin, Ph.D.. All Rights Reserved.
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There are three types of Persuasive speeches. Persuasive speeches...
There are three types of Persuasive speeches. Persuasive speeches of Fact, Value, and Policy. Your persuasive speech must include a clear proposition. Without a proposition, you do not have a clear argument.
PART 1- DEFINING AND DEVELOPING A PERSUASIVE QUESTION:
In order for there to be a question there must be an issue for persuasion, there must be a question that can be answered more than one way (i.e. there must be at least two sides to the issues and you select the side of the issue you will advocate and develop your argument). The first type of persuasive proposition is Question of Fact; the second type of persuasive proposition is Question of Value, and the third type of persuasive proposition is Question of Policy:
1. Question of Fact Persuasive question s deal with issues where the facts are inconclusive or where the future is predicted based upon present trends. The speaker advocates the side of issue with facts and draws a conclusion to the known facts.
2. Question of Value Persuasive questions demand value judgments based upon a person's belief about what is right or wrong, better or best, good or bad, moral or immoral, fair or unfair. Question of value speeches are supported with facts and not opinion only. The speaker advocates a position by presenting standards for the value judgment and then applying those standards in the speech.
3. Question of Policy deals with whether something should or should not be done. The speaker seeks passive agreement or a need for change (or no change), or seek to motivate the audience for immediate action, by telling the audience this what needs to be done right away. The Question of Policy always include the word should ! Complete the following Discussion Prompt 1 :
PART 1. DEVELOP A PROPOSITION OF FACT, VALUE, OR POLICY FOR YOUR PERSUASIVE TOPIC
Discussion Prompt 1:
Using the topic selected for your persuasive speech, develop a Proposition of Fact, Value, and Policy for your topic. (Read chapter 14 to see the example of each one). Remember, you will develop a Persuasive question based on which proposition you advocate and then support with research in the speech. ( Example: Proposition of Value: Low carbohydrate diets are the best way to diet in order to lose weight).
Answer & Explanation
Proposed Topic: Should plastic straws be banned in restaurants and bars?
Proposition of Fact: Plastic straws are harmful to the environment and contribute to the pollution of our oceans and waterways. There is extensive research that shows the negative impact that plastic straws have on marine life and ecosystems.
Proposition of Value: It is morally and ethically wrong to continue using plastic straws when there are eco-friendly alternatives available. As individuals, we have a responsibility to protect the environment and reduce our carbon footprint.
Proposition of Policy: Restaurants and bars should ban the use of plastic straws and switch to eco-friendly alternatives such as paper straws or reusable straws. This change will not only reduce plastic waste but also set an example for other businesses and individuals to follow. It is time to take action and make a positive impact on our planet.
Approach: In developing a persuasive speech, it is important to start by selecting a topic that is both interesting and relevant to the audience. Once a topic is chosen, the next step is to develop a clear and concise proposition statement. The proposition statement should clearly state the speaker's position and provide a focus for the argument.
In this case, the topic selected is whether plastic straws should be banned in restaurants and bars. To develop a persuasive proposition statement, we need to consider each type of proposition - fact, value, and policy.
Proposition of Fact: The proposition of fact deals with issues where the facts are inconclusive or where the future is predicted based upon present trends. In the case of plastic straws, the proposition of fact would be to advocate the side of the issue with facts and draw a conclusion based on the known facts. In this case, the fact is that plastic straws are harmful to the environment and contribute to the pollution of our oceans and waterways. There is extensive research that shows the negative impact that plastic straws have on marine life and ecosystems. For example, a study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that plastic straws are one of the top 10 items found in ocean debris. This proposition statement could be: Plastic straws are harmful to the environment and contribute to pollution of our oceans and waterways.
Proposition of Value: The proposition of value demands value judgments based upon a person's belief about what is right or wrong, better or best, good or bad, moral or immoral, fair or unfair. In the case of plastic straws, the proposition of value would be to make a moral judgment about whether it is right or wrong to continue using plastic straws when there are eco-friendly alternatives available. As individuals, we have a responsibility to protect the environment and reduce our carbon footprint. For example, a survey by Ipsos MORI found that 78% of people in the UK believe that it is important to reduce plastic waste in the ocean. This proposition statement could be: It is morally and ethically wrong to continue using plastic straws when there are eco-friendly alternatives available.
