The Persuasive Speech

You are here now : » Rhetoric Ring > Courses > Classical Public Speaking > Policy Speeches > The Persuasive Speech

The Persuasive Speech

Assignment requirements:

Time: 7-8 minutes  You will deliver the speech, live, during live chat on November 9. (Plan on staying longer than one hour to accommodate all speakers.)

Purpose: To employ everything you’ve learned this term and make the strongest case possible for the side for which you choose to argue. Remember, this assignment is worth 200 points!


  • 1 Complete sentence outline with bibliography


  • Don’t forget the speech basics you’ve learned thus far.
  • Don’t forget to apply what you’ve learned.
  • This is supposed to be your magnum opus!


Now you are in a position to go for it!  To persuade your audience to side with you on this matter. Now, how does one go about doing that? You have to argue persuasively for your side, refute the other, and anticipate and overcome potential objections to your own point of view. You may be able to convince some people for your side, but to be fully persuasive, you’ve got to anticipate and address those questions that arise in their mind. This isn’t as difficult as it may seem, because, in a sense, the persuasive speech is very natural; it almost writes itself. You’ve been persuading yourself, most likely, which side of the issue you’ll embrace, for some weeks now, and all you need to do in this speech is gather together those lines of argument you’ve already mulled over in your own mind. Walk the audience through those arguments, and you should have a pretty decent speech. Of course, it’s not that simple. You’ve got to frame your arguments in a manner that reflects mastery of the course content. So, let’s take the “moves” you need to make one at a time.

In the introduction you should recap. It’s been some time since your last speech, and we’ve heard a lot of different speeches on policy controversies, so you need to bring to mind the questions at issue in your controversy. Next, argue your case. Treat each of the questions at the heart of the matter in turn, giving your audience all the reasons you can weave together artfully, given the allotted time.  Don’t forget the four keys, and don’t forget to make fully developed lines of argument! But you also have to refute the side you disagree with.

Refutation is a big part of argumentation, and this is where the tools you’ve learned in this course will come in handy.  Dialectic and common material fallacies are tests for truth. Try to employ them when refuting the opposing view. Be careful of overkill here. More is not better. Identify the two or three fallacies
you think are most critical to the argument at hand. Name them and apply them to the argument made by your opponent. (DO NOT misrepresent their view! That will only damage your ethos and raise questions in your audience’s mind.) This site is not designed to substitute for classroom instruction, so I suggest you make it to lecture to find out how to use dialectic and common material fallacies to meet the requirements of this assignment. We have discussed this fully in our Lessons,  Live Chats and Forums.

A really persuasive speaker not only makes his or her case and refutes the other’s, but also anticipates and overcomes potential objections to his or her arguments. How in the world do I do that? Well, it’s not as hard as it sounds. Reflect on the process you went through to persuade yourself which side to defend.
There were, no doubt, thorny questions that really gave you pause along the way. Right . . . you can anticipate that similar questions will arise for some of your audience members during the speech. All you have to do is try to anticipate when that question might arise, raise it (by means of a rhetorical question) and then discuss it. For example, say you’re arguing for capital punishment. At some point in your speech you’re going to have to deal with the objection that it entails “cruel and unusual punishment,” which is constitutionally proscribed. What I would do is, at the point of the speech where I would anticipate some members would be thinking, “wait a minute, that sure sounds like ‘cruel and unusual’ to me,” I would acknowledge the question, admit that I’ve grappled with it myself, then quote some authorities on the subject. People who learn to make this move, at just the right time, are excellent persuasive speakers.


This is the speech where you pull out your “best stuff.” You no doubt have quotations you’ve been hanging on to, thinking, “This will be dynamite in the persuasive speech!” Dust them off and use them now. Use all the tools and concepts you’ve learned this semester. Organize your speech well, focus on the questions at
the heart of the controversy (don’t get bogged down in policy details and minutiae,) identify fallacies, make a dialectical argument if it applies in your case, and, for heaven’s sake, don’t forget to paint pictures with words! End with an appeal to action. The end of persuasion is action. What do you want us to do?

Don’t forget to have fun!