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English 9-10

The Top 5 Persuasive Techniques for Speeches

In this article, we will show you the top 5 techniques you must use in your speeches to wow your audience.

Too often, students’ speeches are simply an essay on legs. They lack the techniques that give speeches its life. So, this is why we’re showing you how to use the 5 best persuasive techniques for speeches to convince your audiences.

 

5 persuasive techniques for speeches:

  1. Rhetorical questions
  2. Personal anecdotes
  3. Tricolon 
  4. Inclusive language 
  5. Emotive language

 

1. Rhetorical questions

A rhetorical question is a question that you ask for dramatic effect, instead of acquiring answers.

This is one of the most commonly used persuasive techniques for speeches because it is so effective at engaging your audience.

However, overusing rhetorical techniques can also make your speech sound too repetitive and uncertain. So, you need to find the right balance!

So, let’s see how we can do this.

 

1. Force your audience to think

If you ask an open-ended question without providing an answer, your audience will automatically start thinking about their own answers.

For example, “What do you think the world will look like in 50 years?

What were some ideas that popped into your head?

Is the world exactly the same as ours today? Does it have levitating cars and magic glasses? Or is it dying from climate change?

You see, when someone asks you a rhetorical question, you start to explore different ideas in your mind. You might even find yourself exploring new possibilities that you haven’t considered before!

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2. Emphasise a specific point

You can use rhetorical questions to emphasise your previous statement. This will make your audience think hard about the importance of what you said and agree with you.

For example: “67% of all Australians are overweight. Are you one of them?

Here, the rhetorical question hammers the preceding statement in your mind. You realise that 67% is actually a really high percentage of overweight Australians.

 

3. Evoke emotions

Rhetorical questions can also evoke emotions by putting the audience in a situation where they can empathise with what is being discussed.

Let’s change the statement, “Future generations will never see tigers or polar bears again” into a rhetorical question.

What if your child and their child can never see a tiger or polar bear again?

See how it is an effective way to make the audience feel what you want them to feel. This helps you convince them to believe your speech.

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2. Personal anecdotes

A personal anecdote is a short story about an experience in your life.

It is usually provocative, interesting, humorous, shocking, and/or touching… You name it!

If you watch any TED talk, you will see that all their speakers use personal anecdotes. Sometimes this lasts for a minute or two. Sometimes this goes on for 10 or 20 minutes.

However, this doesn’t mean that you should also make your whole 5-6 minute speeches into a personal anecdote.

Use it sparingly but effectively. We will show you how!

 

1. Have a message

You can’t just use a personal anecdote because you want to tell a story. It needs to have a message that supports your thesis.

This way, you’re clearly showing your audience what is beneficial or not through your own experiences…

Which helps you convince them to believe your speech!

So, select a story that supports your argument and hammer down your message by telling the audience what you learned at the end of your anecdote.

 

2. Use it with purpose

Where you place your anecdote in your speech will determine it’s purpose. Ensure that you know exactly why you are using your anecdote to help you use it at the right time.

a. Introduce a complex idea 

Use your anecdote at the beginning of your speech to set the stage. This will slowly introduce your complex ideas to the audience instead of directly confronting them with it.

b. Make an idea more relatable

You can ground your message in real-life by using an anecdote in the introduction or body of your speech. This will engage audiences and help them think that the message also applies to them.

c. Consistently re-iterate a message 

You need to use an anecdote in the early stages of your speech, then consistently refer to parts of your anecdote throughout the speech. This will continually remind your audience about the message in your anecdote.

d. Hammer down your message

Use an anecdote at the closing of your speech to hammer down your thesis. This is a good opportunity to highlight what you have learned from your experiences and show your audience that they can do the same.

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3. Be descriptive

The audience wants to feel what you felt in your story. They want to know what you were thinking.

So, be descriptive and bring your story to life!

Describe what you saw, heard, smelt or felt. Tell them what you thought!

 

4. But be authentic

Don’t confuse descriptiveness with lack of authenticity. Your whole speech will lose credibility when your personal anecdotes sound unrealistic.

So, you mustn’t exaggerate or make up a story. Your audience wants to know what you experienced, not what you’re imagining.

Also, use a conversational tone and easy everyday language. This will make it sound more realistic and relatable.

Here is an example. Which one of these statements seems more authentic.

  1. I helped my ma pick tomatoes
  2. I helped my mother pick Solanum Lycopersicum.

The first statement is much easier to understand and relatable. The second statement is confusing and remove the element of relatability.

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3. Tricolon

A tricolon is another very commonly used persuasive techniques for speeches.

However, they are effective at convincing your audience because they leave a strong, lasting impression on your audience.

So, a tricolon basically refers to a set of 3 words, phrases or clauses.

Remember, 3 is the magic number!

For example, let’s see which statement is more memorable:

  1. They killed the dog and stole the TV and car.
  2. They killed the dog. They stole the TV. They took the car.

Notice how the 2nd statement is much more interesting and memorable!

