How to Critique a Persuasive Speech

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Persuasive speeches are used daily by politicians, lawyers and everyday citizens to sway others into believing or doing something. An effective persuasive speech changes a person's way of thinking and calls him to action. There are many factors that contribute to a successful persuasive speech including the quality of the information provided in the speech and the credibility and appearance of the speaker. Anyone can critique a persuasive speech by listening intently to the speech and then reflecting on the content and the effectiveness of the speaker.

  • Analyze the speech's overall objectives. Think about the topic of the speech and what the ultimate goal was, such as to persuade you that gay marriage should be legalized in the U.S. or that abortion is not morally wrong. Were the objectives clear and was it easy to determine what the person was trying to do?

  • Evaluate the opening of the speech. Think about the introduction and if it was appropriate in accordance with the topic of the speech. An effective introduction should ease into the topic of the speech and make it clear to the audience. Consider if the opening captivated your attention and made you want to listen or if it was boring.

  • Assess the body of the speech. Was the information presented in a logical progression and did it come from credible sources? Think about the ways in which the speaker presented his arguments (e.g. statistics, stories or visual aids) and if he kept you interested. A strong, effective persuasive speech should also have a mix of ethos (trustworthiness on the part of the speaker), pathos (emotional appeal) and logos (logical and fact-based evidence or arguments). Were these qualities present within the body of the speech?

  • Evaluate the closing of the speech. An effective closing should remind the audience of the speech's main arguments and points. The speaker should signal the end of the speech by saying something like "Thank you for listening" or "Thank you for your time" to the audience. A strong speaker may also conduct a short question and answer session with the audience to answer any questions they may have about his topic or the information he presented.

  • Assess any visual aids the speaker may have used. Did the visual aids succeed in getting the information across or was there a better way the speaker could have presented the information? Were the visual aids easy to see or did they distract you from the speaker himself? Visual aids should support an argument the speaker is making, but never make the argument themselves. Visual aids should also never outshine or distract from the speaker.

  • Consider the person giving the speech. An effective speaker should speak at a medium pace in a clear, loud manner. A speaker should command your attention with his voice and make eye contact with audience members across the room. Did the speaker use any awkward body language or hand gestures that were distracting? Did he speak loudly enough and was he dressed appropriately? The look and sound of the speaker can either add to or diminish his credibility.

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  • Photo Credit George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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