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Persuasive speech outline example
-an outline using Monroe's 5 step Motivated Sequence
By: Susan Dugdale | Last modified: 11-27-2023
This persuasive speech outline example uses Monroe's Motivated Sequence (MMS) - a 5 step structural pattern for organizing material focusing on, as its name suggests, motivational appeals.
The sequence forms the basis of many of the successful political, public awareness or advertising campaigns you see and hear around you on a daily basis.
For example: campaigns to raise awareness of health issues: The Heart Truth, NDAFW - National Drugs and Alcohol Facts Week, or STOMP Out Bullying. *
Why is the framework so popular? Because it faithfully follows the psychology of persuasion. In a nutshell, it works. Exceedingly well.
Use the quick links to get around this very long page efficiently. Each of the five steps is fully explained and illustrated in an example speech outline. There's a printable MMS speech outline document for your own use too!
Page quick links
- Step overview
- Step 1 - Attention
- Step 2 - Need
- Step 3 - Satisfaction
- Step 4 - Visualization
- Step 5 - Action
- Download blank outline template
More persuasive speech resources
About Monroe's Motivated Sequence
The pattern, or steps, of the sequence mirror those identified as being the normal thinking processes that occur whenever a person is confronted by a problem.
Because the steps are perceived as reasonable and logical using them prepares and motivates an audience to respond positively to the speaker's message.
The sequence is named after Dr Alan H Monroe who, after graduating from Northwestern University in 1924, joined the staff at Purdue University (USA) as an Instructor in English. Two years later he became Instructor in Public Speaking and was subsequently promoted to Assistant Professor and head of the speech section of the English department. He retired from the role in 1963.
Overview of Monroe's 5 step motivation sequence
In developing your persuasive speech outline you will follow these 5 steps:
- Attention Grab the audience's attention
- Need Establish there is a problem (need) demanding their attention
- Satisfaction Outline a solution to the problem
- Visualization Show the audience how they will benefit from your solution
- Action Provide the impetus and means to act
Monroe's five steps in more detail
Now let's examine those steps more closely.
To make the process easier to follow I've prepared a simple example speech illustrating each step and the transitions between them. That's the text in the green boxes.
As you read start thinking about your audience and your topic. Jot any ideas down for later use.
About this sample speech - topic, purpose and audience
The subject is fear of public speaking.
The specific purpose of the speech is to persuade and encourage people in the audience to take a course to overcome their fear of public speaking.
The central idea of the speech is that the ability to speak in public opens doors to many opportunities.
The audience is drawn from the local community. They range in age from late teens to forties plus.
The 5 steps of Monroe's motivation sequence
Getting attention - step 1.
This step is your introductory "listen up" call. To make it effective it needs to grab the audience. It could be any of the following:
- a startling statement
- a rhetorical question
- a quotation
- a funny story
- a dramatic story
- a photograph or other visual aid
Put yourself in the position of your audience when deciding how to hook and hold their attention. Why should they listen to you? How does what you have to say benefit them? Is it relevant to them? How?
Step one - attention
Do you know the real costs of public speaking fear?
The price is high.
Research reveals that a person with public speaking fear is 10% less likely to graduate from college, is likely to receive 10% less in wages and is 15% less likely to take on management or leadership positions.
Who pays? You. Me. Us. Anybody who allows fear to govern their decision making. We pay by sacrificing our potential selves, putting our dreams away and settling for less.
As well as getting their attention you also need to establish your credibility or right to talk on the subject. Your audience needs to know that they can believe what you're telling them. If they feel they can trust your expertise and experience they will be much more likely to follow your lead.
That’s a question I asked myself a long time ago. As a teacher with many years of experience I saw far too many students who would do anything they could to avoid public speaking. To answer it I researched.
Then I used those answers to devise public speaking programs that were effective and fun.
Transition - the link from step 1 to step 2
Can you imagine the positive impact feeling OK about speaking up would have? On individuals? On families? On our community?
E stablish the need - step 2
This step develops the need for change. Now that you have your audience's attention you will clearly show them what the problem is and the extent of it.
To be effective use:
- examples to illustrate how it impacts on them - their happiness, future, health, family, neighborhood...
- statistics - facts, figures, graphs, diagrams... Remember to cite your sources and remember too that some are more credible than others. You need recognized sources to give your speech the credibility you want.
- expert witness testimony - the more authoritative, the better
Your goal at the conclusion of this step is to have your audience eager to hear your solution. They agree with you that there is a problem and want the answer.
Step two – Need
A. According to frequently cited statistics 75% of people suffer from some degree of glossophobia - fear of speaking in public. Source: Hamilton, C. (2008) . Communicating for Results, a Guide for Business and the Professions (eighth edition)
- At the extreme upper end of this very large group are the people who would literally run a mile rather than speak. For example, they will not apply for promotions if the new position means giving presentations. They will not give a speech at a special family occasion - a wedding, birthday or funeral. Public speaking makes them ill, literally. There maybe quite a few of you here, so you’ll know exactly what I mean.