So, let’s see the all different ways we can use tricolon:

 

1. Words

You can use a set of 3 different or repetitive words:

  • On its own:
    • eg. Live. Life. Love.
    • eg. No. No. No!
  • In a sentence:
    • eg. “[The phoenix] recreate us, when we are torn, hurt and even destroyed” (Doris Lessing, On Not Winning a Nobel Prize Speech)
    • eg. “Good women who do good things for good reasons” (Margaret Atwood, Spotty Handed Villainesses Speech)

 

2. Phrase

You can also use a tricolon by making a set of 3 different or repetitive phrases:

  • On its own:
    • eg. After all this time, nothing has changed. After all this time, people are still suffering. After all this time, we are still learning. 
  • In a sentence: 
    • eg. “It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.“ (Dwight Eisenhower, Chance for Peace Speech)

 

3. Clause

Another way to use tricolon is making a set of 3 different or repetitive clauses:

  • On its own:
      • Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” (Benjamin Franklin)
      • We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers. We practised discrimination and exclusion.” (Paul Keating, Redfern Speech”
  • In a sentence: 
    • eg. “We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence” (Winston Churchill, We Shall Fight on the Beaches Speech)

Note: Repeating the beginning of successive sentences in also known as anaphora.

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The 3 Little Pigs an example of the rule of 3!

 

 

4. Inclusive language

Inclusive language refers to pronouns that include your audience like 1st and 2nd person pronouns.

They are persuasive because they directly engage with your audience, and give them a sense of responsibility and inclusivity.

So, let’s examine the different ways we can use inclusive pronouns:

 

1.  “Us”

Everyone loves to feel included. So, using first-person plural pronouns is a great way to engage your audience and extend your message to them as well.

These include “us” and “we”.

For example, which statement sounds more convincing?

  1. People must take action to stop climate change!
  2. We must take action to stop climate change!

The 2nd one of course! This is because using inclusive pronouns make the audience feel responsible and included in your speech.

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2. “Us and them”

The ‘us and them paradigm’ is one of the most effective techniques to convince your audience to act one way and not the other.

So, how does it work?

Let’s view an example from JK Rowling’s The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Power of Imagination Speech to help us understand this.

They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages.” vs “We have the power to imagine better.

Here, we see that Rowling clearly categories 2 types of people;

  • Them: The people who lack empathy and aren’t willing to help others
  • Us: The people who have the power to help and are willing to do it

By using this paradigm, she excludes her audience from the unfavourable group and aligns them in the favourable group.

Therefore, she convinces the audience to believe in her message because she places faith in them.

This is how you should use the us and them paradigm.

 

2. “You”

Using 2nd person pronouns like “you” is very provocative. It excludes you (the speaker) from the audience.

So, it is not a good idea to use 2nd person pronouns when you are trying to convince them to do something.

Why? Well, let’s view an example.

  1. We need to start planting more trees to help!
  2. You need to start planting more trees to help!

See how the 2nd person pronoun places the blame on the audience? This will make them less convinced to act because you made them feel inferior to you (the speaker).

Instead, you should use 2nd person pronouns to provoke thought and/or questions or to confirm positive characteristics.

For example, “You are all intelligent people.” or “Have you ever felt this way before?”

Notice how these sentences are still provocative, but it doesn’t place the blame on the audience? This is how you should use 2nd person language.

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5. Emotive language

Emotive language is another one of the most effective persuasive techniques for speeches.

Why?

Well, emotive language refers to the particular selection of words and phrases that appeal to the audience’s pathos… in other words, emotions.

For example, let’s examine Sir William Deane’s speech, It is Still Winter at Home.

  • “Their loss is a profound tragedy for their families and friends”
  • “Their deaths represent probably the greatest single peacetime loss of young Australians.”

Now, let’s remove the emotive language from these lines and see the difference:

  • The deaths are hard for their families and friends.
  • Many Australians died in the incident.

See how there are no longer any emotions or ‘life’ in the speech without emotive language [pun not intended]. We are no longer concerned with the speech.

So, how can we use emotive language in our speeches?

 

1. Adjectives and adverbs

Use adjectives and adverbs that hold emotional weight to convince the audience.

For example, don’t just say “The girl was bullied by the boys.” This is too bland.

Instead, add some adjectives and adverbs to make it appeal to the audience’s empathy.

For example, “The small, innocent girl was continuously bullied by the big boys.”

 

2. Metaphors and similes

Use metaphors and similes to compare one thing to another.

This will help the audience imagine what you are describing and make your speech sound more convincing.

For example, don’t simply say “The light was bright”. Instead, you say “The light was as blinding as the sun”

See how this paints a more vivid image? This helps the audience imagine and feel what you want them to feel.

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Want to improve your English speech writing?

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Written by Tammy Dang

Tammy is a former student of Matrix and is now studying Law / Media (Screen and Sound Production) at UNSW. She is a Digital Content Writer for the Matrix Education blog. Tammy aspires to become a Young Offenders Lawyer in the future while continuing to create art.

 

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