Guest post: The Impact of a Persuasive Speech

Standing on a Soap Box
Today’s guest post is written by Lawrence Feldman. Lawrence manages a small tech company and works as a freelancer when he’s not taking MBA classes.

If you’ve ever gone on a rant—and who hasn’t?—then you are familiar with the art of persuasive speaking. With this type of speech, the speaker’s primary goal is to get the audience to accept his or her viewpoint. One of the challenges for the speaker is how resistant the audience is to making that change.

The Impact of a Persuasive Speech

Persuasive speech can do three things, according to boundless.com: It can convince, create action and stimulate thinking.

  • Convince me. You seek to create an opinion or change the minds of your audience. This is more than just expressing a preference; it’s about actually altering the way the audience thinks.
  • Get me to act. You want to motivate the audience to do something. Success with this relies on two premises: One, an audience member may choose to agree with the speaker, and two, that people in a group can be motivated to take action based on the overall group response. So, an individual may not be entirely convinced, but if the group appears to go along, the person may well join in.
  • Stimulate my support. You want to take an existing belief of the audience and strengthen it. This is similar to the “action” speech, but it’s more oriented to getting people to initiate their own actions based on the enhanced opinion. Political rallies are a place where this type of speech is used in order to get supporters of a particular candidate to become even more invested in the person.

All three tactics can be incorporated into one speech, depending on the purpose and the audience. As the Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury for Tax Policy, Mark Weinberger explained complex tax code to Congress. A gifted public speaker, Weinberger used all three types to create a feeling in Congressional members that changes needed to be made to create better a better tax structure. By adapting your style to the audience and event, your persuasive speech will be more effective.

The Signs of the Impact on the Audience

Watch for nonverbal clues from the audience to determine the impact your speech is having on them. Furrowed brows and eye rolling indicate the audience is resistant to your viewpoint; the happier the crowd looks and the more they nod their heads, the more likely it is they agree with you.

The Technique of Persuasive Speaking

There are several reasons why a persuasive speech is successful. Perhaps the audience trusts the speaker’s credibility. Or, maybe the speaker has used an emotional appeal, which makes people feel strongly about the topic. Finally, presenting rational points leads people to believe the topic makes sense. All these elements can be combined to create an effective speech.

Those hoping to sway opinion with a speech would do well to study the strategies that Ernst & Young CEO Weinberger uses in his speeches. For additional help, do a YouTube search for “public speaking tips.” 

What tips do you have for persuasive speeches?

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