Persuasion Presentation Skills

The most successful persuasion speech doesn’t start with the speaker’s desire for change.  It starts with knowing what you want to change and why it shouldn’t.

You read that right. Why the change you want should not happen.

Persuasion Starts Here

Start with the status quo.

What do you want to change means that there’s something already in place.  So ask a few questions:

  1. Why are things the way they are now?
  2. Who will be harmed if the change I want is enacted?
  3. What are the long-term impacts of this change?

In order to be ready to answer the challenges against your proposal, you must understand their perceptions of why things need to stay the same.

This is the single most important thing you must do before you write your speech.  Why?

Answering the arguments in your speech

As you remember, I want you to write your speech backward.  Start with what you want your audience to do and write the conclusion.  Then construct the body of your speech. Then your introduction will be simple and lay out what you want the audience to learn from your speech.

This applies especially to the persuasion speech.  You have to have a very clear map of what you want the audience to do, so you need to know what they need to know.  And what they need to know is why your change is better than all their reasons why it’s bad.

Complicated?  Only in grammar.

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Break Up Your Speech into Three Answers

After you’ve analyzed the reasons against your proposal, it’s time to write your speech.  Pick the three strongest reasons why your plan should be ignored.  Prepare answers for them.  In fact, don’t bother writing anything that talks about how this benefits you personally.  Focus all your attention on your listener’s perspective.

This is HARD.  It will take time to do this right, so don’t wait until Sunday night to write your speech.  When you can convince people that what you propose is what they want to be done, that’s when you win.

If you were looking at an outline of your speech, it would look this:

  1. Introduction
  2. Body
    1. Argument 1:  State reason against your proposal and then the answer.
    2. Argument 2:  State reason against your proposal and then the answer.
    3. Argument 3:  State reason against your proposal and then the answer.
  3. Conclusion Restate proposal, summarize benefits, ask for action by audience.

It’s important to write out the arguments.  Writing by hand helps you commit your ideas to your memory.  You don’t have to memorize your speech, but you have to be confident you’re not going to forget it.  Typing doesn’t have the same effect – so write it by hand!

As you write your speech, you need to be sure you have good transitions.  Jumping from point to point feels awkward and undermines your credibility.

Persuasion presentation skills

Persuasion presentation skills are primarily about building confidence in yourself in the audience.  That means you have to get them to

  • know
  • like
  • trust

you.  If you’re talking to your family, this might be challenging, as you may be asking for a privilege or activity that they haven’t thought you were ready for yet.  That means you first need to demonstrate your competence – build ethos into your personal character before you start your presentation.

If your audience doesn’t know you, they need to know your credentials – why you are competent to make this presentation.  What are your reasons for asking them to do this thing?  How do you benefit from it? Your ethos has to be clear.  How do you do this?

Eye contact.  Make sure you’re looking into the eyes of the audience and they’re looking at you.

Facial expression.  There’s a line between looking desperate and looking passionate.  Smile when you’re telling a joke.

Body Language.  Don’t cross your arms.  It doesn’t look good to your audience – you look either defiant or mad.  Neither of those is welcoming or appear to be open to new ideas.

This is one time when you want to be very deliberate about your position on the stage and not wandering.  I mentioned transitions in the previous section.  Movement during your transitions helps you keep your audience’s attention without making them feel like they’re watching a tennis match.  Use this map as a layout of how you might position yourself during your speech.

Persuasion Presentation Skills staging





By starting and ending in the same spot, you give closure to your speech.

Wrap it up!

When you come to the end of your speech, make sure you have explained exactly what the audience needs to do right now.  This final call to action is critical:  if you don’t ask your audience to do something now, then you’ve missed your chance!  Be explicit but also be respectful.  If there’s a time limit on the proposal, it may be helpful to point it out, but don’t make demands.  Remember, you’re PROPOSING.  You’re not demanding.


You have developed many of these skills during this semester.  Now it’s time to put it all together.  You have the persuasion presentation skills you need.  You can do this!