The Art of Persuasion in Public Speaking

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  • 0:01 Persuasion
  • 1:26 Elements of Persuasion
  • 4:12 Using Persuasive Appeals
  • 5:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Cathryn Jackson

Cat has taught a variety of subjects, including communications, mathematics, and technology. Cat has a master's degree in education and is currently working on her Ph.D.

Persuasion is all around you. You are likely trying to persuade someone or they are persuading you all of the time. In this lesson, you will learn about the different types of persuasion and the strategies you can use.


Whether you are sitting in front of your television, computer, tablet, or smartphone, you are probably seeing a lot of advertisements. You may even see advertisements on the bus, train, or in your car on the way to work. These advertisements are persuading you do to something: buy something, vote for someone, or go somewhere for a vacation or to college.

Similarly, you will encounter persuasion by the people in your life. Coworkers are persuading you to work with them on projects or get your help on a task. Your boss is persuading you to complete a task or partake in training. Likewise, you are persuading the people around you to do things or think a certain way. Persuasion is all around you.

This lesson is an overview of the art of persuasion, including persuasive strategies and using persuasive appeals. In its most basic form, persuasion is simple. The goal of persuasion is to get a person to change. Think of the action of persuasion as a movement on this sliding scale. When persuasion occurs, a person will move somewhere on this scale. Accomplishing this goal, however, can be quite complex.

Persuasion is convincing your target audience to move in a direction
sliding scale of persuasion

So, what is persuasion? Persuasion is the act of getting another person to think or behave differently from his or her current thoughts or actions.

Elements of Persuasion

There are many persuasive strategies. For this lesson, let's discuss the specifics of making a persuasive claim and targeting your audience for persuasion. First, your thesis statement is an essential element to your persuasive speech. In addition to summarizing the main ideas of your speech, you will want to use a thesis statement to make your claim or establish your position on a certain topic. Using your thesis statement to make a claim is a good strategy for persuasion because it makes your position clear to the audience in the introduction of your speech.

Second, you need to identify your target audience. Every audience is different, and every audience member has a different opinion. You can conduct an audience analysis, the practice of examining listeners to maximize the public speaking event. From your audience analysis, identify your target audience. You will want to try to persuade the majority of your audience to agree with your claim, but understand that you cannot win over every audience member. For more information about target audience, check out our chapter on Analyzing Your Audience!

Third, as the speaker you have what's called the burden of proof. The burden of proof is the speaker's responsibility to prove that change to the status quo is required. The speaker has the burden to prove the need to the audience. Without this, it's hard to convince an audience to change their minds. Keep in mind that it is your responsibility to show the audience that change must occur. This is referred to as 'the need' in the persuasive speech.

'The need' in persuasive speaking is essential to any persuasive speech. Remember, persuasion inspires people to change their thoughts and behavior. Therefore, you first must establish this need to change - this is the psychological appeal to audience members. The audience must feel the need to change before you can tell them in what way they can change.

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