Speeches and Talks | The Language of Persuasion


You are representing Ireland in the final of the World Youth Public Speaking Championships. Write a passionate speech in favour of the motion: “Young people should exert their influence by actively engaging with important current issues”.

(2014/English/Higher Level/ Paper I /Section II/Question 2,  Marked out of 100)
·         Your task is to convince through logical argument, persuade and gently manipulate the audience through emotional language and use some sales tactics to hammer home your idea.

·         A talk is a less formal speech. You can be more humorous and less formal. The rest is the same.
language of persuasion leaving cert paper 1

·         The key is to pretend you are actually speaking to an audience. A little bit of role playing is required.

·         Sentence structure should be simpler in a speech. Go for shorter sentences here.

·         Depending on the exact question, you can feel free to make up references and statistics, unless it specifically asks you to reference a text. You don’t have to actually know the statistics. This is not a sociology exam! You can come up with whatever statistics you want. According to the World Bank…. According to the European Commission… As per the United Nations… Use reliable sources. Again, this doesn’t have to be true. It just has to sound as if it true.

·         Create the illusion of a pause by breaking up paragraphs more frequently than you otherwise would, and skip lines.

·         Note that you have to speak in favour of the motion here. Unlike in Paper II, you cannot choose to agree or disagree. Remember to read always the question carefully.

·         Open strong!

o   Address the audience.

Chairperson, adjudicators, ladies and gentlemen!

My name is Michael.

I am here today with the Irish Public Speaking Team, and we are passionately in favour of the motion:  “Young people should exert their influence by actively engaging with important current issues”.

·         Use numbers for clarity. For example, “I am going to address this statement using three main points”. List them. Start with the strongest point.

·         Pretend that you did something. Actions (even make-believe ones) speak louder than words!
debs dresses ireland
There is a reason I have spent the summer just gone by coaching my little brother to help him get the role of Editor for our School’s newspaper.

He succeeded, by the way.

·         Consider a joke (judge this depending on subject matter and audience. You can do this in the intro or later).

·         Ask questions (rhetorical questions)

Why is it so important that young people get involved? I mean, there is are entire industries of professionals whose careers are dedicated to this alone.

What difference does it make if my little brother edits this newspaper read by all of about ten people?

·         Show the audience that you have something in common with them. This makes you likable. Your message is more likely to be heard. I think you are about to make a sale.

It is great to see a whole auditorium full of young people dying to debate current affairs. I think I am preaching to the converted!

It was about twelve years ago that we started school. Since that moment our teachers and parents have been working relentlessly to pass on the values that make our society free and equal.

·         Praise the audience.

I am proud to be surrounded by young people who can put forward an argument and publically defend what they believe in.

·         You may be familiar with The Gettysburg Address. It is a speech given by Abraham Lincoln. It is widely regarded as highly influential. This is how it starts:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Albeit the language is archaic, the speech is immediately captivating. A score is 20. So… 87 years ago our ancestors began a new nation, conceived in Liberty…

o   It starts off by telling a story. There is something about the wiring of our brains that makes us captivated by stories. It is also nice and nostalgic. We all like thinking about how great our ancestors must have been.

o   Lincoln makes you proud: you are part of a nation, conceived in Liberty. So he says, we have something in common. We belong together.

o   He then postulates: All men are created equal. It is hard to argue with this. It is a universal truth (men, as opposed to men and women, sounds outdated, but you get the point). Nobody is going to disagree with that.

So, he tells a story, makes you proud, inspires kinship and gives you something you can’t disagree with. Watch. And. Learn! I guess you have already noticed that my paragraph above, starting with “It was about twelve years ago…” is a rip off from Lincoln. No need to reinvent the wheel.

Have a look at the The Universal Declaration of Human Rights for inspiration. Keep in mind that when you are referencing universal values, you still have to back up your argument. Just because somebody somewhere, no matter how important and credible, decided something... doesn’t mean it is unquestionable.

·         Use the principle of scarcity/immediacy.

We are the last generation with the opportunity to challenge the profiteering of large corporations at the expense of small communities. We only have this chance to make it right.

Think about your shopping habits. Are you more drawn to something if it one of a kind? If won’t be available if you don’t get it now? If you are being offered as special unique deal? Feel free to use this sales technique to persuade your audience.

…These are some examples of persuasive techniques. You can use these in a speech or in an article. Have a look at the compilation below and use the ones that resonate with you:

-                      Engage with the audience by saying We… Our… We are here today… Our values… Make it personal.

-                      Make assumptions: Obviously, Naturally, (There’s no one to disagree with you!)
-                      Explore possibilities: Imagine a world where… Be nonchalant. Maybe, as a society, we have forgotten that… You are challenging the audience, obviously, but you aren’t trying too hard – that’s slick. It’s a nice segue into slippery slope arguments.

-                      Alternate the length of your sentences. Even one word sentences for emphasis – punch words. Exactly. Just like this. Because it works.

-                      Lash on the adjectives. You can appeal to people’s emotions by using descriptive imagery. Consider metaphors, similes, assonance, consonance, symbolism. Release your inner poet. It’s a good idea to keep it… Short, smooth and slick. Otherwise, it is easy to get lost in metaphors.

-                      Use superlatives. The most… The strongest… Exaggerate (try not to get caught doing it). Use intensity.

-                      Uncover a euphemism. What do they mean in that question when they say young people? Is it a nice way of saying that we are currently less educated, less powerful and less financially secure than the people who run the newspaper?

-                      Associate concepts. Stop and think why there are puppies and kittens on toilet paper.

-                      Ask questions. Am I right?

-                      Repeat yourself. Have a theme running through your piece.

-                      Be humorous

-                      Tell a story (a short anecdote)

-                      Use the word because. It seems to hack into the human brain. It doesn’t matter what the exact reason is... It is literally enough to just use the word because to convince people. For example, if you ask to skip the queue to the photocopier by saying “Is it ok if I skip the queue because I need to use the photocopier” your chances go up drastically (Chialdini). I mean, isn’t it nonsense? The “because I need to use the photocopier” part is completely redundant. Yet it works. Let’s hope it works on the examiner too.

-                      Pretend you took an action to back up your argument

-                      Appeal to reciprocity: people are more likely to agree with you if you agree with them
-                      Appeal to the audience’s sense of belonging

-                      Talk to people about themselves.

-                      Don’t tell people they are wrong. Admit you are wrong! This is immediately disarming and endearing.
-                      Surprise: people are more likely to accept a point of view if they are unsettled by something. Imagine a balloon just blew up and somebody spoke to you straight away and asked you something? You are more likely to agree.

-                      Scare the audience. L’OrĂ©al implies pretty clearly that you are going to turn out wrinkly if you don’t fork out for the latest cream. Eh, don’t forget. You’re worth it.

-                      So use a slogan.

-                      Likability: convey a shared interest

-                      Appeal to consistency: people are more likely to do something if they committed to it.

-                      Appeal to herd mentality: Look at the people just like you, they are all doing X, so you should to. For example, mothers all across Ireland are using XYZ product… There is safety in numbers, right?

-                      Authority: we all love an expert opinion and are less likely to question it. Interestingly, this is the opposite of the herd mentality techniques, but it works just as well.

-                      Tell the audience you know their views well, but disagree with them. Say that you know what the audience is thinking and attack it. I know that we said earlier to not disagree with the audience. Whether you choose to challenge the audience depends on your confidence in your argument. Think of W.B. Yeats’ September 1913: he didn’t mince words and came across pretty well, n'est pas?

Want more? The rest of our Paper I advice is here:

Leaving Cert English Sample Essay and Notes

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