- At the other end of the scale are the people who have one or two butterflies fluttering around – enough to make them register they’re a little nervous about speaking but it’s nothing to worry about. There’s likely not so many of you here. If you have come along, it’s probably to support someone who needs it! Thank you.
- The majority of us are somewhere in the middle where it’s neither all fine nor all bad. Some days are OK. We manage. And some days it’s definitely not OK. We just hang in there by the skin of our chattering teeth.
B. Bad public speaking experiences often lead to more of the same. History repeats.
- We focus on the criticism we received and interpret it as a criticism of ourselves. Our speech is bad therefore I am bad. This makes a shaky platform to build public speaking skills and confidence on.
- When given a presentation to prepare we procrastinate because we don’t feel confident or competent. That means we don’t put the work in which in turn leads to another bad experience. It becomes a vicious circle.
- When we feel ashamed about ourselves we often close off. We don’t ask for help and it becomes easier to expect less of ourselves and our lives.
- Here's those stats again. According to Franklin Schneier, MD, s omeone with public speaking fear is likely to receive 10% less in wages, be 10% more likely to drop out of college and be 15% less likely to apply for leadership or management roles.
C. Begins in youth.
- “The fear of public speaking is more common in younger patients as compared to older ones and may be more prevalent in females as compared to males,” says Jeffrey R. Strawn, MD, FAACAP, associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics and director of the Anxiety Disorders Research Program in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Cincinnati.
- More than 75% of people experience their first symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder which often includes fear of public speaking during their childhood or early teenage years - American Psychiatric Association. (2014). Understanding Mental Disorders
- Let’s conduct a quick informal survey to test that– raise your hand if any anxiety you feel about public speaking began when you were young.
Transition - the link between step 2 and step 3
However there is a way to break this pattern of anxiety. It can be stopped, and everyone who wants to can learn to speak in public confidently.
S atisfy the need - step 3
Now you outline your answer or solution and show the audience how it will work.
To do this well:
- outline your solution succinctly
- demonstrate how it meets the problem
- use examples to show how effective it is
- support with facts, figures, graphs, diagrams, statistics, testimony...
- if there is known opposition to your solution, acknowledge and counteract showing how your plan overturns it
The ideal outcome of this step is the audience nodding and saying to themselves: " Yes. This is possible, practical and sensible." Your answer satisfies them. It gives them "satisfaction".
Step three - Satisfaction
A. Come along to an introductory course
- It's free, led by experienced teachers and especially designed for people with a history of being nervous about speaking in public.
- Once a week for 4 weeks you'll have 2 hours of practical public speaking training and practice.
- You'll learn tips and tricks to manage your anxiety, to give varying types of presentations, to effectively structure a speech, and to confidently deliver a speech.
B. When people overcome fear of public speaking there are so many things they can do:
- Complete their college education and go on to further study if they wanted to
- Apply for the positions they know would give them greater work satisfaction
- Speak up when they need to about issues concerning themselves, their family and their community
- Inspire others to follow their example
C. Exchanging public speaking fear for confidence will help people to:
- Communicate more effectively
- Listen more carefully to others
- Understand the power of the spoken word and what it can achieve
Transition - the link between step 3 and step 4
Can you imagine the positive impact that would have on people’s lives? Maybe yours?
S ee the future - step 4
In this step the audience "experiences" the solution. They see (feel, hear, taste...) what will happen if they do as you are suggesting contrasted against what will happen if they don't do as you are suggesting.
This step relies on your use of vivid imagery to portray the outcome of their action, or inaction. They see and feel the pleasure, or pain, in their imagination. To bring it home to your audience the pictures you provide, the stories you tell, need to be relevant and believable.
What you want folk thinking as you conclude this step is: "I can see that this would be good for me."
Step four - Visualization
A. Imagine what society would be like if everyone took full advantage of the educational opportunities that best fitted their interests and abilities. How would that feel?
- There would be much less personal dissatisfaction and social unrest caused by people working in positions that do not pay very well or extend their skills and well being. That would be much more healthy: physically, emotionally and mentally, for everybody. You could ask for a raise! Apply for that job you always wanted! Give a presentation! Toast your bride!
- It would generate a ripple effect. People who speak up confidently and competently encourage others to do likewise. People would feel empowered – free to become the best of themselves - shoulders back, head up, standing tall, looking the world straight in the eye!
B. What disadvantages could there possibly be?
- Perhaps it could uncomfortable for those who have got used to assuming the right to talk for others without consultation. Is that really a bad thing?
- Perhaps it could lead to robust conversations where there are differing opinions over issues? Again, is that a bad thing? It could be an opportunity to polish debating skills.
- There are no real disadvantages! Overcoming public speaking fear is good for everyone. A win-win.
Transition - the link from step 4 to step 5
Let’s do more than imagine speaking in public freely and competently. Let’s take the steps towards making it happen.
T ake action - step 5
In this last step you present your call to action.
