Specific Purpose and Persuasion

Before diving too deeply into persuasion theory (which is regularly offered as a full semester-long college course in communication studies), this chapter will examine the different types of specific purposes available to choose from within the domain of persuasion.

Speech to influence belief or attitude: In this type of speech, the speaker attempts to win over audience members to adopt a thought, attitude, or belief.

Woman addresses a group of people at a protest.
For example, if a speaker felt passionately about climate change, she could present facts, figures, and examples, before working toward a conclusion attempting to persuade the audience that climate change poses a serious problem.  Keep in mind that changing deeply held beliefs provides an extremely difficult challenge in any situation, let alone a 10-minute speech.

Speech to influence behavior: This type of speech uses the elements of persuasive speaking to inspire the audience to participate in some action as a result. Using the prior example, if the speaker wanted to convince the audience that, not only is climate change a real phenomenon, but that they should begin carpooling to help curb carbon emissions, then the speaker has spoken to influence behavior.  This type of speech sometimes gets referred to as a speech to motivate to action.

Regardless of the speech’s specific purpose, get to know the audience before preparing a persuasive presentation. Failure to gather knowledge about the audience diminishes the speech’s chances to successfully persuade. With persuasion, learning information about the audience become even more critically important, for an audience will not change their minds, take action, or become inspired if the speaker knows nothing about their existing attitudes, opinions, values, or beliefs. Start with an audience analysis, but this time, focus on gathering attitudes, opinions, values, and beliefs with respect to the chosen topic. Use this information to formulate a strategy for the speech.

Note to Self

For example, if you have an audience that strongly opposes the information you want to present to them, then you know you need to prepare for an uphill battle, so try considering the most realistic strategy possible.


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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.

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