How to Develop Persuasive Speech Topics

Four Parts:Considering Potential Persuasive Speech TopicsDeveloping Your Chosen TopicTailoring Your Speech to Your AudienceSupporting Your Position

A great persuasive speech requires both emotional appeal and well-reasoned arguments. Set out to persuade your audience that the topic is worth their attention and convince them that a change of their perspective or behavior may be warranted. Accordingly, choose the topic of a persuasive speech according to your own familiarity or involvement with an important issue. In particular, any first-hand experiences and strong personal feelings about a popular issue will help you develop and give an undeniably persuasive speech.[1]

Part 1
Considering Potential Persuasive Speech Topics

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    Brainstorm current issues. Your topic should be both newsworthy and engaging. You can even watch the evening news, and take notes about the issues that you find interesting. Do a bit of research about any news story that you have an immediate emotional reaction to, especially if it relates to a recurring issue that consistently generates public interest.[2]
    • If you set out to research a topic and are surprised by what you find, take note of anything that stands out. These are the points that are also the most likely to interest your readers.
    • Think about whether there are any current issues that people are talking about and that you’d like to know more about. Give yourself the excuse to do some research, develop an informed perspective, and share the view you develop with others in a timely persuasive speech.
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    Choose a topic that’s original and interesting. Your audience – especially your speech teacher – has likely heard all about gun control, abortion, the death penalty, and the merits of good ol’ ganja. If you do choose a common topic, be sure to take an original perspective on that reflects research into an angle not everyone will be familiar with.[3]
    • Don’t choose anything too one-dimensional to speak about, such as the importance of wearing your seat belt or the dangers of smoking cigarettes. Instead, look for an issue for which a reasonable perspective is yet to be strongly established.
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    Consult an online list of speech ideas. If you’re at a loss for ideas about a topic, there are countless lists online to prompt your inspiration. Lists are often organized according to a broad approach too, such as topics for speeches urging action or those about advocating a change of perspective on a specific issue.[4]
    • Re-read the assignment guidelines as well. They may even contain a list of potential topics. Go with one of these if you can frame your own perspective in a unique and compelling manner.
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    Choose a topic you actually care about. Not only should you choose something you feel strongly about, address a topic that not everyone feels similarly about to ensure you have people in your audience you can actually persuade. As you consider different topics, think about what your personal position on the topic is. This will help you identify and choose a topic that will allow you to develop a thesis and persuade your audience to recognize the validity of the position you advocate in your speech. Reflect on the following questions to help specify potential topics:[5]
    • What unusual experiences have you had that provide insights that other might learn from?
    • What additional knowledge have you acquired that most people are not familiar with, and how has this changed your mind about certain things?
    • Do you have any strongly held opinions or beliefs? If – and only if – you have good reasons to support these opinions, they may make for a great persuasive speech topic.

Part 2
Developing Your Chosen Topic

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    Develop a position that is concise and straightforward. Decide what you want to say. Reflecting this decision, be able to summarize your position in a single sentence. While there will undoubtedly be several important points that need to be made, the overarching position should be prominently and independently noted early in your speech.[6]
    • Though your position needs to be concise, it must also be complete.
    • The more specific, the better.
    • If you’re researching and find a lot of material making the exact same point, revise the specific argument you wish to make – it’s likely not original or specific enough to be persuasive.
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    Create a persuasive thesis statement. A persuasive speech not only emphasizes your opinion, and it also clearly states your goal. This goal will be to persuade your audience to either change their beliefs or adjust their behavior. At the most basic level, your position – and thus your thesis – should convey that something is either “good” or “bad”, or achieves or fails to achieve some other meaningful value. For instance, consider the following positions, conveyed in persuasively framed thesis statements:[7]
    • I will tell you how possessing a firearm increases the probability of your involvement in violence.
    • Today, I will show you why Bernie Sanders was the only legitimate political candidate in the 2016 presidential race.
    • In the following few minutes, I will describe the vital importance of your personal right to privacy.
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    Embrace persuasive language. You need to do more than inform your audience. Re-examine your position, and your thesis in particular, to ensure that you’re conveying the intention to do more than simply define something, analyze why certain people feel a certain way, or describe how to do something. The distinction between informative and persuasive is sometimes hard to ascertain.[8]A good question to ask yourself: does my thesis convey my opinion about the topic I’ve chosen?
    • For instance, here’s an example of an informative thesis that does not make an opinionated claim: “Today, I will explain why many lawmakers feel Supreme Court judges should be required to give a statement during each case they consider.”
    • A persuasive speech on the same topic would include the articulation of the speaker’s position. For instance, “Today, I will explain why Supreme Court judges need to be required to give a statement during each case they consider.”

