Persuasive Speaking

Official Description: An original speech by the student designed to inspire, reinforce, or change the beliefs, attitudes, values, or actions of the audience.

Audio-visual aids may or may not be used to supplement and reinforce the message. Multiple sources should be used and cited in the development of the speech. Notes are permitted. Maximum time limit is 10 minutes.

What you should expect to get out of this event:

  1. You will learn much about a significant current problem.
  2. You will learn how to analyze and understand problems, how to broaden your knowledge through systematic research, and how to formulate solutions to problems.
  3. You will enjoy sharing your observations and insights with coaches and team members in rehearsal, and with audiences in competition.
  4. You will learn how to structure ideas for clear and effective presentation.
  5. You will learn greater control of your voice and body, making both more expressive.
  6. You will learn self-control and poise under pressure.
  7. You will read more widely and perceptively, sorting and gathering material which you can use in your speech.
  8. You will develop your memory, learning to depend on it to provide you with the latest version of your speech.
  9. You will learn to become a better observer of the world around you, staying alert for information and viewpoints that will make you a better thinker and speaker.
  10. You will come to a better understanding of yourself, searching your own experience to help you find worth-while things to say.
  11. You will learn much by watching excellent speakers.


Special features of this event in competition:

In early tournaments the PER event is relatively small, because not many people have them ready yet. The good speakers are those who have been working over the summer. Late in the semester the event gets much larger, because students in college speech and persuasion courses are encouraged to enter - sometimes whole classes enter. Most of these are not competitive, but some are good. The best persuasive speeches improve and develop over a long series of tournaments.


What you will do to be competitive in this event:

Initial preparation: about 4 weeks

  1. select the Persuasive event
  2. find a good topic area 2-3 days
  3. do some preliminary research 1-2 days
  4. develop an effective thesis statement 1 day
  5. create preliminary outline 1 day
  6. extensive research to support outline points 1 wee
  7. write the speech 2-3 days
  8. rewrite for timing and polish 2 days
  9. memorize the speech 2 days
  10. practice delivery 4-5 days

Between-tournament preparation:

  1. Additional research to strengthen, keep up-to-date
  2. Rewrite to strengthen, clarify
  3. Re-memorize new version
  4. Continue practicing delivery

Hints for finding good topics:

Speeches in PER are usually "speeches to convince" or "speeches to actuate" which explore some significant problem and argue for a particular solution. It's best if the solution is some action the audience itself can take (beyond just "write your congressperson" which is by now a cliché). The trick is to find some problem that touches all of us, but which isn't already over-discussed. Old topics work too, if you can find a new angle on them. By the time your speech is competitive, you will have done an amount of research equivalent to an upper-division (Jr-Sr) college term paper.