Proposition of Policy: The proposition of policy deals with whether something should or should not be done. In the case of plastic straws, the proposition of policy would be to advocate for a specific action to be taken, such as banning plastic straws in restaurants and bars and switching to eco-friendly alternatives. This change will not only reduce plastic waste but also set an example for other businesses and individuals to follow. For example, Seattle became the first city in the US to ban plastic straws and utensils in restaurants in 2018. This proposition statement could be: Restaurants and bars should ban the use of plastic straws and switch to eco-friendly alternatives such as paper straws or reusable straws.
Key References: 1. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (n.d.). Top 10 items found in ocean debris. Retrieved from https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/debris.html 2. Ipsos MORI. (2019). Plastic pollution in the ocean. Retrieved from https://www.ipsos.com/ipsos-mori/en-uk/plastic-pollution-ocean 3. CNN. (2018). Seattle becomes the first US city to ban plastic straws. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/02/us/seattle-plastic-straw-ban-trnd/index.html
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11.2 Persuasive Speaking
- Explain how claims, evidence, and warrants function to create an argument.
- Identify strategies for choosing a persuasive speech topic.
- Identify strategies for adapting a persuasive speech based on an audience’s orientation to the proposition.
- Distinguish among propositions of fact, value, and policy.
- Choose an organizational pattern that is fitting for a persuasive speech topic.
We produce and receive persuasive messages daily, but we don’t often stop to think about how we make the arguments we do or the quality of the arguments that we receive. In this section, we’ll learn the components of an argument, how to choose a good persuasive speech topic, and how to adapt and organize a persuasive message.
Foundation of Persuasion
Persuasive speaking seeks to influence the beliefs, attitudes, values, or behaviors of audience members. In order to persuade, a speaker has to construct arguments that appeal to audience members. Arguments form around three components: claim, evidence, and warrant. The claim is the statement that will be supported by evidence. Your thesis statement is the overarching claim for your speech, but you will make other claims within the speech to support the larger thesis. Evidence , also called grounds, supports the claim. The main points of your persuasive speech and the supporting material you include serve as evidence. For example, a speaker may make the following claim: “There should be a national law against texting while driving.” The speaker could then support the claim by providing the following evidence: “Research from the US Department of Transportation has found that texting while driving creates a crash risk that is twenty-three times worse than driving while not distracted.” The warrant is the underlying justification that connects the claim and the evidence. One warrant for the claim and evidence cited in this example is that the US Department of Transportation is an institution that funds research conducted by credible experts. An additional and more implicit warrant is that people shouldn’t do things they know are unsafe.
Figure 11.2 Components of an Argument
The quality of your evidence often impacts the strength of your warrant, and some warrants are stronger than others. A speaker could also provide evidence to support their claim advocating for a national ban on texting and driving by saying, “I have personally seen people almost wreck while trying to text.” While this type of evidence can also be persuasive, it provides a different type and strength of warrant since it is based on personal experience. In general, the anecdotal evidence from personal experience would be given a weaker warrant than the evidence from the national research report. The same process works in our legal system when a judge evaluates the connection between a claim and evidence. If someone steals my car, I could say to the police, “I’m pretty sure Mario did it because when I said hi to him on campus the other day, he didn’t say hi back, which proves he’s mad at me.” A judge faced with that evidence is unlikely to issue a warrant for Mario’s arrest. Fingerprint evidence from the steering wheel that has been matched with a suspect is much more likely to warrant arrest.
As you put together a persuasive argument, you act as the judge. You can evaluate arguments that you come across in your research by analyzing the connection (the warrant) between the claim and the evidence. If the warrant is strong, you may want to highlight that argument in your speech. You may also be able to point out a weak warrant in an argument that goes against your position, which you could then include in your speech. Every argument starts by putting together a claim and evidence, but arguments grow to include many interrelated units.
