How to Write an Outline for a Persuasive Speech

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Persuasive speech outlines follow a simple five-section structure: Get the audience's attention, establish the need for a solution you'll be offering, satisfy that need, create a vision of the future and end with a call to action. It's a tried and tested method that was originally developed by Purdue University Professor Alan H. Monroe, and you'll recognize elements of it in many sales pitches.

Get Attention

  • Before you can persuade anyone of anything, they must be listening to you. Begin your outline with the most startling fact, statistic or anecdote you can find that supports your point. Ask a controversial rhetorical question or turn a cliche upside down. Surprise people. When President Barack Obama spoke against the Iraq War in 2002, he began by noting that "although this has been billed as an antiwar rally, I stand before you as someone who is not opposed to war in all circumstances," then he went on to praise the outcome of the Civil War -- not something his audience was expecting to hear.

Identify the Problem

  • The second section of your speech convinces your audience that there's a problem that needs to be solved. For your outline, identify at least three strong key points from your research that make the problem clear, and list them in order of strong-stronger-strongest. Think about how your audience is affected by the problem, and outline as many points as you can, again saving your strongest point for last.

Offer a Solution

  • The third section of your speech contains your idea for solving the problem. Summarize your solution for your outline, identify a clear statement of your position, and list three or more facts and statistics that support your solution. List any objections you can think of that might be made to your idea and the evidence or logic that counters each one. In each case, arrange your ideas so that you end with the most powerful points.

Paint a Picture

  • Outline what will happen if your solution is not implemented and the problem continues. List features of this unpleasant future that you can back up with evidence. Next, outline the wonderful things that can result from everyone getting on the bandwagon with you and making your solution a reality. If you can, outline examples of how well this solution has worked in other similar situations; if not, use logic to make your case.

Tell Them What to Do

  • The conclusion of your speech should tell your audience exactly what they need to do to make your solution to the problem and the wonderful benefits it will bring a reality. It should be something fairly simple that they can do immediately. At the outline stage, noting what this is is enough; when you write your speech, you'll find the most powerful, confident words possible in which to phrase your command.

References

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