How to Write an Effective and Persuasive Speech

Effective Motivational and Persuasive Speech Principles
Effective motivational speakers are in extremely high demand. Companies need them to sell their products, and organizations need them to deliver their message to a sometimes hard-to-reach audience. Every motivational speaker has several goals when delivering a persuasive speech; they must provide information, prompt the audience to act, and overcome the audience's objections so that they feel comfortable.

In this article, we will learn the principles of effective motivational speech, beginning with how to learn all the necessary facts and to do all the required research to persuade an audience.

Gathering Facts

When you are speaking to persuade an audience, the audience may very well be drafting arguments in their mind at almost every word you say. Some audience members might be quite convinced of your main message, but others will try to find anything wrong with it for the sake of disagreeing. In these instances, facts and research are going to be your most important assets. Facts put an end to arguments. One cannot argue with a fact that has been researched and documented.

Your local library will contain books on literally any subject and it is filled with innumerable facts. It should be considered a valuable resource in drafting a motivational speech. However, the Internet has become the resource of choice for most researchers. You can research almost any topic and find all the necessary facts to support your message, but its size and complexity may seem daunting to some people. We will list a few pointers here about how to best use the Internet.

Search engines help people locate information on the Internet. Specifically, they search for web sites, which contain the keywords that you enter in the search engine. There are many popular search engines available on the Internet. If your topic is very broad and you wish to have specific facts, try to narrow your search using specific keywords. Some search engines will give you thousands of pages to sort through if you do not narrow your search.

Newsgroups are an excellent source of information for facts on particular subjects because they are filled with like minded individuals. There are literally millions of newsgroups, one for virtually any topic. If you are giving a speech on climate change, you will certainly find a newsgroup dedicated to this topic and it will be a treasure trove of information and facts for you to use in your speech. You may also find it very helpful to meet experts in your subject area in newsgroups who may be willing to give you feedback on your speech and your topic.
Are the Facts Legitimate?

Just because you read something on the Internet, or even in a newspaper, does not mean that it is a legitimate fact. It may be a politically motivated statement, someone's opinion, or worse, a hoax. After you have gathered your facts, you must evaluate their legitimacy, and you should do so using three criteria, Quality, Bias, and Appropriateness.

The quality of your facts is not complicated to verify. When you find a fact, ask yourself some of these questions.

  • Does the writer have a well known reputation?
  • Is the source current?
  • Is the source well respected?
  • Is the source complete, and is there any missing data?

These questions will help you to evaluate the quality of your facts. If your facts are not high quality, they will do little to persuade an audience.

The next criterion to evaluate is bias. You will find many opinions on the Internet, and many of them will be disguised as facts. Know the difference so that you will be prepared when prompted with questions from your audience. Here are some questions to consider when evaluating bias.

  • Is the writer an authority on this topic?
  • Does the writer have his or her own agenda?
  • Are the facts consistent with the rest of the article?

Finally, you must ask yourself if your facts are appropriate. You may have a great deal of information, but it might not support your main message. Ask yourself these questions.

  • Would this source interest my audience?
  • Do the facts lend credibility to my main argument?
Logic and Emotion

When delivering a persuasive or motivational speech, you will be attempting to appeal to either the audience's logic or to their emotions. In certain instances, you will be appealing to both, but most audience members will develop an opinion of your speech by using either a logical or emotional approach.

Logic Many speakers find that appealing to an audience's logic is somewhat easier to do than appealing to their emotions. Logical arguments rely on cold, hard facts, and indisputable facts. It is difficult to argue with facts, and an effective speaker will present them in a coherent manner that will be very convincing to an audience.

A logical motivational speech will have the following sections.

  • Introduction. You present your argument.
  • Body. Supporting evidence (facts) and research.
  • Conclusion. A restatement of your argument, and a summary of your message.

When drafting a speech that appeals to an audience's logic, use the following questions to determine if your speech meets all the requirements.

  • Did you explicitly "take a side" and present your argument?
  • Did you select the most powerful and appropriate facts?
  • Is your argument stated near the beginning of your speech?
  • What do other people feel about this topic?
  • Is your topic narrow enough to present specific facts?


An emotional appeal to an audience is usually used when you want the audience to act. Yes, logical arguments can certainly be used to get an audience motivated, but a good speaker will never sacrifice an emotional appeal, as it is often the most effective manner in motivating an audience.

An audience simply does not want to listen to a litany of facts. While facts are persuasive, the audience wants to know how your argument (whether it is information or a product) is going to affect them personally. A speech could be brilliantly written with all the appropriate facts and supporting evidence, but if it is not delivered emotionally, the main message will be lost.

An emotional speaker will try to incorporate all the basic needs of human beings in a motivational speech.

  • Physical needs. What we need to survive, food, water, shelter.
  • Psychological needs. Love, intimacy, self-confidence, comfort.
  • Social needs. Status in society, friendships, camaraderie, approval.

Build a persuasive strategy by asking yourself the following questions.

  • How do I want my audience to act?
  • Have I asked my audience to act?
  • How strong a case have I made?
  • What roadblocks will my audience present? Appeal to their needs to overcome these obstacles.
Establishing Your Credibility

Whether you are appealing to an audience's logic or emotions, they will need to believe you for your arguments to be effective. You must earn the audience's trust.