The call to action can be embedded in any combination of the following:
- a challenge or appeal
- a personal statement of intent
To be effective the action step must be readily doable and executed as soon as possible. Make it as easy as you can for your audience. If you want them to sign up for something, have the forms available. If you wish them to lodge a personal protest in writing to your local government have stock letters and envelopes ready. In other words do the leg work for them!
Action steps that are delayed even for 48 hours are less likely to be acted on. We're human - life goes on. Other things intervene and the initial urgency is lost.
Step five – Action
A. (Summary) Apparently 3/4 of us – 75%, are nervous about public speaking – often the result of a bad experience when were young. That has a direct impact on our adult lives. If we allow it to continue it is likely we will be paid less, fall out of college without graduating and settle for less-challenging jobs. In short – live a lesser life. However it doesn’t have to be like that. We could choose to change. We could become our bigger and best selves.
B. (Call to Immediate Action)
We could, in the famous words of Susan Jeffers, "Feel the fear and do it anyway!"
I’ve got enrollment forms here for that free introductory public speaking course. That’s four two hour sessions over the next four weeks using tried, tested and proven methods of teaching with experienced instructors. You’ll learn how to prepare and deliver speeches. And you'll swap fear for confidence and competence while having fun!
C. (Memorable Close) Who knows what magic may happen once you speak up!
There are 15 places available. Make one of them yours.
- Rosemary Black. (2018, June 4) Glossophobia (Fear of Public Speaking): Are You Glossophobic? Retrieved from https://www.psycom.net/glossophobia-fear-of-public-speaking
- Franklin Schneier. (2005) Social Anxiety Disorder. Retrieved from: http://www.columbia.edu/itc/hs/medical/psychmed2/3_2005/Schneier-SocialAnxietyDisorderBW.pdf
- Author and date of publication unknown. Social Anxiety Disorder. Retrieved from: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/social-anxiety-disorder
- Doug Staneart. (2018, March). Podcast 29 - How to Scare the Gooey Out of a Nervous Public Speaker. Retrieved from: https://www.fearlesspresentations.com/how-to-scare-the-gooey-out-of-a-new-public-speaker/
F itting the standard speech format
If you are wondering how these 5 steps of Monroe's Motivated Sequence fit into the standard 3 part speech format , they go like this:
- Step 1 ( Attention ) forms the Introduction.
- Steps 2, 3 and 4 ( Need, Satisfaction and Visualization ) form the Body.
- Step 5 ( Action ) is the Conclusion.
Download a persuasive speech outline template
And now download printable blank ready-to-complete Monroe's Motivated Sequence persuasive speech outline template . You'll find the entire 5 step process laid out clearly, ready for you to fill in the gaps.
A sample persuasive speech
Want to read a persuasive speech example ?
This example speech ("After they're gone") follows the sequence outlined on this page.
Before you click through to it you should know the topic is somber; the impact of suicide on family and friends. I wrote it to persuade those in need to seek and accept help and to raise awareness of the issues around suicide.
Persuasive speech topics
Maybe you haven't found the persuasive speech topic you want yet? Check these pages:
- 100 great persuasive speech ideas
- 50 good persuasive speech topics
- 205 fun persuasive speech topics
- 309 'easy' persuasive speech topics
- 310 persuasive speech topics for college
- 108 feminist persuasive speech topics
Communication coach Alex Lyon explains
If you'd like more on Monroe's Motivated Sequence here's a great video with excellent examples from communication coach Alex Lyons.
And lastly, here's the links to those campaigns I mentioned at the top of the page: The Heart Truth , National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week (NDAFW) and STOMP Out Bullying .
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Persuasive Speeches — Types, Topics, and Examples
What is a persuasive speech?
In a persuasive speech, the speaker aims to convince the audience to accept a particular perspective on a person, place, object, idea, etc. The speaker strives to cause the audience to accept the point of view presented in the speech.
The success of a persuasive speech often relies on the speaker’s use of ethos, pathos, and logos.
Ethos is the speaker’s credibility. Audiences are more likely to accept an argument if they find the speaker trustworthy. To establish credibility during a persuasive speech, speakers can do the following:
Use familiar language.
Select examples that connect to the specific audience.
Utilize credible and well-known sources.
Logically structure the speech in an audience-friendly way.
Use appropriate eye contact, volume, pacing, and inflection.
Pathos appeals to the audience’s emotions. Speakers who create an emotional bond with their audience are typically more convincing. Tapping into the audience’s emotions can be accomplished through the following:
Select evidence that can elicit an emotional response.
Use emotionally-charged words. (The city has a problem … vs. The city has a disease …)
Incorporate analogies and metaphors that connect to a specific emotion to draw a parallel between the reference and topic.
Utilize vivid imagery and sensory words, allowing the audience to visualize the information.
Employ an appropriate tone, inflection, and pace to reflect the emotion.
Logos appeals to the audience’s logic by offering supporting evidence. Speakers can improve their logical appeal in the following ways:
Use comprehensive evidence the audience can understand.
Confirm the evidence logically supports the argument’s claims and stems from credible sources.
Ensure that evidence is specific and avoid any vague or questionable information.
