How to Be Persuasive: 10 Techniques for Powerful Speeches

Too often speeches go flat. You can spice up your presentations by using persuasion techniques. Persuasion is the art of subtly nudging others toward your desired outcome without overt coercion. It’s a vital tool for captivating audiences and influencing their beliefs and actions. If you want to know how to be persuasive, here are 10 techniques you can use in your next presentation. Use one or use them all!

1. Repetition/Tricon:

Repetition reinforces key points, leaving a lasting imprint on your audience's minds. For instance, "We must strive for excellence in our work, our relationships, and our communities." This example uses the “tricolon.”

A tricolon is a rhetorical device consisting of a series of three parallel elements, phrases, or clauses, often used for emphasis or to create a memorable rhythm in writing or speech. It involves the repetition of a similar grammatical structure or length in each of the three components, contributing to coherence and impact. Tricolons are commonly employed in literature, speeches, and persuasive writing to enhance clarity, emphasize key points, and engage the audience.

2. Parallelism:

Parallelism creates rhythm and emphasis in your speech, enhancing clarity and coherence. The phrase, "We will fight for justice, equality, and a brighter future for all," is a general sentiment often expressed by various leaders and activists advocating for social change and progress.

Repetition and parallelism are both rhetorical devices used in persuasive communication, but they differ in their structure and function:

Repetition involves the deliberate reuse of words, phrases, or ideas for emphasis and reinforcement. The primary function of repetition is to highlight key points, ideas, or emotions by repeating them throughout a speech or written text. For example, in Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, the phrase "I have a dream" is repeated several times to emphasize the speaker's vision of racial equality and justice. Repetition creates a rhythmic pattern that captures the audience's attention and reinforces the speaker's message, making it more memorable and impactful.

Parallelism involves using similar grammatical structures, phrases, or clauses in a series to create balance and symmetry. The primary function of parallelism is to enhance clarity, coherence, and rhetorical effect by organizing ideas in a structured and balanced manner. For example, in Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, the phrase "government of the people, by the people, for the people" exemplifies parallelism, as each phrase follows the same grammatical structure. Parallelism creates a sense of harmony and order, making the speaker's message more persuasive and aesthetically pleasing to the audience.

In summary, repetition involves the deliberate reuse of words or phrases for emphasis, while parallelism involves the use of similar grammatical structures in a series to create balance and symmetry. Both techniques serve to enhance the persuasive impact of communication but operate in different ways to achieve this goal.

3. Verbal Symbolism:

Verbal symbolism imbues your message with deeper meaning and emotional resonance. For instance, describing a sunrise as a symbol of hope and new beginnings or referring to a bridge as a symbol of connection and unity can have a greater impact.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech, “I Have a Dream,” contains multiple persuasion techniques, especially verbal symbolism. One example is “Let freedom ring,” which is a powerful symbol of equality, justice, and unity.

4. Inclusive language:

Inclusive language fosters a sense of belonging and unity among your audience. "Together, we can overcome any obstacle and achieve our shared goals."

One example of inclusive language as a persuasion skill in a famous speech is from John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address on January 20, 1961. In his speech, Kennedy famously used inclusive language to unite the American people and inspire a sense of collective responsibility. An excerpt from his speech demonstrates this:

"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty."

In this passage, Kennedy employs inclusive pronouns such as "we" and "us" to convey a sense of unity and shared purpose among Americans. By emphasizing that "we shall" collectively face challenges and pursue ideals, Kennedy fosters a sense of national solidarity and calls upon citizens to join together in the pursuit of liberty and justice for all. This use of inclusive language effectively engages the audience and reinforces the persuasive appeal of Kennedy's message.

5. Rhetorical questions:

Rhetorical questions engage your audience, prompting them to ponder your message. The phrase, "Will we stand idly by, or will we rise up and take action?" is another rhetorical question often used by speakers and activists to prompt their audience to consider their role in addressing societal issues.

In Susan B. Anthony’s "On Women's Right to Vote" Speech, she asks, "Is it a crime for a citizen of the United States to vote?" This rhetorical question challenged the prevailing notion that women were not entitled to the same rights as men and called attention to the injustice of denying women the right to vote.

6. Historical references:

Historical references lend credibility and relevance to your arguments. Referencing the civil rights movement underscores the importance of perseverance and solidarity in the face of adversity.

One of the best examples is Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address (1863), when he says, "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." In this opening line, Lincoln refers to the founding of the United States invoking the Declaration of Independence and emphasizing the historical significance of the nation's founding principles.

7. Anaphora:

Anaphora is another rhetorical device where the repetition of a word or phrase occurs at the beginning of successive clauses, phrases, or sentences. It adds impact and rhythm to your speech, emphasizing key ideas. George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States, used this phrase in various speeches, "We shall not falter, we shall not waver, we shall not rest until our mission is accomplished." It was often employed to convey determination and resolve in pursuing national security objectives.

8. Empowering language:

Empowering language inspires confidence and motivates action. "Believe in your abilities, embrace your potential, and seize the opportunities that lie ahead" is a motivational statement attributed to Cheryl Richardson, a prominent author, speaker, and life coach known for her work in personal development and empowerment. Empowering language can help your audience align with an ideal in your message.

9. Personal anecdotes:

Personal anecdotes humanize your message, making it more relatable and compelling. Sharing a personal story of overcoming adversity can inspire and connect with your audience. In Oprah Winfrey's Golden Globes acceptance speech in 2018, Winfrey shared a poignant childhood memory about watching Sidney Poitier win the Oscar for Best Actor, which inspired her own aspirations and dreams as well as that of the audience.

10. Logical appeals:

Logical appeals provide evidence and reasoning to support your arguments. For example, presenting statistical data on climate change underscores the urgency of taking action to address environmental issues.

In Martin Luther King’s speech, “I Have a Dream,” he presents a logical argument for racial equality and justice when he says, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'"

In Summary

How can you use these persuasion techniques in your presentations? Which ones would work well with your message? I encourage you to experiment with them and observe their profound impact on your effectiveness as a public speaker. With practice and refinement, you can harness the power of persuasion to make a meaningful impact on your audience.

Let me know how it goes! Got comments? Anything to share?

If you liked this post, consider sharing it!  

For more about rhetorical techniques, visit:

Mastering Rhetorical Techniques for Memorable Impact

About the Author

Hi! I'm Pam. I teach entrepreneurs to be fearless & compelling speakers online and in person and how to easily promote and run their own online workshops, webinars, and online courses. 

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}