Choosing a Persuasive Speech Topic
As with any speech, topic selection is important and is influenced by many factors. Good persuasive speech topics are current, controversial, and have important implications for society. If your topic is currently being discussed on television, in newspapers, in the lounges in your dorm, or around your family’s dinner table, then it’s a current topic. A persuasive speech aimed at getting audience members to wear seat belts in cars wouldn’t have much current relevance, given that statistics consistently show that most people wear seat belts. Giving the same speech would have been much more timely in the 1970s when there was a huge movement to increase seat-belt use.
Many topics that are current are also controversial, which is what gets them attention by the media and citizens. Current and controversial topics will be more engaging for your audience. A persuasive speech to encourage audience members to donate blood or recycle wouldn’t be very controversial, since the benefits of both practices are widely agreed on. However, arguing that the restrictions on blood donation by men who have had sexual relations with men be lifted would be controversial. I must caution here that controversial is not the same as inflammatory. An inflammatory topic is one that evokes strong reactions from an audience for the sake of provoking a reaction. Being provocative for no good reason or choosing a topic that is extremist will damage your credibility and prevent you from achieving your speech goals.
You should also choose a topic that is important to you and to society as a whole. As we have already discussed in this book, our voices are powerful, as it is through communication that we participate and make change in society. Therefore we should take seriously opportunities to use our voices to speak publicly. Choosing a speech topic that has implications for society is probably a better application of your public speaking skills than choosing to persuade the audience that Lebron James is the best basketball player in the world or that Superman is a better hero than Spiderman. Although those topics may be very important to you, they don’t carry the same social weight as many other topics you could choose to discuss. Remember that speakers have ethical obligations to the audience and should take the opportunity to speak seriously.
You will also want to choose a topic that connects to your own interests and passions. If you are an education major, it might make more sense to do a persuasive speech about funding for public education than the death penalty. If there are hot-button issues for you that make you get fired up and veins bulge out in your neck, then it may be a good idea to avoid those when speaking in an academic or professional context.
Choose a persuasive speech topic that you’re passionate about but still able to approach and deliver in an ethical manner.
Michael Vadon – Nigel Farage – CC BY-SA 2.0.
Choosing such topics may interfere with your ability to deliver a speech in a competent and ethical manner. You want to care about your topic, but you also want to be able to approach it in a way that’s going to make people want to listen to you. Most people tune out speakers they perceive to be too ideologically entrenched and write them off as extremists or zealots.
You also want to ensure that your topic is actually persuasive. Draft your thesis statement as an “I believe” statement so your stance on an issue is clear. Also, think of your main points as reasons to support your thesis. Students end up with speeches that aren’t very persuasive in nature if they don’t think of their main points as reasons. Identifying arguments that counter your thesis is also a good exercise to help ensure your topic is persuasive. If you can clearly and easily identify a competing thesis statement and supporting reasons, then your topic and approach are arguable.
Review of Tips for Choosing a Persuasive Speech Topic
- Not current. People should use seat belts.
- Current. People should not text while driving.
- Not controversial. People should recycle.
- Controversial. Recycling should be mandatory by law.
- Not as impactful. Superman is the best superhero.
- Impactful. Colleges and universities should adopt zero-tolerance bullying policies.
- Unclear thesis. Homeschooling is common in the United States.
- Clear, argumentative thesis with stance. Homeschooling does not provide the same benefits of traditional education and should be strictly monitored and limited.
Adapting Persuasive Messages
Competent speakers should consider their audience throughout the speech-making process. Given that persuasive messages seek to directly influence the audience in some way, audience adaptation becomes even more important. If possible, poll your audience to find out their orientation toward your thesis. I read my students’ thesis statements aloud and have the class indicate whether they agree with, disagree with, or are neutral in regards to the proposition. It is unlikely that you will have a homogenous audience, meaning that there will probably be some who agree, some who disagree, and some who are neutral. So you may employ all of the following strategies, in varying degrees, in your persuasive speech.
When you have audience members who already agree with your proposition, you should focus on intensifying their agreement. You can also assume that they have foundational background knowledge of the topic, which means you can take the time to inform them about lesser-known aspects of a topic or cause to further reinforce their agreement. Rather than move these audience members from disagreement to agreement, you can focus on moving them from agreement to action. Remember, calls to action should be as specific as possible to help you capitalize on audience members’ motivation in the moment so they are more likely to follow through on the action.