Types of persuasive speeches
The three main types of persuasive speeches are factual, value, and policy.
A factual persuasive speech focuses solely on factual information to prove the existence or absence of something through substantial proof. This is the only type of persuasive speech that exclusively uses objective information rather than subjective. As such, the argument does not rely on the speaker’s interpretation of the information. Essentially, a factual persuasive speech includes historical controversy, a question of current existence, or a prediction:
Historical controversy concerns whether an event happened or whether an object actually existed.
Questions of current existence involve the knowledge that something is currently happening.
Predictions incorporate the analysis of patterns to convince the audience that an event will happen again.
A value persuasive speech concerns the morality of a certain topic. Speakers incorporate facts within these speeches; however, the speaker’s interpretation of those facts creates the argument. These speeches are highly subjective, so the argument cannot be proven to be absolutely true or false.
A policy persuasive speech centers around the speaker’s support or rejection of a public policy, rule, or law. Much like a value speech, speakers provide evidence supporting their viewpoint; however, they provide subjective conclusions based on the facts they provide.
How to write a persuasive speech
Incorporate the following steps when writing a persuasive speech:
Step 1 – Identify the type of persuasive speech (factual, value, or policy) that will help accomplish the goal of the presentation.
Step 2 – Select a good persuasive speech topic to accomplish the goal and choose a position .
Step 3 – Locate credible and reliable sources and identify evidence in support of the topic/position. Revisit Step 2 if there is a lack of relevant resources.
Step 4 – Identify the audience and understand their baseline attitude about the topic.
Step 5 – When constructing an introduction , keep the following questions in mind:
What’s the topic of the speech?
What’s the occasion?
Who’s the audience?
What’s the purpose of the speech?
Step 6 – Utilize the evidence within the previously identified sources to construct the body of the speech. Keeping the audience in mind, determine which pieces of evidence can best help develop the argument. Discuss each point in detail, allowing the audience to understand how the facts support the perspective.
Step 7 – Addressing counterarguments can help speakers build their credibility, as it highlights their breadth of knowledge.
Step 8 – Conclude the speech with an overview of the central purpose and how the main ideas identified in the body support the overall argument.
Persuasive speech outline
One of the best ways to prepare a great persuasive speech is by using an outline. When structuring an outline, include an introduction, body, and conclusion:
Ask a question that allows the audience to respond in a non-verbal way; ask a rhetorical question that makes the audience think of the topic without requiring a response.
Incorporate a well-known quote that introduces the topic. Using the words of a celebrated individual gives credibility and authority to the information in the speech.
Offer a startling statement or information about the topic, typically done using data or statistics.
Provide a brief anecdote or story that relates to the topic.
Starting a speech with a humorous statement often makes the audience more comfortable with the speaker.
Provide information on how the selected topic may impact the audience .
Include any background information pertinent to the topic that the audience needs to know to understand the speech in its entirety.
Give the thesis statement in connection to the main topic and identify the main ideas that will help accomplish the central purpose.
Summarize its meaning
Explain how it helps prove the support/main claim
Evidence 3 (Continue as needed)
Support 3 (Continue as needed)
Review main supports
Give the audience a call to action to do something specific.
Identify the overall importan ce of the topic and position.
Persuasive speech topics
The following table identifies some common or interesting persuasive speech topics for high school and college students:
Persuasive speech examples
The following list identifies some of history’s most famous persuasive speeches:
John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address: “Ask Not What Your Country Can Do for You”
Lyndon B. Johnson: “We Shall Overcome”
Marc Antony: “Friends, Romans, Countrymen…” in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar
Ronald Reagan: “Tear Down this Wall”
Sojourner Truth: “Ain’t I a Woman?”
How to Write and Structure a Persuasive Speech
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The purpose of a persuasive speech is to convince your audience to agree with an idea or opinion that you present. First, you'll need to choose a side on a controversial topic, then you will write a speech to explain your position, and convince the audience to agree with you.
You can produce an effective persuasive speech if you structure your argument as a solution to a problem. Your first job as a speaker is to convince your audience that a particular problem is important to them, and then you must convince them that you have the solution to make things better.
Note: You don't have to address a real problem. Any need can work as the problem. For example, you could consider the lack of a pet, the need to wash one's hands, or the need to pick a particular sport to play as the "problem."
As an example, let's imagine that you have chosen "Getting Up Early" as your persuasion topic. Your goal will be to persuade classmates to get themselves out of bed an hour earlier every morning. In this instance, the problem could be summed up as "morning chaos."
A standard speech format has an introduction with a great hook statement, three main points, and a summary. Your persuasive speech will be a tailored version of this format.
Before you write the text of your speech, you should sketch an outline that includes your hook statement and three main points.
Writing the Text
The introduction of your speech must be compelling because your audience will make up their minds within a few minutes whether or not they are interested in your topic.
Before you write the full body you should come up with a greeting. Your greeting can be as simple as "Good morning everyone. My name is Frank."
