Speaking to persuade: Motivating audiences with solid arguments and moving language

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In the professional realm, we need to be able to argue without being argumentative. Whether you are fundraising for a nonprofit, pitching a business proposal, or suggesting a change to company policy, you are making arguments. In making the case for your topic, you often want to raise awareness, identify a pressing problem, discuss appropriate solutions, and outline specific steps for the audience.

To be persuasive, you must be clear (the audience may have little to no existing knowledge), you must be convincing (you are trying to sway the audience that your argument is valid), and you must be compelling (you are trying to motivate the audience enough so that they want to take specific actions). Persuasive speaking thus requires clarity, strategy, topic mastery, plus a sense of style and presence.

By the end of this course, you should be able to design persuasive speeches that address problems and solutions and that motivate audience members. You should be able to use rhetorical style strategically and deliver passionate and compelling speeches. Learners will record speeches, providing and receiving peer feedback.


Welcome. Let's develop a persuasive argument.
-In this module, we’ll focus on the key strategies for designing persuasive speeches. In examining persuasive speaking, we tackle both solid argument and eloquent writing. After sorting through the broad concerns about persuasion, we start with some of the most powerful argumentative tools you can have: status quo and stock issues. By the end of the week, these two ideas will have helped us figure out what we need to argue (and what we don’t) and how to go about it. If you want some feedback, you’ll be able to upload an introductory speech for peer review.

Designing your persuasive speech
-Having mapped out a basic strategy, we now need to think more about the audience and how to respond to their concerns. Additionally, we need to build the speech logically. We will examine how to design congruent speeches that build to clear and motivational calls to action. By the end of the week, you will have a number of techniques for making your case in a way that invites agreement rather than disagreement. If you want strengthen these skills, you’ll be able to engage in some speech analysis.

Strategic and motivational language
-In this module, we'll move from persuasive ideas to a completed argument and speech draft. I think everyone should take the time to become familiar with the fallacies discussed in this module. Globally, the quality of argumentation and reasoning would be better if everyone had a stronger grasp of these concepts. As you well know, persuasion isn't just argument - it's also the crafting of strategic and stylistic language. When people think about the most famous speeches in history, they tend to think of stylistically rich speeches. By the end of the week, you will have a list of strategies for avoiding fallacies and framing your case strategically and stylistically. If you want some feedback, you’ll be able to upload a persuasive speech outline for peer review and engage in some speech writing.

Compelling delivery
-In this module, we’ll finish our work on persuasive speaking. We'll talk about the dreaded "UM", a bane of speakers and an issue that merits study. We'll also go over some tips for reducing these sorts of disfluencies. We'll spend a bit of time thinking about some good delivery practices. Finally, we'll explore some models of imitation. By the end of the week, you will have a couple of speaking techniques to make every speech you give sound more confident and moving. If you want some feedback, you’ll be able to upload a practice persuasive speech for peer review.

Week 5: Review and assessment
-Thank you for time in this course. I hope the material has proven helpful in some way. We concluded our discussion of the persuasive speech last week. I would like to spend a bit of time reflecting on the course. We will end this week with your final speech.

Week 5: Review and assessment: Lesson Choices
-Choice 1: For the final assignment, you can either submit a video or written speech (below). | Choice 2: For the final assignment, you can either submit a video (above) or written speech.