Persuasive Speeches — Types, Topics, and Examples

Daniel Bal
Written by
Daniel Bal
Edited by
Courtney Adamo
Fact-checked by
Paul Mazzola

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.

Success of a persuasive speech
Success of a persuasive speech

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.

Types of persuasive speeches
Types of persuasive speeches

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.

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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.

How to write a persuasive speech
How to write a persuasive speech

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.

How to write a persuasive speech
How to write a persuasive speech

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:

  1. Introduction

    1. Attention Grabbers

      1. 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.

      2. 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.

      3. Offer a startling statement or information about the topic, typically done using data or statistics.

      4. Provide a brief anecdote or story that relates to the topic.

      5. Starting a speech with a humorous statement often makes the audience more comfortable with the speaker.

    2. Provide information on how the selected topic may impact the audience.

    3. Include any background information pertinent to the topic that the audience needs to know to understand the speech in its entirety.

    4. Give the thesis statement in connection to the main topic and identify the main ideas that will help accomplish the central purpose.

  2. Body

    1. Support 1

      1. Evidence 1

        1. Identify evidence

        2. Summarize its meaning

        3. Explain how it helps prove the support/main claim

      2. Evidence 2

        1. Identify evidence

        2. Summarize its meaning

        3. Explain how it helps prove the support/main claim

      3. Evidence 3 (Continue as needed)

      4. Transition

    2. Support 2

      1. Evidence 1

        1. Identify evidence

        2. Summarize its meaning

        3. Explain how it helps prove the support/main claim

      2. Evidence 2

        1. Identify evidence

        2. Summarize its meaning

        3. Explain how it helps prove the support/main claim

      3. Evidence 3 (Continue as needed)

      4. Transition

    3. Support 3 (Continue as needed)

  3. Conclusion

    1. Restate thesis

    2. Review main supports

    3. Concluding statement

      1. Give the audience a call to action to do something specific.

      2. Identify the overall importance 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 topics
Factual Value Policy
Benefits of healthy foods Animal testing Affirmative action
Cell phone use while driving Arts in education Credit cards
Climate change Capital punishment/death penalty Fossil fuels
Extinction of the dinosaurs Community service Fracking
Extraterrestrial life Fast food & obesity Global warming
Gun violence Human cloning Gun control
Increase in poverty Influence of social media Mental health/health care
Moon landing Paying college athletes Minimum wage
Pandemics Screen time for young children Renewable energy
Voting rights Violent video games School choice/private vs. public schools vs. homeschooling
World hunger Zoos & exotic animals School uniforms

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?”