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The Major Types of Speeches Help (page 3)

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Updated on Jul 15, 2013

Ethos - Appealing to Authority

First, a persuasive speaker must be a credible speaker, fitting into Aristotle's category of ethos or credibility. The audience needs to recognize that you know what you're talking about, and that you are qualified to be telling them the difference between right (your opinion) and wrong (your opponents' opinions). The old adage "practice what you preach" fits into this category. You are not likely to be persuaded to some moral standard by a speaker who doesn't follow that standard him or her self.

Similarly, you must let your audience know two things: that you have the expertise in your topic which qualifies you to hold a strong opinion, and that you make decisions yourself based upon that opinion—decisions which have better results than those to which the opposite opinion would lead.

Second, you must use either strong logic or strong emotional appeals—or both—to persuade your audience that your opinion is the correct one. Having credentials and credibility is not enough; you will need to give your audience a reason to embrace your opinion, and you might need to give them a reason to care about your topic in the first place.

Logos - Appealing to Logic

Logic is more difficult to master than emotional appeals, but it is far more effective. You build a logical argument by stating an opinion, then explaining a number of reasons that logically support that opinion, and finally, providing examples of each that illustrate your point and prove that it's true.

Let's use the toothpaste example once more. Here is how you might structure the outline for your persuasive speech, in which you want to persuade your audience that toothpaste A is better than toothpaste B:

    • Thesis: Toothpaste A is better than toothpaste B.
    • Point 1: Toothpaste A prevents cavities, while toothpaste B does not.
    • Illustration: A recent study by the Molar Meddler's Guild demonstrated that toothpaste A provided 82% more cavity coverage than any other brand.
    • Point 2: Toothpaste A brightens while it cleans, whereas toothpaste B turns teeth green.
    • Illustration: Visual aids showing closeup photos of teeth brightened by A and made quite colorful by B.
    • Point 3: Toothpaste A costs less than B.
    • Illustration: I conducted a personal survey of 12 local pharmacies and grocery stores, and found that, on average, A cost 12 cents less than B.
    • Conclusion: On every level, toothpaste A is better than toothpaste B.

Notice that you have stated several reasons for your thesis (the opinion you intend to prove to your audience), and have given examples that demonstrate each reason. This approach uses logic (Aristotle's logos) to persuade your audience.

Pathos - Appealing to Emotions

You can also appeal to the emotions of your audience (Aristotle's pathos) with an argument that has little basis on logical fact. Here is an outline for such a speech:

    • Thesis: Toothpaste A is better than toothpaste B.
    • Point 1: Toothpaste A tastes good, but toothpaste B is yucky.
    • Illustration: Toothpaste A reminds me of a cool ocean breeze on a hot summer's day, but the last time I tried B, I nearly gagged.
    • Point 2: Toothpaste A is fun to use, and kids love it.
    • Illustration: Visual aid showing photos of the colorful stripes in toothpaste A, compared to the muddy brown of toothpaste B.
    • Point 3: I interviewed more than a dozen people, and they all preferred toothpaste A.
    • Illustration: Visual aid video showing interesting people describing how much they enjoy brushing with toothpaste A.
    • Conclusion: On every level, toothpaste A is better than toothpaste B.

As you can see, this outline provides no logical proof that one toothpaste is any better than the other. Your argument might persuade some in the audience to switch toothpastes, but another emotional appeal from another speaker could easily sway them back to a different opinion. The better method is to use both logic and emotional appeals to persuade your audience.

What to Do

Remember that your thesis is an opinion, and your opinion must be proven if you want to persuade your audience. It does no good to say, "I like toothpaste A and you should, too!" That will not persuade anybody; you need to give them clear reasons why they should embrace your opinion.

When building a logical argument, think of it as though you were a lawyer proving your case in court. Let's say that you want to prove that John Smith murdered Bill Jones. Here's how you would construct your case:

    • Thesis: John Smith murdered Bill Jones.
    • Evidence 1: Here is the revolver that he used to shoot him.
    • Explanation: It has been proven that this gun fired the fatal bullet, and Smith's fingerprints were found on the handle.
    • Evidence 2: Jones and Smith were seen arguing just before the shooting.
    • Explanation: Smith was angry with Jones and threatened to kill him, and three witnesses heard him just prior to the gunshots.
    • Evidence 3: Smith has no alibi for where he was at the time of the shooting.
    • Explanation: Since Smith was seen by witnesses at the scene just moments before the crime, it is beyond doubt that he committed it.
    • Conclusion: There is no reasonable doubt that John Smith shot Bill Jones.

This same formula can be applied to any persuasive speech. Remember that your thesis is merely an opinion, and opinions must be accompanied with proof if you want to persuade your audience.

What to Avoid

The danger of logical arguments is that they can become a mere brow-beating in which you hammer your audience over the heads with facts and statistics. Simply repeating your opinion over and over will not convince the audience; you must provide a variety of evidence to support your thesis.

On the other hand, emotional appeals can become repulsive if they are heavy-handed. If your audience detects that you are trying to appeal to their emotions, they will probably react in the opposite direction from what you intended.

Finally, remember the old saying: "It's easier to attract flies with honey than with vinegar." An angry or belligerent attitude will cause your audience to become defensive, and you will have a difficult time persuading them to your opinion. Body language, delivery, word choices—even the very evidence that you present—will all influence how your audience responds to your message. Remember Aristotle's concept of ethos or credibility: You want to be perceived as a credible and reliable speaker on your topic, and the best place to start is to appear friendly and approachable while you speak.

Special Occasions

This final category of speechmaking is quite broad and differs significantly from the others. You might be asked to "say a few words" at a special occasion, which could be as little as a one-minute toast or as lengthy as a 30-minute speech. Here are some examples:

  • Toasting the bride and groom at a wedding
  • Introducing the main speaker at a conference
  • Summarizing your project status at a business meeting
  • Eulogizing a friend at a funeral
  • Presenting or accepting an award at a banquet

There are two subtypes of speeches within this category: the prepared speech, and the impromptu speech.

Making a Prepared Speech at a Special Occasion

If you're warned ahead of time that you'll be called upon to say a few words at some special occasion, you will follow all the same techniques that we've been discussing thus far. You'll want to think about your audience, considering who will be present when you speak and what they'll want to hear you say.

Your topic will be defined for you, to some extent. For example, if your boss wants you to summarize your projects, your topic will be the relevant projects on which you're currently working. If the bride and groom want you to open the wedding banquet with a toast or introductory remarks, your topic will be the happy couple. But what you say on those topics will still be up to you, and you will want to consider setting an appropriate tone.

The tone of a speech is defined as the mood you want to create. Humor is very appropriate at a wedding banquet, while sober thoughts on finances and marital hurdles might be out of place. The opposite is probably true at a business meeting with your boss and coworkers, where the audience is not expecting to be entertained with jokes but wants to hear about financial matters, project problems, expected completion dates, and so forth.

Tone will be as important as topic in most special occasion speeches. Humor is acceptable at a funeral; indeed, it is often very healing to those who are grieving. Yet you also don't want to be flippant, causing the mourners to feel as though you are making light of their grief and loss. Setting the right tone requires that you put yourself in the place of your audience, asking yourself what you would think appropriate or inappropriate if you were in their shoes. If there's any doubt, it's best to remember the famous line from a once-popular TV detective show: "Just the facts, ma'am." Stick to facts, and you won't go wrong.

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