There are two main reasons audience members may be neutral in regards to your topic: (1) they are uninformed about the topic or (2) they do not think the topic affects them. In this case, you should focus on instilling a concern for the topic. Uninformed audiences may need background information before they can decide if they agree or disagree with your proposition. If the issue is familiar but audience members are neutral because they don’t see how the topic affects them, focus on getting the audience’s attention and demonstrating relevance. Remember that concrete and proxemic supporting materials will help an audience find relevance in a topic. Students who pick narrow or unfamiliar topics will have to work harder to persuade their audience, but neutral audiences often provide the most chance of achieving your speech goal since even a small change may move them into agreement.
When audience members disagree with your proposition, you should focus on changing their minds. To effectively persuade, you must be seen as a credible speaker. When an audience is hostile to your proposition, establishing credibility is even more important, as audience members may be quick to discount or discredit someone who doesn’t appear prepared or doesn’t present well-researched and supported information. Don’t give an audience a chance to write you off before you even get to share your best evidence. When facing a disagreeable audience, the goal should also be small change. You may not be able to switch someone’s position completely, but influencing him or her is still a success. Aside from establishing your credibility, you should also establish common ground with an audience.
Build common ground with disagreeable audiences and acknowledge areas of disagreement.
Chris-Havard Berge – Shaking Hands – CC BY-NC 2.0.
Acknowledging areas of disagreement and logically refuting counterarguments in your speech is also a way to approach persuading an audience in disagreement, as it shows that you are open-minded enough to engage with other perspectives.
Determining Your Proposition
The proposition of your speech is the overall direction of the content and how that relates to the speech goal. A persuasive speech will fall primarily into one of three categories: propositions of fact, value, or policy. A speech may have elements of any of the three propositions, but you can usually determine the overall proposition of a speech from the specific purpose and thesis statements.
Propositions of fact focus on beliefs and try to establish that something “is or isn’t.” Propositions of value focus on persuading audience members that something is “good or bad,” “right or wrong,” or “desirable or undesirable.” Propositions of policy advocate that something “should or shouldn’t” be done. Since most persuasive speech topics can be approached as propositions of fact, value, or policy, it is a good idea to start thinking about what kind of proposition you want to make, as it will influence how you go about your research and writing. As you can see in the following example using the topic of global warming, the type of proposition changes the types of supporting materials you would need:
- Proposition of fact. Global warming is caused by increased greenhouse gases related to human activity.
- Proposition of value. America’s disproportionately large amount of pollution relative to other countries is wrong .
- Proposition of policy. There should be stricter emission restrictions on individual cars.
To support propositions of fact, you would want to present a logical argument based on objective facts that can then be used to build persuasive arguments. Propositions of value may require you to appeal more to your audience’s emotions and cite expert and lay testimony. Persuasive speeches about policy usually require you to research existing and previous laws or procedures and determine if any relevant legislation or propositions are currently being considered.
Persuasion and Masculinity
The traditional view of rhetoric that started in ancient Greece and still informs much of our views on persuasion today has been critiqued for containing Western and masculine biases. Traditional persuasion has been linked to Western and masculine values of domination, competition, and change, which have been critiqued as coercive and violent (Gearhart, 1979).
Communication scholars proposed an alternative to traditional persuasive rhetoric in the form of invitational rhetoric. Invitational rhetoric differs from a traditional view of persuasive rhetoric that “attempts to win over an opponent, or to advocate the correctness of a single position in a very complex issue” (Bone et al., 2008). Instead, invitational rhetoric proposes a model of reaching consensus through dialogue. The goal is to create a climate in which growth and change can occur but isn’t required for one person to “win” an argument over another. Each person in a communication situation is acknowledged to have a standpoint that is valid but can still be influenced through the offering of alternative perspectives and the invitation to engage with and discuss these standpoints (Ryan & Natalle, 2001). Safety, value, and freedom are three important parts of invitational rhetoric. Safety involves a feeling of security in which audience members and speakers feel like their ideas and contributions will not be denigrated. Value refers to the notion that each person in a communication encounter is worthy of recognition and that people are willing to step outside their own perspectives to better understand others. Last, freedom is present in communication when communicators do not limit the thinking or decisions of others, allowing all participants to speak up (Bone et al., 2008).
