Types of Persuasive Speeches

Learning Objectives

  1. Differentiate the three different purposes of speeches
  2. Understand how three types of persuasive claims lead to different types of persuasive speeches.

This week we will begin our unit on writing persuasive speeches. Speeches will usually fall into one of three categories. In some cases we speak to inform, meaning we attempt to teach our audience using factual objective evidence. In other cases, we speak to persuade, as we try to influence an audience’s beliefs, attitudes, values, or behaviors. Last, we may speak to entertain or amuse our audience.

Speech Purposes and Topics

To Inform To Persuade To Entertain
Announcement Gun control Comedic monologue
Renewable energy Privacy rights My craziest adventure
Product launch Prison reform A “roast”

Some of the topics listed could fall into another general purpose category depending on how the speaker approached the topic, or they could contain elements of more than one general purpose. For example, you may have to inform your audience about your topic in one main point before you can persuade them, or you may include some entertaining elements in an informative or persuasive speech to help make the content more engaging for the audience. However, there should not be elements of persuasion included in an informative speech. In any case, while there may be some overlap between general purposes, most speeches can be placed into one of the categories based on the overall content of the speech.

Persuasive Speeches

In this class, you will be writing a persuasive speech. Obviously, there are many different persuasive speech topics you could select. Anything from local issues like changing a specific college policy to larger societal claims like adding more enforcement against human trafficking could work for an interesting persuasive speech.

There are generally three different types of persuasive speeches based on the claim you are trying to persuade your audience to accept.

Factual Claims

Factual claims set out to argue the truth or falsity of an assertion. Some factual claims are simple to answer: Barack Obama is the first African American President; the tallest man in the world, Robert Wadlow, was eight feet and eleven inches tall; Facebook wasn’t profitable until 2009. All these factual claims are well documented by evidence and can be easily supported with a little research.

However, many factual claims cannot be answered absolutely. Some factual claims are simply hard to determine the falsity or truth of because the final answer on the subject has not been discovered (e.g., what rights should animals have, when does life begin). The simple fact of the matter is that there is not enough evidence to clearly answer these factual claims.

Other factual claims that may not be easily answered using evidence are predictions of what may or may not happen. For example, you could give a speech on the future of climate change or the future of terrorism in the United States.

When thinking of factual claims, it often helps to pretend that you’re putting a specific claim on trial and as the speaker your job is to defend your claim as a lawyer would defend a client. Ultimately, your job is to be more persuasive than your audience members who act as both opposition attorneys and judges.

Value Claims

The second type of claim is a value claim, or a claim where the speaker is advocating a judgment claim about something (e.g., it’s good or bad, it’s right or wrong, it’s beautiful or ugly, moral or immoral).

Let’s look at three value claims. We’ve italicized the evaluative term in each claim:

  • Censorship is wrong.
  • SUVs are gas guzzling monstrosities.
  • It’s unfair for pregnant people to have special parking spaces at stores.

Each of these three claims could definitely be made by a speaker and other speakers could say the exact opposite.

Policy Claims – this is the type of speech you will write

The third common claim that is seen in persuasive speeches is the policy claim—a statement about the nature of a problem and the solution that should be implemented. Policy claims are probably the most common form of persuasive speaking because we live in a society surrounded by problems and people who have ideas about how to fix these problems. Let’s look at a few examples of possible policy claims:

  • Canada should implement capital punishment.
  • Canada should stop using foreign oil.
  • Human cloning for organ donations should be legal.
  • Nonviolent drug offenders should be sent to rehabilitation centers and not prisons.
  • The tobacco industry should be required to pay 100 percent of the medical bills for individuals dying of smoking-related cancers.
  • Canada needs to invest more in preventing poverty at home and less in feeding the starving around the world.

Each of these claims has a clear perspective that is being advocated. Policy claims will always have a clear and direct opinion for what should occur and what needs to change.

Choosing a Topic

In this class, you will be given the option to choose any topic for your persuasive speech, but in most academic, professional, and personal settings, there will be some parameters set that will help guide your topic selection. Whether you’ve received parameters that narrow your topic range or not, the first step in choosing a topic is brainstorming. You may begin by brainstorming a list of your personal interests that can then be narrowed down to a speech topic. It makes sense that you will enjoy speaking about something that you care about or find interesting. The research and writing will be more interesting, and the delivery will be easier since you won’t have to fake enthusiasm for your topic.

Overall you can follow these tips as you select and narrow your topic:

  1. Brainstorm topics that you are familiar with, interest you, and/or are currently topics of discussion.
  2. Choose a topic that you can make relevant to your audience.
  3. Choose a topic that you have the resources to research (access to information, people to interview, etc.).

Key Takeaways

  • There are three types of persuasive claims.
  • Factual claims argue the truth or falsity about an assertion being made.
  • Value claims argue a judgment about something (e.g., it’s good or bad, it’s right or wrong, it’s beautiful or ugly, moral or immoral).
  • Policy claims argue the nature of a problem and the solution that should be taken.

Exercises

  1. Look at the list of the top one hundred speeches in the United States during the twentieth century compiled by Stephen E. Lucas and Martin J. Medhurst (http://www.americanrhetoric.com/top100speechesall.html). Select a speech and examine it to determine which type of claim is being made by the speech.

License