Module Introduction


Can It Be Easy?

“OK, I can do this. I can really do this. I screwed up on the last speech because I didn’t have an introduction that ‘wowed’ them, and I forgot we needed to have research beyond our own experience. But a persuasive speech on a topic of my choosing? Piece of cake.”

“Not so fast Mr. ‘I can’t fail on my informative speech.’ What makes you think this will be so easy?”

“I have a great topic–the causes of the Civil War; I have all the background information from the paper I wrote for my American history class, and I toured Gettysburg National Park last summer. So when it comes to facts, figures, and personal experience, I’ll be on target.”

“Bob, if this assignment was to give an informative speech on the causes of the Civil War, you’d be set. But this is a persuasive speech. Besides, who else in the room will want to hear you tell us about your summer vacation and what you learned last week in HIS 103? This has all the signs of calling you Mr. ‘I can’t fail on my persuasive speech.’”

“Let’s go to the library and start from the beginning.”


In the case of the informative speech, your goal is to transmit information, so the listeners leave the classroom, the briefing, or the lecture with additional knowledge or new skills. The goal of a persuasive speech is to change the attitudes, beliefs, or behavioral intentions of the listener.

When you speak to inform, you seek to increase the knowledge and skill set of the audience. You are successful if they do acquire the knowledge and skills by the end of the speech. You are even more successful if they remember these bits of information and skills and are able to put them to use when needed at some point in the future. For example, one test of the effects of an informative speech on the proper way to change a tire is to ask the members of the audience to repeat the steps when you are finished. However, the “real” test is what happens when a class member has her/his next flat tire. Does the student remember to set the parking break? Does s/he remember to loosen all the lug nuts before raising the car? Does s/he remember to put the lug nuts in a hub cap, so they don’t get lost?

When you speak to persuade, you will often need to present information or to demonstrate a process, but you will need to do more. In a persuasive speech, your objective is to influence attitudes, beliefs, and/or behavioral intentions. The change may be in direction, such as trying to get an audience to vote for a bond issue rather than sit out the election, or the change may be to intensify a position already held, as when a leader of a labor strike speaks to rally the members of the picket line. If your goal is persuasion, it is not sufficient that the members of your audience understand what you say. Your goal is to get them to agree with you and perhaps to take some specific action(s). As such, a persuasive speech is different from an informative speech in that the latter is primarily interested in gaining understanding.


Upon completion of this module, the student will be able to:

  • Explain the role that attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors play in the process of persuasion
  • Explain how questions of fact, value, and policy are used in persuasive speeches
  • Demonstrate the ability to effectively use ethos, logos, and pathos in crafting a persuasive speech
  • Explain the formats for persuasive speeches
  • Describe the components of speaker credibility and how to enhance credibility within your own speeches
  • Explain the steps used in Monroe’s Motivated Sequence

Lecture Content

Persuasive Speeches