Lesson Plans > Speaking
a Persuasive Speech
Delivering a Persuasive Speech
Submitted by: Douglas Parker
Students will be able to:
1) Demonstrate the appropriate classroom public speaking and listening
skills (e.g., body language, articulation, listening to be able to identify
specific examples of the speaker's coordination of talking and action)
that would be necessary to influence or change someone's mind or way of
thinking about a topic.
2) Define the elements of persuasion.
3) Recognize the elements of personal credibility.
4) Develop methods to analyze other students' speeches.
5) Understand outlining main ideas.
6) Create a persuasive speech.
Teacher-prepared topics for persuasive speeches.
A good background knowledge of public speaking skills would be helpful.
There is information online at: http://www.capital.net/~bps2
Activities and Procedures: Delivering a Persuasive
Speech The Procedure During class discussion, define and explain how people
make decisions based on what they see and hear. Explain that sometimes
we have to use skills to convince others about our positions. Have the
students recall and list their own experiences trying to convince their
friends about something, and then ask them to share these with the class.
Have the students pick a proposition that not everyone would agree with
such as: "nuclear power plants are superior energy sources." Have them
write a 6 to 8 - minute speech in outline form to persuade the class.
Each student will then deliver this speech in front of the class while
the rest of the students take notes and prepare to give the speaker feedback
on the speech. The Lesson: The Voice and Body are the Best Tools Every
student is a natural persuader! They have done it all their lives. Every
time someone enters a conversation, he or she engages in elementary persuasion
techniques. It is true, that any time students make a statement of fact,
they are asserting its validity and assuming that their listener agrees.
This speech goes further than a normal conversational assertion: now students
have to assume that not everyone will agree with them from the start,
and it is their job to make them see things their way. The goal of this
speech is to change someone's mind or way of thinking about a topic. This
is not a speech to sell, as students do not ask that the listener do anything
except to agree with them or to begin to listen to their way of thinking.
Their message is, of course, very important in this speech, but their
voice and body language are even more important. Here they will learn
how their delivery can help. There are several important aspects of presentation
to keep in mind; the academic elements of persuasion are:
1) Body language - make sure that they have a proper posture. If their
shoulders are sagging and their legs are crossed, they will not appear
as being sincere and people just will not accept their message.
2) Articulation - articulation means how their total vocal process works.
There are several steps to this entire process. Students need to understand
the process. First, they need air from the lungs, their vocal cords in
their larynx must be working, their mouth and tongue must be in sync,
and they have to make sure that they have got some saliva in their mouths
to keep things oiled. They should be aware of their physical makeup to
be able to understand how they speak.
3) Pronunciation - students need to pronounce each word. They must avoid
slang, except to make a point, and not slur the words. They must avoid
saying, "you know."
4) Pitch - pitch refers to the highs and lows of the voice. Whatever they
do, they must avoid a monotone!
5) Speed - the speed, or pace, is an important variable to control. Between
140-160 words per minute is the normal pace for a persuasive speech. Any
faster and they may appear to be glib; any slower and they sound like
they are lecturing. If they are not sure about their speed, tape them
for one minute and then replay it and count the number of words they used
in the minute! The human ear and brain can compile and decode over 400
spoken words per minute, so if they are going too slow their listeners'
minds are going to start to wander as the brains finds other ways to keep
6) Pauses - the pause, or caesura, is a critical persuasive tool. When
they want to emphasize a certain word, have them just pause for one second
before; this highlights the word. If they really want to punch it, tell
them to pause before and after the word!
7) Volume - volume is another good tool for a persuasive speech, but they
should use it with caution. If they scream all the way through their speech,
people will become accustomed to it and it will lose its effectiveness.
On the other hand, a few well-timed shouts can liven up the speech! They
must try to "project" or throw their voice out over the entire class -
or speak to the last row.
8) Quality - quality of voice is gauged by the overall impact that their
voice has on their listeners. Quality of voice is the net caliber of their
voice, its character and attributes. They must try to keep the vocal quality
high; it is what separates their voices from everyone else's.
9) Variance - variance of vocal elements is the most important consideration
of all! One of the most persuasive speakers in modern history was Winston
Churchill. One of his most remarkable qualities was his ability to vary
the elements of his voice. He would start with a slow, laconic voice and
then switch gears to a more rapid pace. People were light-headed after
listening to him! Even if they have no desire to run for political office,
students can still use the tools of variance. Have them try to change
their pitch, volume, and speed at least once every 30 seconds, if only
for just one word. Never let them go more than one paragraph without a
vocal variance. This keeps the class locked into the speech, if for no
other reason than it sounds interesting! Let the students' words speak
for themselves; reflect their nature through their voices. If they use
the word "strangle," have them say it with a hint of menace in their voices.
If they say the word "heave," let the class feel the onomatopoeic force
behind it. If they say the word "bulldozer," make it sound like a titan
earthmover, not like a baby with a shovel. The Strategy: Appear Rational
When students are trying to convince someone of something, they must first
establish their credibility, or in other words, they must sell themselves
before they sell their message. If people feel that they are not being
reasonable or rational, they do not stand a chance. They must be committed
to the ideals and goals of their speech and what they are saying. They
should not use words such as "maybe" or "might"- the should use positive
words such as "will" and "must." Students must portray themselves as the
authority figures in this speech, so they had better supply enough information
to prove their points so that they can seem knowledgeable, and they had
better know their material cold. People can usually spot someone who is
trying to "wing" a speech. They should also appear to be truthful - even
when they are really stretching a point. If they do not appear to be earnest,
even if their message is the 100% truth, people will doubt their word
and tune out their speech. Lastly, they must not be afraid to show a little
emotion - this is not a sterile or static speech. Student's bodies and
voices must match the tone of their words. If their language is strong,
they must present a physical force to go along with their deliveries.
Assessments: The Class Reaction The class has two major criteria to consider
after each member's speech. First, the delivery. Were the speaker's body,
words, and actions in synchronization and harmony? Did one support the
other or was there tension between the body and the voice? Secondly, were
the students persuaded? Why or why not? Discuss what makes a persuasive
speech work and how the intangibles effect a positive outcome.
Students need to understand that how they say something and how they physically
present themselves are just as important as what they say. By understanding
the dynamics involved in effective persuasive speaking, students will
improve their overall confidence in communicating.
Real World Usage:
Students can brainstorm their own topics for the speeches.
Additional Web Resources:
Public Speaking for Teachers and Students: http://www.capital.net/~bps2