Part 3
Tailoring Your Speech to Your Audience

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    Pitch your position directly to the people you need to convince. For instance, if you’re advocating that more money should be spent on something, structure the speech as an appeal for funding for an appropriate organization or project. If you’re making a recommendation about a course of action, address the people who have the power or capability to take that course of action.[9]
    • Even your thesis can address the most important audience members.
    • For instance, you might begin; “Today, I’ll explain why those of you who are concerned about drunk driving should vote in the upcoming election.”
    • This example both addresses a specific audience and begins to persuade them to act on a position.
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    Be prepared for the most likely counterpoints. Whatever the topic, there are likely multiple established perspectives on the matter.[10] If you are uncertain about what specific objections people may be thinking to themselves or offer during a question and answer session, reflect on what those objections may be. Even better, do some research into what someone arguing the other side of an issue might emphasize. Acknowledge these likely responses in the course of your speech.
    • Ask yourself: What do those in your audience – particularly those who won’t agree with you automatically – believe about the topic your addressing?
    • Say something like, "While many may contend that _______, recent research shows that ______.
    • Always be polite in the course of your speech, especially if you know some in your audience will disagree with your perspective. You're more likely to convince them to shift their perspective if you can avoid offending them.
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    Acknowledge audience concerns. Directly address the factors you know your audience will consider to be highly important. The more legitimate any concerns may be, the more important it is to address them. For instance, if you’re appealing to a greater expenditure of funds, first acknowledge that funds may be constrained by other factors. Then explain why your position ought be a priority.[11]
    • Similarly, if a situation directly affects certain members of your audience – perhaps even detrimentally – acknowledge this and articulate why your position is still valid.
    • For instance, if you're giving a speech about why we should bring our troops home, point out that some audience members undoubtedly care for soldiers currently serving overseas. Then point out that those soldiers are much less likely to be killed when they're not occupying a foreign country.
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    Make your position relatable. Appeal to your audience members’ hearts, not just their minds.[12] Not only will this help you settle into the persuasive voice, it will also endear your audience to you, regardless of their position on the topic. For instance, tell a short story about how you came to feel the way you do about the issue, and make sure to mention any blood, sweat, and tears that were shed along the way.
    • In short, know that a good story is often more compelling than the most damning statistics you can find.
    • Use descriptive adjectives that will appeal to the audience’s senses. Talk about the way a certain experience felt, or the smells you remembered, or even the sounds that were present during a specific experience.

Part 4
Supporting Your Position

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    Keep your words and sentences simple. Do not try to sound eloquent or philosophical. Furthermore, keep sentences short, as you do when you’re speaking. In fact, if you’re ever uncertain about a sentence you’ve written while developing your speech, ask yourself, “Is this something I would say in conversation?” If you answer is no, you likely need to tone down the sentence.[13]
    • Read lines that you’re unsure of aloud while writing your speech.
    • Similarly, imagine the words being said aloud by someone else as you write them.
    • For instance, change out words like "authoritative" for a simpler word with a more clear meaning, like "reliable."
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    Cite specific statistics from reputable sources. This is a simple but vital step to make sure you take when developing a persuasive speech. You need hard, objective evidence to back up your position. Websites that end in .edu or .gov are often especially verifiable. If possible, cite academic journal articles, which are required to adhere to strict codes of scientific credibility.[14]
    • Include some variety in the types of evidence you provide. Cite facts, statistics, and even include visual figures to emphasize your position if such is appropriate.
    • While information is important, it is of secondary importance in a persuasive speech – all information should be used to support the position you’re advocating.
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    Quote recognizable experts on the topic. In order to support your own credibility, refer to the perspective of those who are experts on the specific topic you’re discussing. Or, simply quote prominent people who are popular with your audience, if their perspective supports your position.[15]
    • Try to include at least one quote that supports your position, and one that refutes the most common oppositional position.
    • While a scientist may actually be the most legitimate source, favor quotes from people with recognizable names, or simply quote the organization that published a scientist's paper.
    • For instance, instead of using the scientist's name, say something like, "A scientist at NASA has pointed out that______."
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    Appeal to the morality and values of your listeners. One of the best ways to persuade others to feel differently or take action is conveying how your position coincides with how they likely feel about something already. Provide a quick snapshot of examples that your audience in particular will recognize and sympathize with in a predictable way.
    • If you are successful in conveying how a value your audience holds dear is being undermined or opposed, your position becomes the solution to a problem you’ve persuaded them that they share with you.
    • For instance: "As a community, many of us are facing constant hardship on account of _______. And now we have a solution: __________."
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    Keep the speech brief. Your thesis, which conveys the position you intend to persuade your audience to consider, is already concise. Your speech as a whole should be too. Everything you say should lend support to your position, or undermine any potential reasons for opposition.[16]
    • Practice giving your speech in front of a mirror.
    • Whenever a line has multiple clauses or requires more than one pause, remove as many of the words as you can from the line without losing the line’s contributing statement.

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Categories: Speechwriting