Persuasive Speaking

By Sarah Stone Watt, Ph.D., Pepperdine University Malibu, CA
& Joshua Trey Barnett, Indiana University Bloomington, IN


After reading this chapter, you should be able to:

  • Explain what a persuasive speech is.
  • Describe the functions of persuasive speeches.
  • List the different types of persuasive speeches.
  • Identify persuasive strategies that make a speech more effective.
  • Apply the appropriate organizational pattern based on your persuasive goals.
  • Distinguish between ethical and unethical forms of persuasion.
  • Apply module concepts in final questions and activities.

Chapter Outline

  • Introduction
  • What is Persuasive Speaking? 
  • Functions of Persuasive Speeches
    • Speeches to Convince
    • Speeches to Actuate
  • Types of Persuasive Speeches
    • Propositions of Fact
    • Propositions of Value
    • Propositions of Policy
  • Choosing a Persuasive Speech Topic
  • Approaching Audiences
    • Receptive Audiences
    • Neutral Audiences
    • Hostile Audiences
  • Persuasive Strategies
    • Ethos
    • Logos
    • Pathos
  • Organizing Persuasive Messages
    • Monroe’s Motivated Sequence
    • Direct Method Pattern
    • Causal Pattern
    • Refutation Pattern
  • Conclusion
  • Module Activities
  • Glossary
  • References


At the gas pump, on eggs in the grocery store, in the examination room of your doctor’s office, everywhere you go, advertisers are trying to persuade you to buy their product. This form of persuasion used to be reserved for magazines and television commercials, but now it is unavoidable. One marketing research firm estimates that a person living in a large city today sees approximately 5,000 ads per day.[1] It is easy to assume that our over-exposure to persuasion makes us immune to its effect, but research demonstrates that we are more susceptible than ever. In fact, advertisers have gotten even better at learning exactly the right times and places to reach us by studying different audiences and techniques.[2][3][4]

I do not read advertisements. I would spend all of my time wanting things. – Franz Kafka

We also encounter persuasion in our daily interactions. Imagine you stop at a café on your way to school, and the barista persuades you to try something new. While enjoying your espresso, a sales person attempts to persuade you to upgrade your home Internet package. Later, while walking across campus, you observe students who are enthusiastically inviting others to join their organizations. Within thirty minutes, you have encountered at least three instances of persuasion, and there were likely others emanating in the background unbeknownst to you. Amidst being persuaded, you were also actively persuading others. You may have tried to convince the Internet sales person to give you a better deal and an extended contract, and later persuaded a group of friends to enjoy a night on the town. Persuasion is everywhere.

  1. Story, L. (2007, January 15). Anywhere the eye can see, it’s likely to see an ad. The New York Times. Retrieved from: pagewanted=all 
  2. Aral, S. & Walker, D. (2012, 20 July). Identifying influential and susceptible members of social networks. Science327(6092), 337341. Retrieved from: 
  3. Blackman, S. (2009, September 3). Tired consumers more susceptible to advertising. CBS Money Watch. Retrieved from: 
  4. Rosendaal, E., Lapierre, M.A., vanReijmersdal, E.A., & Buijzen, M. (2011). Reconsidering advertising literacy as a defense against advertising effects. Media Psychology14(4), 333–354.