Persuasion Theories

Photo of Maya Angelou.
“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” —Maya Angelou

The first two parts of this book have covered strategies and techniques for preparing to speak informatively to audiences. The final portion focuses on speaking to persuade. Whereas an informational speech seeks to impart new, unique, and innovative messages to an audience, persuasive speaking takes it a step further by attempting to influence audience members’ ways of thinking or motivate them to action. In this respect, the art of persuasion requires careful planning and strategic composition, as well as delivery, to succeed. This chapter will explain why some strategies work and why others fail, as well as cover tips for refining an audience analysis to work more efficiently for a persuasive presentation.

People use persuasion to influence another person’s values, beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors. When thinking about persuasion, note the difference between influence and power.

Note to Self

A professor may threaten to fail you if you do not complete an important assignment, but if you choose not to do it anyway, then, despite the professor’s attempt to exercise power, he or she has not necessarily persuaded you to complete the assignment. Influence often remains divorced from power. Unlike direct measures, influence can come across as subtle, often so subtle as to barely get noticed. The same professor could choose not to employ power tactics to convince you to complete the paper, but instead, share with you the benefits of the paper on your education, as well as the consequences tied to not completing the assignment, leaving the decision to you. In that case, the information may compel you enough to influence your decision to act in the way the professor wanted you to act.

Persuading others is truly an art form, which, when wielded properly and ethically, wields a unique power of its own—the power of communication that can change the world, even if it only changes it one person at a time.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Messages that Matter: Public Speaking in the Information Age - Third Edition Copyright © 2023 by North Idaho College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book