DELIVERING THE PERSUASIVE SPEECH

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INTRODUCTION

In the preceding article, we have attempted to expose you to the new knowledge and skills you require in order to persuade rather than inform people. For example, how to develop convincing arguments and evidence, how to ensure your credibility, and how to appeal to emotions and reason. In this unit, we shall be studying the techniques of writing persuasive speeches.

Attitudes, Beliefs, Values and Behaviour

Attitudes, values and beliefs are related in the sense that your values (your concept of good and bad, right and wrong) and your beliefs (your acceptance of something as true or false) will determine your response or attitude (like or dislike) towards it. Suppose you believe that the following statement is true: It is good for an adult to have a job he or she does for a living (belief), and one of your values in life is that everyone should earn enough money to live comfortably. You would then have a favourable attitude towards a public speaker whose purpose it is to persuade the audience to take a course in public speaking as a veritable source of income.

Very often, your motivation to act on an issue is prompted by your values, beliefs and attitudes towards it. If you believe strongly that women have the right to limit the size of their family, then you are more likely to be persuaded to sign a petition that asks local social services to provide contraceptives on demand. Or, if you value freedom, you may be persuaded to join a protest march because journalists have been arrested for stating their opinion in print. But, then it may interest you to know that in many instances, a call to action does not always work.

A persuasive speaker may change someone’s attitude towards a topic, but that does not necessarily mean that they will change their behaviour. In Nigeria, for example, many people have adopted a positive attitude toward working in culturally diverse organisations, but they still prefer to socialize with people from their own group. So, we would be right to say that, while their attitude has changed, their behaviour has not.

Developing your Persuasive Speech

Choosing a Topic

It is important to emphasise the selection of a topic about which you feel strongly and about which you have a reasonable amount of information. If you do not choose such a topic, it will be difficult for you to sound convincing. Note the fact that you can obtain interesting and appropriate support material in the media on most issues that are being debated. A word of caution about support material from the media: it too can be biased, so make sure that you think critically about it before you use it.

Arriving at a Purpose

In persuasive speeches, writing down a proposition as well as a specific purpose helps to keep you focused on exactly what it is you are trying to persuade people to think about or do. Your proposition is similar to your specific purpose in that it narrows down your topic. It is different from your specific purpose in that it only states what it is that you want your audience to agree with. It does not state the conditions for agreeing. For example: It is safer to travel by air than by car is the basic statement (proposition) you want your listeners to agree with. But, in your specific purpose, you would add the conditions: At the end of my speech the audience should be able to state three reasons why it is safer to travel by air than by car. While you are preparing your speech, you should constantly keep your proposition in mind. Your most important task in this section is to distinguish between propositions of fact, propositions of value, and propositions of policy. These are defined as follows:

  • Proposition of fact – the statement is either true or false.
  • Proposition of policy – the statement suggests a specific action.
  • Proposition of value – the statement asks for a judgment about something.

Persuasive Strategies

  • Whenever you read an argument, you must ask yourself, “is this persuasive?
  • And if so, to whom?” There are several ways to appeal to an audience. Among
  • them are appealing to logos, ethos and pathos. These appeals are prevalent in  almost all arguments.

Logos: Reasoning

The Greek word logos is the basis for the English word logic. Logos is a broader idea than formal logic–the highly symbolic and mathematical logic that you might study in a philosophy course. Logos refers to any attempt to appeal to the intellect, the general meaning of “logical argument.” Everyday arguments rely heavily on ethos and pathos, but academic arguments rely more on logos. Yes, these arguments will call upon the writers’ credibility and try to touch the audience’s emotions, but there will more often than not be logical chains of reasoning supporting all claims.

Pathos: Feeling

Pathos is related to the words pathetic, sympathy, and empathy. Whenever you accept a claim based on how it makes you feel without fully analyzing the rationale behind the claim, you are acting on pathos. They may be any emotions: love, fear, patriotism, guilt, hate or joy. Majority of arguments in the popular press are heavily dependent on pathetic appeals. The more people react without full consideration for the WHY, the more effective an argument can be. Although the pathetic appeal can be manipulative, it is the cornerstone of moving people to action. Many arguments are able to persuade people logically, but the apathetic audience may not follow through on the call to action. Appeals to pathos touch a nerve and compel people to not only listen, but to also take the next step and act in the world.