After your greeting, you will offer a hook to capture attention. A hook sentence for the "morning chaos" speech could be a question:
- How many times have you been late for school?
- Does your day begin with shouts and arguments?
- Have you ever missed the bus?
Or your hook could be a statistic or surprising statement:
- More than 50 percent of high school students skip breakfast because they just don't have time to eat.
- Tardy kids drop out of school more often than punctual kids.
Once you have the attention of your audience, follow through to define the topic/problem and introduce your solution. Here's an example of what you might have so far:
Good afternoon, class. Some of you know me, but some of you may not. My name is Frank Godfrey, and I have a question for you. Does your day begin with shouts and arguments? Do you go to school in a bad mood because you've been yelled at, or because you argued with your parent? The chaos you experience in the morning can bring you down and affect your performance at school.
Add the solution:
You can improve your mood and your school performance by adding more time to your morning schedule. You can accomplish this by setting your alarm clock to go off one hour earlier.
Your next task will be to write the body, which will contain the three main points you've come up with to argue your position. Each point will be followed by supporting evidence or anecdotes, and each body paragraph will need to end with a transition statement that leads to the next segment. Here is a sample of three main statements:
- Bad moods caused by morning chaos will affect your workday performance.
- If you skip breakfast to buy time, you're making a harmful health decision.
- (Ending on a cheerful note) You'll enjoy a boost to your self-esteem when you reduce the morning chaos.
After you write three body paragraphs with strong transition statements that make your speech flow, you are ready to work on your summary.
Your summary will re-emphasize your argument and restate your points in slightly different language. This can be a little tricky. You don't want to sound repetitive but will need to repeat what you have said. Find a way to reword the same main points.
Finally, you must make sure to write a clear final sentence or passage to keep yourself from stammering at the end or fading off in an awkward moment. A few examples of graceful exits:
- We all like to sleep. It's hard to get up some mornings, but rest assured that the reward is well worth the effort.
- If you follow these guidelines and make the effort to get up a little bit earlier every day, you'll reap rewards in your home life and on your report card.
Tips for Writing Your Speech
- Don't be confrontational in your argument. You don't need to put down the other side; just convince your audience that your position is correct by using positive assertions.
- Use simple statistics. Don't overwhelm your audience with confusing numbers.
- Don't complicate your speech by going outside the standard "three points" format. While it might seem simplistic, it is a tried and true method for presenting to an audience who is listening as opposed to reading.
- How to Write a Persuasive Essay
- 5 Tips on How to Write a Speech Essay
- Tips on How to Write an Argumentative Essay
- Writing an Opinion Essay
- How To Write an Essay
- 5 Steps to Writing a Position Paper
- How to Structure an Essay
- Ethos, Logos, Pathos for Persuasion
- What Is Expository Writing?
- Definition and Examples of Analysis in Composition
- Audience Analysis in Speech and Composition
- 100 Persuasive Speech Topics for Students
- What an Essay Is and How to Write One
- How to Write a Good Thesis Statement
- How to Write a Graduation Speech as Valedictorian
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13.5: Constructing a Persuasive Speech
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In a sense, constructing your persuasive speech is the culmination of the skills you have learned already. In another sense, you are challenged to think somewhat differently. While the steps of analyzing your audience, formulating your purpose and central idea, applying evidence, considering ethics, framing the ideas in appropriate language, and then practicing delivery will of course apply, you will need to consider some expanded options about each of these steps.
Formulating a Proposition
As mentioned before, when thinking about a central idea statement in a persuasive speech, we use the terms “proposition” or claim. Persuasive
speeches have one of four types of propositions or claims, which determine your overall approach. Before you move on, you need to determine what type of proposition you should have (based on the audience, context, issues involved in the topic, and assignment for the class).
Proposition of Fact
Speeches with this type of proposition attempt to establish the truth of a statement. The core of the propositoin (or claim) is not whether something is morally right and wrong or what should be done about the topic, only that a statement is supported by evidence or not. These propositions are not facts such as “the chemical symbol for water is H20” or “Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008 with 53% of the vote.” Propositions or claims of fact are statements over which persons disagree and there is evidence on both sides, although probably more on one than the other. Some examples of propositions of fact are:
Converting to solar energy can save homeowners money.
John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald working alone.
Experiments using animals are essential to the development of many life-saving medical procedures.
Climate change has been caused by human activity.
Granting tuition tax credits to the parents of children who attend private schools will perpetuate educational inequality.
Watching violence on television causes violent behavior in children.
William Shakespeare did not write most of the plays attributed to him.
John Doe committed the crime of which he is accused.
Notice that in none of these are any values—good or bad—mentioned. Perpetuating segregation is not portrayed as good or bad, only as an effect of a policy. Of course, most people view educational inequality negatively, just as they view life-saving medical procedures positively. But the point of these propositions is to prove with evidence the truth of a statement, not its inherent value or what the audience should do about it. In fact, in some propositions of fact no action response would even be possible, such as the proposition listed above that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the assassination of President Kennedy.