  • Explain all of your credentials very early in the speech, making sure not to sound overly haughty. The audience wants to know that you are an expert, but they do not need to know every course you have taken on a subject.
  • Get somewhat personal with the audience and share some of your background.
  • Express yourself confidently; show the audience that you know about what you are presenting.
Developing Your Style
Most people who deliver speeches are invited to do so by companies, organizations, and various entities. The invitation is a signal to you that the organization thinks highly of your speaking ability, your status within the organization or in society, and your ability to get your message through clearly. However, they may also just love your style. Every person is unique and, therefore, everyone has his or her own style of public speaking. If you are a seasoned professional with a great deal of experience in motivational or public speaking, it is likely that you have already established your style. Moreover, even experienced speakers need to revisit and fine tune their style on occasion. In this section, we will learn how to evaluate and develop your style of speaking.

As we have discussed, communication is processed in many forms, but words are the essential elements of most speeches. Therefore, we shall begin with a discussion of vocabulary. One of the principle mistakes of most beginning speakers is that they choose words that they think will impress an audience rather than words that would most effectively convey their message. The main goal of public speaking is not to impress an audience. You may wish to motivate them into action or educate them on a particular subject, and both of these instances require the right words, not big, fancy ones. Many politicians have learned this the hard way. An English degree from an Ivy League university might make a politician a great writer with a robust vocabulary, but it will certainly have very little effect on how well he or she can endear themselves to their constituencies.

The choice of words you use is called diction. Your diction should take into consideration the context of the speech and, most definitely, the audience. We have already discussed the importance of knowing your audience, so that you will know how to research your audience well enough to use the appropriate diction. One of these main reasons that you do not want to use unnecessarily complicated words is that the audience will not have time to think about and process each unknown word, as they might do when reading. If you are reading a book and you come across an unknown word, many people will consult a dictionary and commit the new word to memory. This is common practice with many people and it is the reason many voracious readers have excellent vocabularies. Nevertheless, naturally, when listening to a speech, an audience member is not going to consult a dictionary. If they do not understand a word, it will distract them. Consequently, your delivery is less powerful and your ability to deliver your message is compromised.

How will you know, however, that you have chosen an appropriate diction? Rehearse your speech. When you are reading your speech aloud, you will know instantly if a sentence seems clumsy or complicated. If it does, you must change it.


The attitude that you display to an audience or to your topic is called tone. You tone can be informal, formal, or perhaps a happy medium. It, naturally, depends on the situation. You will certainly have a less formal tone if you are speaking to a group of college students than you would if you were giving an address to the United Nations. Setting the right tone does often require some experience, but even if you have never given a public speech, you most likely can set the appropriate tone by knowing your audience and doing your necessary research beforehand.

It is always a good idea to demonstrate a little humility when delivering a speech. Try not to be smug or haughty. This will immediately set the wrong tone for a speech and will alienate your audience. Humility will endear you to your audience, thus enabling you to connect with them on an emotional level.
Things to Avoid in Developing Your Style


Your speech should almost never use clichés. Yes, clichés can be effective in informal conversation because they tend to condense a complex thought into a concise group of words. Nevertheless, in public speaking, it is often considered unprofessional to useclichés to assist in delivering your message. Express your fullthought clearly, and do not rely on a cliché to condense the thought for you.


A euphemism is usually employed when we want to spare someone's feelings and perhaps rephrase criticism in a gentler manner. Euphemisms have no place in public speaking. Get right to the point, without being rude. Always keep in mind that the goal of your speech is to deliver a message clearly. Do not use excessive or delicate words to soften your message. You may soften your message by setting the right tone for your speech if you feel it is necessary, but do not use euphemisms to achieve this goal.


Jargon is industry specific language that is usually not used outside of a particular organization or community. While it might be appropriate to use a small amount of jargon in a speech, especially if it is an address to a group of like-minded individuals, you should always try to use as little jargon as possible.

Sexist Language

One of the biggest mistakes a speaker can commit in delivering a speech is to insult the audience. On occasion, even one simple word can insult an audience. The use of sexist language will immediately make many audience members tune out your speech. Some examples of sexiest language are not as obvious as others. Some examples included are, always using the pronoun "he," always using males as examples, and referring to outdated stereotypes.

Figures of Speech to Use in Developing Your Style

A figure of speech is an expression, which is sometimes not meant to be taken literally. It is a literary device that is used to make your point clearer and stronger. We will look at a few figures of speech and discuss why they are often effective.


Speakers will often use similes when they want to make a comparison to illustrate their message. They are especially effective when the topic is somewhat complicated. Some people get similes and metaphors (which we will discuss next) confused. Here is the simple rule of thumb, a simile will always use the words "like" or "as." For example, "The car purred like a cat."


Metaphors are also used to make a comparison. They function in the same manner as similes but they do not use the words "like" or "as." For example, "The avalanche of snow on the city snarled traffic for days." In this sentence, we are comparing the snow to an avalanche even though the audience will immediately know that it is simply a figure of speech. Metaphors and similes are effective because they will conjure up an image in the audience's mind, which will better enable them to understand your main message.


One of the most powerful advertising techniques is to employ a catchy slogan, which is used repeatedly in a company's public messages. Naturally, there are good reasons for this technique. Repetition is a powerful communication technique and should be employed by all public speakers. If your message can be reduced to a simple, short sentence (and most can be), try to use this sentence throughout your speech. It will help to set the theme for the speech and it will leave the audience with a memorable quotation.