Organizing Persuasive Messages

Once you have selected your topic, know who your audience is, and have settled on an end goal for your persuasive speech, you can begin drafting your speech. Outlines are organized according to the particular speech, and the following organizational patterns are used routinely for persuasive speeches.

Monroe’s Motivated Sequence

Monroe’s Motivated Sequence is an organizational pattern that attempts to convince the audience to respond to a need that is delineated in the speech.[1] Five separate steps characterize the Motivated Sequence organization style:

1. The attention step should get the audience’s attention as well as describe your goals and preview the speech.

2. The need step should provide a description of the problem as well as the consequences that may result if the problem goes unresolved. In this step, the speaker should also alert audience members to their role in mitigating the issue.

3. The satisfaction step is used to outline your solutions to the problems you have previously outlined as well as deal with any objections that may arise.

4. In the visualization step, audience members are asked to visualize what will happen if your solutions are implemented and what will happen if they do not come to fruition. Visualizations should be rich with detail.

5. The action appeal step should be used to make a direct appeal for action. In this step, you should describe precisely how the audience should react to your speech and how they should carry out these actions. As the final step, you should also offer a concluding comment. See Figure 1 to see this method of arrangement illustrated.

Figure 1: Monroe’s Motivated Sequence Sample Outline
I. Attention step

A. When was the last time you saw a dog chained to a tree in a neighbor’s yard, heard about a puppy mill in your town, or went into a pet store only to find dogs and cats for sale?

B. I work with the Morris County Animal Protection Group, and I would like to share some ways in which you can help prevent these travesties.

C. First, I will describe some of the major problems in Morris County, and then I will tell you how you can get involved.

II. Need step: Many animals in Morris County are abused and neglected.

A. There are too many stray animals that are neither spayed nor neutered, resulting in an overabundance of cats and dogs.

B. These animals often cannot find enough food to survive, and the local shelter cannot accommodate such high populations.

C. The cost of local spay/neuter programs is too high for our agency to handle.

III. Satisfaction step: Raising $1 million for the Morris County Animal Protection Agency can effectively solve these problems.

A. We could afford to spay or neuter most stray animals.

B. Obtained animals could be fed and accommodated until a home can be secured for them.

C. Additionally, we could subsidize spay/neuter costs for local citizens.

IV. Visualization step: Imagine what we can do for our animals with this money.

A. What will it be like if we can carry out these actions?

B. What will it be like if we cannot do these things?

V. Action appeal step: Donate to the Morris County Animal Protection Agency.

A. If you want to help protect the many struggling stray animals in Morris County, make a donation to our organization.

B. Your donation will make a real difference in the lives of our animals.

C. We cannot effect real change for the animals of our county without each and every one of you.

Direct Method Pattern

If your goal is to convince your audience to adopt a particular idea, you might prefer the direct method pattern as a way of organizing your speech. This pattern consists of a claim and a list of reasons to support it. Every piece of support in the speech directly supports the central claim you wish to make. As Jaffe points out, “It’s a good pattern to use when listeners are apathetic or neutral, either mildly favoring or mildly opposing your claim.”[2] The outline for a speech on vegetarianism in Figure 2 provides three reasons that vegetarianism provides useful health benefits for people struggling with obesity.

Figure 2: Direct Method Pattern Sample Outline
Proposition: Vegetarianism offers many positive health benefits for people struggling with obesity.

I. Vegetarianism often reduces the amount of processed food that one eats.

II. Vegetarianism promotes a sense of reflective consumption.

III. Vegetarianism decreases the likelihood that one will contract some diseases, such as cancer and heart disease.

As you can see from this example, the statement of reasons that follows the proposition directly supports the central claim of the speech. Each reason offers another bit of evidence that vegetarianism is a good option for people struggling with obesity.

 

History creates comprehensibility primarily by arranging facts meaningfully and only in a very limited sense by establishing strict causal connections. ~ Johan Huizinga

Causal Pattern

Similar to a problem-solution speech, which was covered in Chapter 8, a causal speech describes a general cause and a specific effect. In other words, a causal pattern first addresses some cause and then shares what effects resulted. A causal speech can be particularly effective when the speaker wants to convince their audience of the relationship between two things. With sound causal reasoning, a speech of this sort can be used to convince the audience of something they were previously opposed to believing.

As the example in Figure 3 illustrates, the basic components of the causal speech are the cause and the effect. Such an organizational style is useful when a speaker needs to share the results of a new program, discuss how one act led to another, or discuss the positive/negative outcomes of taking some action. Through this pattern, the speaker can convince audiences to adopt a new belief about a particular phenomenon.

Figure 3: Causal Pattern Sample Outline
 Proposition: Macintosh computers make people more creative.

I. Macintosh computers rely on a simple, intuitive interface and are sold through a marketing campaign that encourages users to “Think Different.” (cause)

II. The simplicity of Macintosh computers allows people to be more creative since they are not spending their time figuring out how to use their computer. And these same consumers are socialized to “think differently” with their Macintosh computers from the moment they consider purchasing one. (effect)

Refutation Pattern

Sometimes an occasion will arise when your audience is already opposed to your argument. In this case, a refutation pattern can be engaged to persuade audience members that your side of the argument is better or more accurate. In a refutation speech, the speaker must anticipate the audience’s opposition, then bring attention to the tensions between the two sides, and finally refute them using evidential support. Refutation patterns are frequently seen in debates, where speakers are fundamentally opposed to one another’s arguments. Refutation generally happens through a set of four steps: (1) signaling the argument to which you are responding, (2) stating your own argument, (3) providing justification or evidence for your side of the argument, and (4) summarizing your response. An advocate of reusing as opposed to recycling might present the argument in Figure 16.4 to respond to someone who believes recycling is the best way to individually work on environmental stewardship. As this example illustrates, a refutation speech should clearly delineate where the audience is perceived to stand on an issue, why their view is in disagreement with the speaker’s, and why the audience should adopt the speaker’s position. Moreover, the speaker should be sure to highlight the importance of the debate, which will clue the audience into why they should spend their time listening to a speaker who clearly disagrees with them. An example of this pattern can be found on the next page in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Sample Outline Refutation Pattern

(Imagine that the speaker is giving the speech at a recycling convention.)

Proposition: Reusing products is better than recycling them.

I. Although Thomas argued that recycling is the most important individual act of environmental stewardship, I would like to argue that reusing is an even better way to care for our environment. (signaling and stating)
II. Reusing has several advantages over recycling. (providing evidence)

A. Reusing reduces consumption.

B. Reusing extends the life of a product before it needs to be recycled.

C. It is cheaper to reuse an item than to recycle it.

III. Given these advantages, it is more useful for people to reuse items when possible than it is to recycle them.

Neither irony nor sarcasm is argument. ~ Samuel Butler


  1. Monroe, A. H. (1949). Principles and types of speech. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman and Company.
  2. Jaffe, C. (2004). Public speaking: Concepts and skills for a diverse society (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.