Invitational rhetoric doesn’t claim that all persuasive rhetoric is violent. Instead, it acknowledges that some persuasion is violent and that the connection between persuasion and violence is worth exploring. Invitational rhetoric has the potential to contribute to the civility of communication in our society. When we are civil, we are capable of engaging with and appreciating different perspectives while still understanding our own. People aren’t attacked or reviled because their views diverge from ours. Rather than reducing the world to “us against them, black or white, and right or wrong,” invitational rhetoric encourages us to acknowledge human perspectives in all their complexity (Bone et al., 2008).
- What is your reaction to the claim that persuasion includes Western and masculine biases?
- What are some strengths and weaknesses of the proposed alternatives to traditional persuasion?
- In what situations might an invitational approach to persuasion be useful? In what situations might you want to rely on traditional models of persuasion?
Organizing a Persuasive Speech
We have already discussed several patterns for organizing your speech, but some organization strategies are specific to persuasive speaking. Some persuasive speech topics lend themselves to a topical organization pattern, which breaks the larger topic up into logical divisions. Earlier, in Chapter 9 “Preparing a Speech” , we discussed recency and primacy, and in this chapter we discussed adapting a persuasive speech based on the audience’s orientation toward the proposition. These concepts can be connected when organizing a persuasive speech topically. Primacy means putting your strongest information first and is based on the idea that audience members put more weight on what they hear first. This strategy can be especially useful when addressing an audience that disagrees with your proposition, as you can try to win them over early. Recency means putting your strongest information last to leave a powerful impression. This can be useful when you are building to a climax in your speech, specifically if you include a call to action.
Putting your strongest argument last can help motivate an audience to action.
Celestine Chua – The Change – CC BY 2.0.
The problem-solution pattern is an organizational pattern that advocates for a particular approach to solve a problem. You would provide evidence to show that a problem exists and then propose a solution with additional evidence or reasoning to justify the course of action. One main point addressing the problem and one main point addressing the solution may be sufficient, but you are not limited to two. You could add a main point between the problem and solution that outlines other solutions that have failed. You can also combine the problem-solution pattern with the cause-effect pattern or expand the speech to fit with Monroe’s Motivated Sequence.
As was mentioned in Chapter 9 “Preparing a Speech” , the cause-effect pattern can be used for informative speaking when the relationship between the cause and effect is not contested. The pattern is more fitting for persuasive speeches when the relationship between the cause and effect is controversial or unclear. There are several ways to use causes and effects to structure a speech. You could have a two-point speech that argues from cause to effect or from effect to cause. You could also have more than one cause that lead to the same effect or a single cause that leads to multiple effects. The following are some examples of thesis statements that correspond to various organizational patterns. As you can see, the same general topic area, prison overcrowding, is used for each example. This illustrates the importance of considering your organizational options early in the speech-making process, since the pattern you choose will influence your researching and writing.
Persuasive Speech Thesis Statements by Organizational Pattern
- Problem-solution. Prison overcrowding is a serious problem that we can solve by finding alternative rehabilitation for nonviolent offenders.
- Problem–failed solution–proposed solution. Prison overcrowding is a serious problem that shouldn’t be solved by building more prisons; instead, we should support alternative rehabilitation for nonviolent offenders.
- Cause-effect. Prisons are overcrowded with nonviolent offenders, which leads to lesser sentences for violent criminals.
- Cause-cause-effect. State budgets are being slashed and prisons are overcrowded with nonviolent offenders, which leads to lesser sentences for violent criminals.
- Cause-effect-effect. Prisons are overcrowded with nonviolent offenders, which leads to increased behavioral problems among inmates and lesser sentences for violent criminals.
- Cause-effect-solution. Prisons are overcrowded with nonviolent offenders, which leads to lesser sentences for violent criminals; therefore we need to find alternative rehabilitation for nonviolent offenders.