Ethos: Source Credibility

Ethos is related to the English word ethics and refers to the credibility or trustworthiness of the speaker/writer. Ethos is an effective persuasive strategy because when we believe that the speaker does not intend to do us harm, we are more willing to listen to what s/he has to say. For example, when a trusted doctor gives you advice, you may not understand all of the medical reasoning behind the advice, but you nonetheless follow the directions because you believe that the doctor knows what s/he is talking about. Likewise, when a judge comments on legal precedents, audiences tend to listen because it is the job of a judge to know the nature of past legal cases.

Organising your Persuasive Speech

Monroe’s Motivated Sequence

One of the best ways to organise a persuasive speech is with a method called Monroe’s Motivated Sequence. It is utilised in many television commercials and is probably the most effective way to get people to take action. Well, it’s probably not as effective as forcing someone to do something at gunpoint, but the motivated sequence is much more ethical, and shouldn’t get you arrested.

If you need to give a persuasive speech for school, using Monroe’s Motivated Sequence, you should first consider a couple of things when choosing your topic in order to be as persuasive as possible. First, choose a topic that your audience members will be able to do in the near future. For example, “wear your seat belt on the way home from class today” or “give blood at the blood drive this Friday”. The sooner your audience can do what you ask, the more likely they will be to actually do The second thing to consider when choosing a topic is make it is as relevant to the audience’s lives as possible. It is meaningless to persuade your audience to quit smoking if only a few of your audience members actually smoke.

Monroe’s Motivated Sequence has 5 steps that must be presented in this order:

  • The Attention Step: This is the equivalent to the introduction section of an informative speech or five-paragraph essay. You open with a question (preferably rhetorical), a quote from someone famous or respected, a story (preferably true), or startling statistics. You would then give your audience a reason to listen, and then preview your speech.
  • The Need Step: You need to clearly show that the problem exists in the lives of your audience members. Consequently, you need to know your audience as well as possible. The problem also needs to be stated in negative terms and credible evidence used to demonstrate that this is a real problem. Students frequently skimp on this step because they mistakenly believe the audience members already see the problem as they do. Don’t make this mistake. Your audience is probably much less aware of the problem than you are.
  • The Satisfaction Step: So, now that you have established that there is a problem, the next thing you do is provide a workable, reasonable plan that allows your audience to solve the problem. Remember, the easier the solution, the more likely your audience will do it. The whole point of your speech is to get your audience to take action, so if your solution is too hard or time consuming, there is less chance they will do it. In this step, you also need to address any objections your audience will have to do what you propose. Anticipate these objections and address them now. For instance, if you are trying to persuade your audience to wear their seat belts, one objection they might have is that they do not feel they need to belt-up if they are not going very far. Bring it up and provide statistics on traffic fatalities that occur close to home.
  • The Visualisation Step: In this step, you need to create a visual image of your audience taking action. There are two ways to do this: show your audience members how great the world would be f they do what you ask, or show them how terrible the world will be if they do not, or both. You have appealed to your audience’s logical side by using statistics and number in the previous steps, now you can appeal to their emotions and desires.
  • The Action Step: This would be similar to the conclusion portion of an informative speech. You signal the end of your speech, you recap the need, the satisfaction, and the visualization steps, and then you ask them to take action. It may feel weird, but tell them exactly what you want them to do now. Remember, in order to be persuasive, make sure to accomplish these five steps in order. Also, be sure your topic is as relevant to your audience as possible, and use sound research to show the need for your audience to do as you ask

Evaluating Speeches

We work hard at preparing for the effective delivery of a speech, but preparation and delivery are not the end of the speechmaking process. We also have to evaluate our own and other people’s speeches so that we can constantly learn from our mistakes (and from the “good things” we did) and improve our speeches in the future.

Principles of Speech Evaluation

Studying other speakers is a critical skill. The ability to analyse a speech will accelerate the growth of any speaker. The principle of speech evaluation examines different aspects of speech presentation analysis. Here, you will learn how to study a speech and how to deliver an effective speech evaluation. The Most Important Thing to Analyse: The Speech Objectives Knowing the speaker’s objective is critical to analysing the speech, and should certainly influence how you study it.

  • What is the speaker’s goal? Is it to educate, to motivate, to persuade, or to entertain?
  • What is the primary message being delivered?
  • Why is this person delivering this speech? Are they the right person?
  • Was the objective achieved?

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