Propositions of Definition
This is probably not one that you will use in your class, but it bears mentioning here because it is used in legal and scholarly arguments. Propositions of definitions argue that a word, phrase, or concept has a particular meaning. Remembering back to Chapter 7 on supporting materials, we saw that there are various ways to define words, such as by negation, operationalizing, and classification and division. It may be important for you to define your terms, especially if you have a value proposition. Lawyers, legislators, and scholars often write briefs, present speeches, or compose articles to define terms that are vital to defendants, citizens, or disciplines. We saw a proposition of definition defended in the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision to redefine marriage laws as applying to same-sex couples, based on arguments presented in court. Other examples might be:
The Second Amendment to the Constitution does not include possession of automatic weapons for private use.
Alcoholism should be considered a disease because…
The action committed by Mary Smith did not meet the standard for first-degree murder.
Thomas Jefferson’s definition of inalienable rights did not include a right to privacy.
In each of these examples, the proposition is that the definition of these things (the Second Amendment, alcoholism, crime, and inalienable rights) needs to be changed or viewed differently, but the audience is not asked to change an attitude or action.
Propositions of Value
It is likely that you or some of your classmates will give speeches with propositions of value. When the proposition has a word such as “good,” “bad,” “best,” “worst,” “just,” “unjust,” “ethical,” “unethical,” “moral,” “immoral,” “beneficial,” “harmful,” “advantageous,” or “disadvantageous,” it is a proposition of value. Some examples include:
Hybrid cars are the best form of automobile transportation available today.
Homeschooling is more beneficial for children than traditional schooling.
The War in Iraq was not justified.
Capital punishment is morally wrong.
Mascots that involve Native American names, characters, and symbols are demeaning.
A vegan diet is the healthiest one for adults.
Propositions of value require a first step: defining the “value” word. If a war is unjustified, what makes a war “just” or “justified” in the first place? That is a fairly philosophical question. What makes a form of transportation “best” or “better” than another? Isn’t that a matter of personal approach? For different people, “best” might mean “safest,” “least expensive,” “most environmentally responsible,” “stylish,” “powerful,” or “prestigious.” Obviously, in the case of the first proposition above, it means “environmentally responsible.” It would be the first job of the speaker, after introducing the speech and stating the proposition, to explain what “best form of automobile transportation” means. Then the proposition would be defended with separate arguments.
Propositions of Policy
These propositions are easy to identify because they almost always have the word “should” in them. These propositions call for a change in policy or practice (including those in a government, community, or school), or they can call for the audience to adopt a certain behavior. Speeches with propositions of policy can be those that call for passive acceptance and agreement from the audience and those that try to instigate the audience to action, to actually do something immediately or in the long-term.
Our state should require mandatory recertification of lawyers every ten years.
The federal government should act to ensure clean water standards for all citizens.
The federal government should not allow the use of technology to choose the sex of an unborn child.
The state of Georgia should require drivers over the age of 75 to take a vision test and present a certificate of good health from a doctor before renewing their licenses.
Wyeth Daniels should be the next governor of the state.
Young people should monitor their blood pressure regularly to avoid health problems later in life.
As mentioned before, the proposition determines the approach to the speech, especially the organization. Also as mentioned earlier in this chapter, the exact phrasing of the proposition should be carefully done to be reasonable, positive, and appropriate for the context and audience. In the next section we will examine organizational factors for speeches with propositions of fact, value, and policy.
Organization Based on Type of Proposition
Organization for a proposition of fact.
If your proposition is one of fact, you will do best to use a topical organization. Essentially that means that you will have two to four discrete, separate arguments in support of the proposition. For example:
Proposition: Converting to solar energy can save homeowners money.
I. Solar energy can be economical to install.
A. The government awards grants.
B. The government gives tax credits.
II. Solar energy reduces power bills.
III. Solar energy requires less money for maintenance.
IV. Solar energy works when the power grid goes down.
Here is a first draft of another outline for a proposition of fact:
Proposition: Experiments using animals are essential to the development of many life-saving medical procedures.
I. Research of the past shows many successes from animal experimentation.
II. Research on humans is limited for ethical and legal reasons.
III. Computer models for research have limitations.
However, these outlines are just preliminary drafts because preparing a speech of fact requires a great deal of research and understanding of the issues. A speech with a proposition of fact will almost always need an argument or section related to the “reservations,” refuting the arguments that the audience may be preparing in their minds, their mental dialogue. So the second example needs revision, such as:
I. The first argument in favor of animal experimentation is the record of successful discoveries from animal research.
II. A second reason to support animal experimentation is that research on humans is limited for ethical and legal reasons.
III. Animal experimentation is needed because computer models for research have limitations.
IV. Many people today have concerns about animal experimentation.
A. Some believe that all experimentation is equal.
1. There is experimentation for legitimate medical research.
2. There is experimentation for cosmetics or shampoos.
B. Others argue that the animals are mistreated.
1. There are protocols for the treatment of animals in experimentation.
2. Legitimate medical experimentation follows the protocols.
C. Some believe the persuasion of certain advocacy groups like PETA.
1. Many of the groups that protest animal experimentation have extreme views.
2. Some give untrue representations.
To complete this outline, along with introduction and conclusion, there would need to be quotations, statistics, and facts with sources provided to support both the pro-arguments in Main Points I-III and the refutation to the misconceptions about animal experimentation in Subpoints A-C under Point IV.
