Let me guess…
You wipe your clammy palms on the sides of your trousers.
Fidgeting, you pace back and forth, barely able to remember your lines.
You thumb through your notes once more.
Will the slides work? What if they don’t? Will your voice sound weird?
Such are the thoughts that attack you before public speaking.
Giving a speech is one of the most daunting experiences imaginable…
Creating a vortex of emotions.
So how do some people do it so easily?
What persuasive speech techniques do they use to mould their audience like putty?
Persuasive Speech Examples
“Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel.”Ralph Waldo Emerson
Look at some of the greatest speakers and leaders in history.
Abraham Lincoln, John F Kennedy, Winston Churchill…
They were puppet masters, listeners dangling on their every word.
Charlie Chaplain was another. Ok, not in the traditional sense, although this is one of my favourite movie speeches of all time…
And here are 35 more masterful speeches from which to draw inspiration.
When you study famous speakers of the past, analyse their persuasive speech techniques and use them in your own approach.
Model your public speaking on the best examples.
Also, you can learn from a variety of sources…
Persuasive advertising techniques mimic the devices used in speeches, to encourage purchasing decisions.
And there are similarities between persuasive speeches and essay writing.
Even Hollywood uses these methods in its storytelling.
How to Improve Your Public Speaking
Let me start with a story…
There was a man called Demosthenes who lived in ancient Athens and was born with a speech impediment.
Each time he addressed an audience he was ridiculed.
So he committed to improving his speeches and becoming more persuasive.
He practised by filling his mouth with pebbles and running up hills while speaking.
Every day he locked himself in an underground study to work on his speech devices.
And to ensure he stuck to his promise, he shaved half his head so he’d be too embarrassed to be seen in public.
He became one of the most famous orators in the nation and most sought-after speakers in Greece.
Not only is this story a good example of grit and determination, but also that you can improve your speeches with persistence and a few clever techniques.
So let’s gather some pebbles…
The goal of a persuasive speech is to change an audience’s opinion or strengthen an existing belief.
You want to convince them about an idea or encourage them to take some form of action.
Here’s a broad overview of how to do it…
This is your credibility as a speaker, as viewed by your audience. It can be the difference between winning and losing speech before you’ve even spoken a word.
It consists of four parts…
- Trustworthiness – If the audience trusts you, they’ll believe what you say
- Similarity to audience – You can change your language to match your audience (chameleon effect)
- Authority – What’s your position as speaker? More authority = more credibility
- Expertise – How much do you know about your topic?
Appeals to the audience using logic.
- The audience use deductive and inductive reasoning to assess the information you provide
- Therefore you need to present sound reasoning and logical sequence of thought in your speech
- Back up your claims with facts and research
- Instead of changing the audience’s viewpoint, can you strengthen an existing belief which still supports your message?
- Logos strengthens pathos and vice versa. Sound logic = more credibility in the eyes of the audience.
Appeal to the audience using emotion.
- People often make decisions based on emotion rather than logic
- Thus has been used in the advertising agencies for years, when they sell benefits over features
- Can you inject more emotion into your speech to generate feelings of warmth or compassion?
- Use power words, which forge strong emotional connections
- Use analogies and metaphors to make your speech easy to understand
- Tell stories which are attention gripping and ram your point home
- Use visuals – think about the slides in TED talks
- Use curiosity and surprise
Now lets drill down into the specific persuasive speech techniques to improve your public speaking.
Persuasive Speech Techniques
1. Strong introduction
You need to grab attention immediately. You could start with a controversial statement, a question or a story. Hollywood likes to begin their dramas with explosive action, before delivering the rest of the plot.
What’s the central theme of your speech? It’s easy to ramble off topic until an audience loses interest. Keep your speech tight and concise.
3. Rhetorical techniques
This a where a question is asked, but the speaker expects no response from the audience. It helps make the audience active participants and improve their emotional attachment to your message.
“You work hard to make this country great. Don’t you deserve a politician who’ll stand up for you…?”
4. Rule of three
This counts on our psychological tendency to value information delivered in three parts. We find it funnier and more satisfying because it combines brevity and rhythm while creating a pattern.
“Of the people, by the people, for the people.”Abraham Lincoln
5. Emotive language
Tap into pathos with powerful, visual language.
– Non-emotive – The burger tastes good
– Emotive – The burger’s dripping with succulent, meaty juices
Humour can be powerful in speeches, but only when used well. You have to know your audience and be careful not to divide your listeners. You can focus the laughs on yourself, which makes you more relatable, or blend humour into a story.
You can use this technique to suggest that everyone’s on board with a concept or idea. It taps into people’s fear of missing out. Even if you don’t have the facts to back up your claims, generalities are strongly suggestive.
“The public’s interest in the environment has exploded in the last year”.
8. Inverted Phrases
“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”John F. Kennedy
9. Explicitly stated facts
The reason politicians are so annoying is that they’re incapable of giving a clear answer. They fear the dreaded comeback and so squirm around a topic. Include any solid facts in your speech, but just ensure they’re correct.
We have small brains and sometimes they don’t absorb all they should. That’s why repetition works. It can deliver the final blow of your message.
“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”Winston Churchill
Public Speaking Voice
Try to vary the intonation and pitch of your voice. It keeps an audience on its toes, guessing what you’re about to say next.
Speaking very quietly can also be a powerful vocal technique, magnifying the importance of a topic.
At other times it’s important to project your voice to the back of the room.
Check out the video below…
Public Speaking Body Language
Though improving the oral delivery of your speeches takes time, improving your body language can lead to quick wins.
Research shows that changing your body language before an assessment can significantly affect performance.
By adopting a power pose before your speech, you can increase your testosterone levels (responsible for confidence) and decrease your cortisol levels (responsible for anxiety).
Standing with your hands on your hips ought to do the trick, although I like to use the gorilla pose.
Stand tall with your shoulders back to demonstrate confidence.
Make eye contact with the audience, and pick specific members out if you can. People will feel you’re speaking directly to them.
Use hand gestures to support the points you’re making. It’ll help make your speech visual and emphasise your message.
Improving your public speaking and becoming more persuasive is all about analysis and practice.
Luckily we live in an age where we don’t have to physically see great speakers in action to learn from them.
TED is a great resource. Listen to all the speakers you can and analyse their strengths and weaknesses.
These persuasive speech techniques will take you a long way, but put what you learn into practice.
You don’t even have to get up in front of an audience to do it. Record yourself on a camera to test your material and delivery.
The key is to create a tight feedback loop. Listen back to your efforts and course correct where necessary.
My final recommendation is to read this golden oldie by Dale Carnegie.
Good luck brave mind.