Persuasive speeches tend to focus on one of three things: facts, values or policies. The typical persuasive speech tries to persuade the members of the audience to change factual beliefs or value-laden attitudes, or to take action on a policy. Some persuasive speeches aim to reinforce existing convictions. For example: "Climate change is mostly caused by people," asks listeners to weigh facts; "Women should be paid as much as men for similar work," asks them to consider values; "We should work to decrease the influence of big money on elections," is a call to action in setting policy.
Try to Change Beliefs
People differ in what they perceive to be facts. Examples of these differences can be found nearly everywhere in public life. Some people think human-induced climate change is simply not true; others are convinced it’s a fact. Some believe gun control laws lower fatalities and others don’t. People differ in what they believe about the extent of racism is society. Some believe that standardized testing benefits students and schools, others disagree vehemently. Any of these issues can be a topic for a persuasive speech. The speaker needs only to pick a side and develop the speech.
Attempt to Change Values
Speeches focused on values argue for the relative worth of things. Spanking a child is considered wrong by some based on their beliefs about how other people, including children, should be treated. The idea that it’s good to go to church on Sunday is value-based. The notion that women deserve to be paid as much as men for the same work is based on the idea that all work should be valued equally. Areas of life where there are differences in how things are done provide fertile ground for developing persuasive speeches to change values.
Call for Action to Change Policy
Beliefs underlie values, and the alignment of beliefs and values can lead people to action. A speech about policy is a call to action. Convincing an audience that men and women deserve equal pay is one thing. It’s different to convince them to attend a demonstration or to cast a vote for pay equity. In the same way, it’s different to convince people to take action on climate change, rather than only changing the way they think about the issue.
Reinforcing Existing Beliefs
A persuasive speech can be developed with the goal of reinforcing an audience's current position, rather than attempting to get them to change. A speech of this type is like preaching to the choir, but it can still be important. For example, a candidate for office might develop a speech to reinforce her volunteers' enthusiasm for her platform and for continuing to work for the campaign. It’s ultimately a matter of the audience. If they disagree with your position, then you are giving a speech to create change. If they already agree with you, your speech is to reinforce.
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