Organization for a proposition of value
A persuasive speech that incorporates a proposition of value will have a slightly different structure. As mentioned earlier, a proposition of value must first define the “value” word for clarity and provide a basis for the other arguments of the speech. The second or middle section would present the defense or “pro” arguments for the proposition based on the definition. The third section would include refutation of the counter arguments or “reservations.” The following outline draft shows a student trying to structure a speech with a value proposition. Keep in mind it is abbreviated for illustrative purposes, and thus incomplete as an example of what you would submit to your instructor, who will expect more detailed outlines for your speeches.
Proposition: Hybrid cars are the best form of automotive transportation available today.
I. Automotive transportation that is best meets three standards. (Definition)
A. It is reliable and durable.
B. It is fuel efficient and thus cost efficient.
C. It is therefore environmentally responsible.
II. Studies show that hybrid cars are durable and reliable. (Pro-Argument 1)
A. Hybrid cars have 99 problems per 100 cars versus 133 problem per 100 conventional cars, according to TrueDelta, a car analysis website much like Consumer Reports.
B. J.D. Powers reports hybrids also experience 11 fewer engine and transmission issues than gas-powered vehicles, per 100 vehicles.
III. Hybrid cars are fuel-efficient. (Pro-Argument 2)
A. The Toyota Prius gets 48 mpg on the highway and 51 mpg in the city.
B. The Ford Fusion hybrid gets 47 mpg in the city and in the country.
IV. Hybrid cars are environmentally responsible. (Pro-Argument 3)
A. They only emit 51.6 gallons of carbon dioxide every 100 miles.
B. Conventional cars emit 74.9 gallons of carbon dioxide every 100 miles.
C. The hybrid produces 69% of the harmful gas exhaust that a conventional car does.
V. Of course, hybrid cars are relatively new to the market and some have questions about them. (Reservations)
A. Don’t the batteries wear out and aren’t they expensive to replace?
1. Evidence to address this misconception.
2. Evidence to address this misconception.
B. Aren’t hybrid cars only good for certain types of driving and drivers?
C. Aren’t electric cars better?
Organization for a propositions of policy
The most common type of outline organizations for speeches with propositions of policy is problem-solution or problem-cause-solution. Typically we do not feel any motivation to change unless we are convinced that some harm, problem, need, or deficiency exists, and even more, that it affects us personally. As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?”As mentioned before, some policy speeches look for passive agreement or acceptance of the proposition. Some instructors call this type of policy speech a “think” speech since the persuasion is just about changing the way your audience thinks about a policy.
On the other hand, other policy speeches seek to move the audience to do something to change a situation or to get involved in a cause, and these are sometimes called a “do” speech since the audience is asked to do something. This second type of policy speech (the “do” speech) is sometimes called a “speech to actuate.” Although a simple problem-solution organization with only two main points is permissible for a speech of actuation, you will probably do well to utilize the more detailed format called Monroe’s Motivated Sequence.
This format, designed by Alan Monroe (1951), who wrote a popular speaking textbook for many years, is based on John Dewey’s reflective thinking process. It seeks to go in-depth with the many questions an audience would have in the process of listening to a persuasive speech. Monroe’s Motivated Sequence involves five steps, which should not be confused with the main points of the outline. Some steps in Monroe’s Motivated Sequence may take two points.
- Attention . This is the introduction, where the speaker brings attention to the importance of the topic as well as his or her own credibility and connection to the topic. This step will include the thesis and preview.
- Need . Here the problem is defined and defended. This step may be divided into two main points, such as the problem and the causes of it, since logically a solution should address the underlying causes as well as 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 family, or their community. The harm or need can be physical, financial, psychological, legal, emotional, educational, social, or a combination. It will have to be supported by evidence.
- Satisfaction . A need calls for satisfaction in the same way a problem requires a solution. This step could also, in some cases, take up two main points. Not only does the speaker present the solution and describe it, but they must also defend that it works and will address the causes of the problem as well as the symptoms.
- Visualization . This step looks to the future either positively or negatively. If positive, the benefits from enacting or choosing the solution are shown. If negative, the disadvantages of not doing anything to solve the problem are shown. There may be times when it is acceptable to skip this step, especially if time is limited. The purpose of visualization is to motivate the audience by revealing future benefits or through fear appeals by showing future harms.
- Action . This can be the conclusion, although if the speaker really wants to spend time on moving the audience to action, the action step should be a full main point and the conclusion saved for summary and a dramatic ending. 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. Whereas the satisfaction step explains the solution overall, the action step gives concrete ways to begin making the solution happen.
