11.2 Presentations that Persuade

Persuasive presentations have the following features, they:


lightning bolt

When you focus on stimulation as the goal of your speech, you want to reinforce existing beliefs, intensify them, and bring them to the forefront. By presenting facts, you will reinforce existing beliefs, intensify them, and bring the issue to the surface. When your strategy is to stimulate, you might build your presentation on a foundation of common ground and commonly held beliefs, then introduce new information that a mainstream audience may not be aware of.


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In a persuasive speech, the goal is to change the attitudes, beliefs, values, or judgments of your audience. Consider a prosecuting attorney trying to convince jury members that a defendant is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. He or she may discuss motive and present facts, all with the goal to convince the jury to believe that his or her argument is correct.

Audience members hold beliefs and are likely to have their own personal bias. When you are trying to convince your listeners, your goal is to get them to agree with your position; you will need to plan a range of points, data and examples to prompt audience members to consider your stance.

Include a Call to Action

icon of a megaphone indicating an announcement

Figure 11.1 below shows the “Reduce, reuse, recycle, repeat” slogan. The recycling movement is one of the most successful and persuasive call to action campaigns of the past twenty or more years in Canada (Babooram & Wang, 2007).

image of an arrow with the words reduce, reuse, recycle, repeat on it
Figure 11.1. “Reduce-reuse-recycle-repeat” by Phil Gibbs, CC BY 4.0

When your presentation involves a call to action for your audience, you are indicating that your purpose is not to stimulate interest, reinforce and accentuate beliefs, or convince them of a viewpoint – you want your listeners to do something. The goal of your presentation is to change their behaviour in some way.

If you were a showroom salesperson at Toyota for example, your sales presentations might include the concept that the purchase of a Prius hybrid model is a call to action against issues of global warming related to fossil fuel consumption. The economics, even at current gas prices, might not completely justify the difference in price between a hybrid and a non-hybrid car. However, if you as a salesperson can make a convincing argument that choosing a hybrid car is the right and responsible decision, you may be more likely to get the customer to act. The persuasive speech that focuses on action often generates curiosity, clarifies a problem, and proposes a range of solutions. The key difference is that there is a clear link to action associated with the solutions.

Solutions lead us to considering the goals of action. These goals address the question, “What do I want the audience to do as a result of being engaged by my speech?” The goals of action include adoption, discontinuance, deterrence, and continuance.

Adoption means the speaker wants to persuade the audience to take on a new way of thinking, or adopt a new idea. Examples could include buying a new product or deciding to donate blood. The key is that the audience member adopts, or takes on, a new view, action, or habit.

Discontinuance involves the speaker persuading the audience to stop doing something what they have been doing. Rather than take on a new habit or action, the speaker is asking the audience member to stop an existing behaviour or idea.

Deterrence is a call to action that focuses on persuading the audience not to start something if they haven’t already started. The goal of action would be to deter, or encourage the audience members to refrain from starting or initiating the behaviour.

Finally, with continuance, the speaker aims to persuade the audience to continue doing what they have been doing, such as to keep buying a product, participating in their daily dental routine, or staying in school to complete their education.

A speaker may choose to address more than one of these goals in a call to action, depending on the audience analysis. If the audience is largely agreeable and supportive, you may find continuance to be your primary goal, with adoption as a secondary target.

Goals in call to action presentations serve to guide you in the development of solution steps. Solution steps involve suggestions or ways the audience can take action after your speech. Audience members appreciate a strong discussion of the problem in a persuasive presentation, but they also appreciate clear solutions.

Increase Consideration

In a speech designed to increase consideration, you want to entice your audience to consider alternate viewpoints on the topic you have chosen. Audience members may hold views that are hostile in relation to yours, or perhaps they are neutral and simply curious about your topic. Returning to the Toyota salesperson example, you might be able to compare and contrast competing cars and show that the costs over ten years are quite similar. But the Prius has additional features that are the equivalent of a bonus, including high gas mileage. You might describe tax incentives for ownership, maintenance schedules and costs, and resale value. Your arguments and their support aim at increasing the audience’s consideration of your position. You may not be asking for action in this presentation, but a corresponding increase of consideration may lead the customer to take action at a later date.

Develop Tolerance of Alternate Perspectives

Finally, you may want to help your audience develop tolerance of alternate perspectives and viewpoints. Perhaps your audience, as in the previous example, is interested in purchasing a car and you are the lead salesperson on that model. As you listen, and do your informal audience analysis, you may learn that horsepower and speed are important values to this customer. You might raise the issue of torque versus horsepower and indicate that the “uumph” you feel as you start a car off the line is torque. Many hybrid and even electric vehicles have great torque, as their systems involve fewer parts and less friction than a corresponding internal combustion-transaxle system. Your goal is to help your audience develop tolerance, but not necessarily acceptance, of alternate perspectives. By starting from common ground, and introducing a related idea, you are persuading your audience to consider an alternate perspective.

A persuasive speech may stimulate thought, convince, call to action, increase consideration, or develop tolerance of alternate perspectives.

53. Presentations that Persuade” from Communication for Business Professionals by eCampusOntario is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


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