Structure of a Persuasive Speech

Learning Objectives

Identify characteristic structures of a persuasive speech.

In many ways, a persuasive speech is structured like an informative speech. It has an introduction with an attention-getter and a clear thesis statement. It also has a body where the speaker presents their main points and it ends with a conclusion that sums up the main point of the speech.

The biggest difference is that the primary purpose of an informative speech is to explain whereas the primary purpose of a persuasive speech is to advocate the audience adopt a point of view or take a course of action. A persuasive speech, in other words, is an argument  supported by well-thought-out reasons and relevant, appropriate, and credible supporting evidence.

We can classify persuasive speeches into three broad categories:

  1. Those that deal with propositions of fact.
    • When we make a claim of fact we argue about the truth or falsity about an assertion being made.
      • The widely used pesticide Atrazine is extremely harmful to amphibians.
  2. Those that deal with propositions of policy.
    • When we make a claim of policy, we argue about the nature of a problem and the solution that should be taken. Persuaders arguing policy claims attempt to convince their audiences to either accept the claim or actively act to enact the policy.
      • All house-cats should be kept indoors to protect the songbird population.
  3. Those that deal with propositions of value.
    • When we argue a claim of value, we ask our audience to make a judgment about something, whether it’s good or bad, right or wrong, beautiful or ugly, or moral or immoral.
      • Offshore tax havens, while legal, are immoral and unpatriotic.

The organizational pattern we select and the type of supporting material we use should support the overall argument we are making.

The informative speech organizational patterns we covered earlier can work for a persuasive speech as well. In addition, the following organization patterns are especially suited to persuasive speeches (these are covered in more detail in Module 6: Organizing and Outlining Your Speech):

  • Causal: Also known as cause-effect, the causal pattern describes some cause and then identifies what effects resulted from the cause. This can be a useful pattern to use when you are speaking about the positive or negative consequences of taking a particular action.
  • Problem-solution: With this organizational pattern, you provide two main points. The first main point focuses on a problem that exists and the second details your proposed solution to the problem. This is an especially good organization pattern for speeches arguing for policy changes.
  • Problem-cause-solution: This is a variation of the problem-solution organizational pattern. A three-step organizational pattern where the speaker starts by explaining the problem, then explains the causes of the problem, and lastly proposes a solution to the problem.
  • Comparative advantage: A speaker compares two or more things or ideas and explains why one of the things or ideas has more advantages or is better than the other.
  • Monroe’s motivated sequence: An organizational pattern that is a more elaborate variation of the problem-cause-solution pattern.  We’ll go into more depth on Monroe’s motivated sequence on the next page.