Monroe’s Motivated Sequence is an organizational pattern designed for persuasive speaking that appeals to audience members’ needs and motivates them to action. If your persuasive speaking goals include a call to action, you may want to consider this organizational pattern. We already learned about the five steps of Monroe’s Motivated Sequence in Chapter 9 “Preparing a Speech” , but we will review them here with an example:
- Hook the audience by making the topic relevant to them.
- Imagine living a full life, retiring, and slipping into your golden years. As you get older you become more dependent on others and move into an assisted-living facility. Although you think life will be easier, things get worse as you experience abuse and mistreatment from the staff. You report the abuse to a nurse and wait, but nothing happens and the abuse continues. Elder abuse is a common occurrence, and unlike child abuse, there are no laws in our state that mandate complaints of elder abuse be reported or investigated.
- Cite evidence to support the fact that the issue needs to be addressed.
- According to the American Psychological Association, one to two million elderly US Americans have been abused by their caretakers. In our state, those in the medical, psychiatric, and social work field are required to report suspicion of child abuse but are not mandated to report suspicions of elder abuse.
- Offer a solution and persuade the audience that it is feasible and well thought out.
- There should be a federal law mandating that suspicion of elder abuse be reported and that all claims of elder abuse be investigated.
- Take the audience beyond your solution and help them visualize the positive results of implementing it or the negative consequences of not.
- Elderly people should not have to live in fear during their golden years. A mandatory reporting law for elderly abuse will help ensure that the voices of our elderly loved ones will be heard.
- Call your audience to action by giving them concrete steps to follow to engage in a particular action or to change a thought or behavior.
- I urge you to take action in two ways. First, raise awareness about this issue by talking to your own friends and family. Second, contact your representatives at the state and national level to let them know that elder abuse should be taken seriously and given the same level of importance as other forms of abuse. I brought cards with the contact information for our state and national representatives for this area. Please take one at the end of my speech. A short e-mail or phone call can help end the silence surrounding elder abuse.
- Arguments are formed by making claims that are supported by evidence. The underlying justification that connects the claim and evidence is the warrant. Arguments can have strong or weak warrants, which will make them more or less persuasive.
- Good persuasive speech topics are current, controversial (but not inflammatory), and important to the speaker and society.
- When audience members agree with the proposal, focus on intensifying their agreement and moving them to action.
- When audience members are neutral in regards to the proposition, provide background information to better inform them about the issue and present information that demonstrates the relevance of the topic to the audience.
- When audience members disagree with the proposal, focus on establishing your credibility, build common ground with the audience, and incorporate counterarguments and refute them.
- Propositions of fact focus on establishing that something “is or isn’t” or is “true or false.”
- Propositions of value focus on persuading an audience that something is “good or bad,” “right or wrong,” or “desirable or undesirable.”
- Propositions of policy advocate that something “should or shouldn’t” be done.
- Persuasive speeches can be organized using the following patterns: problem-solution, cause-effect, cause-effect-solution, or Monroe’s Motivated Sequence.
- Getting integrated: Give an example of persuasive messages that you might need to create in each of the following contexts: academic, professional, personal, and civic. Then do the same thing for persuasive messages you may receive.
- To help ensure that your persuasive speech topic is persuasive and not informative, identify the claims, evidence, and warrants you may use in your argument. In addition, write a thesis statement that refutes your topic idea and identify evidence and warrants that could support that counterargument.
- Determine if your speech is primarily a proposition of fact, value, or policy. How can you tell? Identify an organizational pattern that you think will work well for your speech topic, draft one sentence for each of your main points, and arrange them according to the pattern you chose.
Bone, J. E., Cindy L. Griffin, and T. M. Linda Scholz, “Beyond Traditional Conceptualizations of Rhetoric: Invitational Rhetoric and a Move toward Civility,” Western Journal of Communication 72 (2008): 436.
Gearhart, S. M., “The Womanization of Rhetoric,” Women’s Studies International Quarterly 2 (1979): 195–201.
Ryan, K. J., and Elizabeth J. Natalle, “Fusing Horizons: Standpoint Hermenutics and Invitational Rhetoric,” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 31 (2001): 69–90.
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