The more concrete you can make the action step, the better. Research shows that people are more likely to act if they know how accessible the action can be. For example, if you want students to be vaccinated against the chicken pox virus (which can cause a serious disease called shingles in adults), you can give them directions to and hours for a clinic or health center where vaccinations at a free or discounted price can be obtained.
In some cases for speeches of policy, no huge problem needs solving. Or, there is a problem, but the audience already knows about it and is convinced that the problem exists and is important. In those cases, a format called “comparative advantages” is used, which focuses on how one possible solution is better than other possible ones. The organizational pattern for this kind of proposition might be topical:
I. This policy is better because…
II. This policy is better because…
III. This policy is better because…
If this sounds a little like a commercial that is because advertisements often use comparative advantages to show that one product is better than another. Here is an example:
Proposition: Owning the Barnes and Noble Nook is more advantageous than owning the Amazon Kindle.
I. The Nook allows owners to trade and loan books to other owners or people who have downloaded the Nook software, while the Kindle does not.
II. The Nook has a color-touch screen, while the Kindle’s screen is black and grey and non-interactive.
III. The Nook’s memory can be expanded through microSD, while the Kindle’s memory cannot be upgraded.
Building Upon Your Persuasive Speech’s Arguments
Once you have constructed the key arguments and order of points (remembering that if you use topical order, to put your strongest or most persuasive point last), it is time to be sure your points are well supported. In a persuasive speech, there are some things to consider about evidence.
First, your evidence should be from sources that the audience will find credible. If you can find the same essential information from two sources but know that the audience will find the information more credible from one source than another, use and cite the information from the more credible one. For example, if you find the same statistical data on Wikipedia and the U.S. Department of Labor’s website, cite the U.S. Department of Labor (your instructor will probably not accept the Wikipedia site anyway). Audiences also accept information from sources they consider unbiased or indifferent. Gallup polls, for example, have been considered reliable sources of survey data because unlike some organizations, Gallup does not have a cause (political or otherwise) it is supporting.
Secondly, your evidence should be new to the audience. In other words, the best evidence is that which is from credible sources and the audience has not heard before (Reinard, 1988; McCroskey, 1969). If they have heard it before and discounted it, they will not consider your argument well supported. An example is telling people who smoke that smoking will cause lung cancer. Everyone in the U.S. has heard that thousands of times, but 14% of the population still smokes, which is about one in seven (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017)). Many of those who smoke have not heard the information that really motivates them to quit yet, and of course quitting is very difficult. Additionally, new evidence is more attention-getting, and you will appear more credible if you tell the audience something new (as long as you cite it well) than if you use the “same old, same old” evidence they have heard before.
Third, in order to be effective and ethical, your supporting evidence should be relevant and not used out of context, and fourth, it should be timely and not out of date.
After choosing the evidence and apportioning it to the correct parts of the speech, you will want to consider use of metaphors, quotations, rhetorical devices, and narratives that will enhance the language and “listenability” of your speech. Narratives are especially good for introduction and conclusions, to get attention and to leave the audience with something dramatic. You might refer to the narrative in the introduction again in the conclusion to give the speech a sense of finality.
Next you will want to decide if you should use any type of presentation aid for the speech. The decision to use visuals such as PowerPoint slides or a video clip in a persuasive speech should take into consideration the effect of the visuals on the audience and the time allotted for the speech (as well as your instructor’s specifications). The charts, graphs, or photographs you use should be focused and credibly done.
One of your authors remembers a speech by a student about using seat belts (which is, by the way, an overdone topic). What made the speech effective in this case were photographs of two totaled cars, both of which the student had been driving when they crashed. The devastation of the wrecks and his ability to stand before us and give the speech because he had worn his seat belt was effective (although it didn’t say much for his driving ability). If you wanted an audience to donate to disaster relief after an earthquake in a foreign country, a few photographs of the destruction would be effective, and perhaps a map of the area would be helpful. But in this case, less is more. Too many visual aids will likely distract from your overall speech claim.
Finally, since you’ve already had experience in class giving at least one major speech prior to this one, your delivery for the persuasive speech should be especially strong. Since delivery does affect credibility (Burgoon, Birk, & Pfau, 1990), you want to be able to connect visually as you make your appeals. You want to be physically involved and have vocal variety when you tell dramatic narratives that emphasize the human angle on your topic. If you do use presentation slides, you want them to work in seamlessly, using black screens when the visuals are not necessary.
Your persuasive speech in class, as well as in real life, is an opportunity to share a passion or cause that you believe will matter to society and help the audience live a better life. Even if you are initially uncomfortable with the idea of persuasion, we use it all the time in different ways. Choose your topic based on your own commitment and experience, look for quality evidence, craft your proposition so that it will be clear and audience appropriate, and put the finishing touches on it with an eye toward enhancing your logos, ethos, and pathos.
Something to Think About
Go to YouTube and look for “Persuasive Speeches by College Students.” There are quite a few. Here’s one example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNr7Fx-SM1Y . Do you find this speech persuasive? Why or why not? Based on the content of this chapter, what did the speaker do correctly or perhaps not so correctly that affected his or her persuasiveness?