Topics for Persuasive Speech

Definition of Persuasive Speech:

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  1. Persuasion is the act of persuading someone to do something or to believe that something is true.
  2. Persuasion is a form of social influence. It is the process of guiding oneself or another toward the adoption of an idea, attitude, or action by rational and symbolic (though not always logical) means.

A better idea or explanation of persuasion is the means, verbal or non-verbal that causes others to change their mind about a specific topic.  According to Aristotle effective persuasion depended on three primary elements, Ethos: the credibility of the speaker; Pathos: the mind-set of the listener; and Logos: the evidence presented.

Methods of Persuasion

According to Robert Cialdini in his book on persuasion, he defined six “weapons of influence”

Reciprocity

People tend to return a favor. Thus, the pervasiveness of free samples in marketing and advertising. In his conferences, he often uses the example of Ethiopia providing thousands of dollars in humanitarian aid to Mexico just after the 1985 earthquake, despite Ethiopia suffering from a crippling famine and civil war at the time. Ethiopia had been reciprocating for the diplomatic support Mexico provided when Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1937.

Commitment and Consistency

Once people commit to what they think is right, orally or in writing, they are more likely to honor that commitment, even if the original incentive or motivation is subsequently removed. For example, in car sales, suddenly raising the price at the last moment works because the buyer has already decided to buy.

Social Proof

People will do things that they see other people are doing. For example, in one experiment, one or more confederates would look up into the sky; bystanders would then look up into the sky to see what they were seeing. At one point this experiment aborted, as so many people were looking up that they stopped traffic. See conformity, and the Asch conformity experiments.

Authority

People will tend to obey authority figures, even if they are asked to perform objectionable acts. Cialdini cites incidents, such as the Milgram experiments in the early 1960s and the My Lai massacre.

Liking

People are easily persuaded by other people whom they like. Cialdini cites the marketing of Tupperware in what might now be called viral marketing. People were more likely to buy if they liked the person selling it to them. Some of the many biases favoring more attractive people are discussed, but generally more aesthetically pleasing people tend to use this influence excellently over others. See physical attractiveness stereotype.

Scarcity

Perceived scarcity will generate demand. For example, saying offers are available for a “limited time only” encourages sales.

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