How to write a persuasive speech

A female student inside at Durham University

Being able to write and deliver a persuasive speech is not only a skill that will help you at university – but something that will help you in both your career and your personal life. Whether you’re giving a graded speech for a class, explaining something as part of your job, or defending something you’re passionate about, delivering a persuasive speech will only help you to succeed. Follow our tips for how to develop your skills in persuasive speech writing.

What is a persuasive speech?

To persuade someone is to change their point of view and have them agree with you. In a university setting, this may be for a graded presentation or a debate. Although given verbally, your first step will be to write the speech before you deliver it – this will ensure you are fully prepared, have time to think about what you want to say, and ensure everything is properly researched. You don’t want to get caught out saying something that is untrue.

Persuasive speech topics

The first thing you need to do when writing a persuasive speech is to choose your topic. If you’re giving a speech as part of your university degree, this may have been provided to you as part of the assignment. If one hasn’t been provided, but the speech is for a specific class, try to think about the topics covered in your previous lessons or suggested reading from the teacher. Use the knowledge you’ve already gained in the class and show your teacher just how much you’ve paid attention.

Passion is key

If there are no guidelines on choosing your persuasive speech topic, then you have more choice when making your decision. This is a great opportunity to talk about something you’re truly passionate about. If your audience sees you are genuinely interested in your topic, they will see your speech as more authentic and credible. How can you persuade someone to side with you if it doesn’t seem like you believe in what you’re saying yourself?

Persuasive speech examples

If you’re still struggling to think of a topic, here are some examples that might help. When choosing from the below examples, it is still important to select a topic that interests you. Some good examples of persuasive speech topics for university students include:

  • Is eating meat unethical?
  • Should the minimum wage be increased?
  • Should cities offer free bike sharing programmes?
  • Can money buy happiness?
  • Should we abolish daylight savings time?
  • Are art and music programmes an essential part of schooling?
  • Should more people use public transportation?
  • Should teenagers be allowed to purchase violent video games?
  • Should we donate unused food from supermarkets?
  • Should we keep animals in zoos?

How to write a persuasive speech

Now that you’ve picked your topic, you can start writing your speech. The first thing you need to know is your opinion. Are you for or against your topic? Once you’ve decided which side of the argument you want to defend, you can begin writing your persuasive speech.

Research, research, research

All university assignments begin with research, and persuasive speeches are no different. You can research however suits you best, utilising library resources, books you own, and the internet. It may even help to research both sides of the argument, including the opposing opinion to your own, to get a better understanding of your chosen topic.

Persuasive speech structure

Start your persuasive speech with a strong introduction, grabbing the attention of your audience. This can be emotional, shocking, or funny – as long as it is powerful. After you have your audience’s attention, you should clearly introduce the topic of your speech.

You now need to distil your research into a few key arguments. These should be the most powerful and persuasive arguments from your research, the ones that you believe will convince your listeners to agree with your point of view. Choose between two to four key arguments to keep your audience interested.

When giving a persuasive speech, it is important to acknowledge and address any counter arguments from the opposition. Not only does this show that you have done your research, but it addresses any concerns or doubts your audience may have.

Lastly, you should finish your persuasive speech with a strong closing argument. You may choose to save your strongest argument for this point, or reinforce a previous point you made. Either way, your closing argument should be the thing your audience remembers the most.

Giving a persuasive speech as an international student

If you’re studying at a UK university and English isn’t your first language, you may worry about writing a persuasive speech as part of your degree programme. The best way to prepare in this scenario is to make sure you have a strong understanding of the English language. At Durham University International Study Centre, you can take a pathway programme designed to develop all the skills you need to succeed as an international students. These programmes include a core English module programme designed to develop your language skills to a university level.

You can also develop your English language skills outside of the classroom. Choosing to live in student accommodation gives you even more opportunities to speak English in a less formal setting. And who knows? You can even practise delivering a persuasive speech by convincing your flatmates what to cook for dinner tonight.

Frequently asked questions

What is an example of persuasive speech? 

A persuasive speech is any time you are having to choose a side of an argument and present it to another person. Persuasive speeches are used in many different areas of life. This could be in a school or university setting, in a job, or in a social setting.

What are some good persuasive speech topics for university? 

When choosing a persuasive speech topic for university, always choose a topic or cause you’re interested in and passionate about. If you want to convince other people to agree with your stance, you must be seen to believe in it yourself.

How do you start a persuasive speech?

The best persuasive speeches always start with an impactful opening that grabs the audience’s attention. If you hope to persuade someone to agree with you, they need to listen to your whole argument. A strong opening ensures the audience is listening to you from the very start.