Persuasive speech topics can inspire an audience and influence change in your community, town, or city. Whether you are giving a presentation at a large conference or converting a into a speech to be given at your high school's auditorium, delivering a persuasive speech is not an easy task. We are here to guide you through this difficult process and provide you with 150 persuasive speech topics that can help you prepare your own inspirational presentation.
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The art of oratory is one of the oldest and most compelling persuasion tactics in human history. The power of speech has been used for centuries by men and women to negotiate peace, start revolutions, and inspire generations. At the source of change, we often witness a great speaker or speech that affected people’s worldviews. King Solomon, Socrates, Cicero, Elizabeth I, Napoleon, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, were all powerful speakers who changed the course of human history.
Luckily, not every persuasive speech happens on such a grand scale. You do not have to become Napoleon to change the lives of people who hear what you have to say. You might have experienced this yourself – perhaps you have had a teacher who instilled in you a great passion for the study of physics during his lectures? Or you happened to attend a political, grassroots gathering where you heard a speech that changed your attitude towards homelessness or poverty. Or maybe your classmate's presentation revealed something about a novel you were reading in class that made you reflect on your own life and the people in it.
The power of a speech lies in your conviction and delivery of the topic you choose to discuss. A persuasive speech topic can be anything you are passionate about. Yes, it is true; whether you want to discuss the repercussions of the Cuban Revolution or analyze the power of K-pop in popular culture, it is up to you to enthrall the audience with your topic. The key to any successful speech is your confidence and enthusiasm. So, let’s start by examining what makes a speech persuasive.
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To deliver a speech takes a lot of guts – not everybody is comfortable with public speaking. But to deliver a good speech takes conviction. Think of it like this: you must believe in the importance of your speech topic to discuss it. This must be something you care about and believe in; otherwise, your topic must be something that drives your curiosity, and you believe that it must be examined further.
Conviction stirs your desire to share this topic with others – you are convinced that other people will similarly find this topic fascinating! Whether it is the importance of recycling or bike lanes, the conviction is what will become the backbone of a successful and persuasive topic choice, as well as drive your desire to give a speech in the first place.
With conviction comes passion. These two elements of a successful speech are intimately intertwined. If you believe in the importance of something, you will be passionate about sharing it with the public.
If we look at some of the most famous speeches in human history, you will notice that conviction and passion are the driving force that makes these speeches legendary. Whether it's Cicero's defense of the Republic in the Roman Senate or Martin Luther King's speech in the defense of civil rights almost two millennia later, both these speakers believed in the importance of their convictions and were passionate about sharing their beliefs. In these cases, even despite the threats of death.
Conviction and passion should also drive your need to know everything there is to know about your topic. To give a persuasive speech, you must not only show confidence and excitement but demonstrate that you are an expert in the topic of your choice. Granted, if you are a high school student or an undergraduate who's been assigned to deliver a speech in less than 2 weeks, you are not going to become a world-renowned expert in your subject matter. However, as I pointed out, your speech topic should be something you are already passionate about, so you must have done some research and have some knowledge of your topic.
A persuasive speech should be based on facts. It should deliver arguments and counterarguments to show many sides of the issue you choose to discuss. For example, if you choose to discuss the importance of bike lanes, you can present several arguments in support of creating more bike lanes in your town or city, such as safety, decrease in traffic, environmental benefits, etc. However, make sure to include arguments that also show the other side of the issue, such as having to close down several major streets in your city to reconstruct the roads to fit in the new bike lanes and the side-effects of construction for businesses. Presenting both sides of the issue will show your comprehensive knowledge of the topic and demonstrate your professionalism.
Using the bike lanes topic as an example, I want to emphasize that showing unbiased research and knowledge of your topic can win the audience’s favor. You can, and should, still have your own opinion on the matter and defend your conviction in the speech but presenting the audience with both sides of the story is a tactic that will make them trust you.
Additionally, knowing both sides of the coin shows that you have come to your conviction after long and thorough research. You are not just presenting an uneducated opinion.
Taking care of the substance of your speech is the first step. While learning how to properly deliver your speech may seem less important, even the most well-researched and factually based speech will seem weak if the orator does not engage the public.
Though they certainly help your confidence, conviction and passion do not always result in strong delivery. This is understandable since public speaking is not everyone’s forte. While you may be animated and absorbing when you speak of your topic with friends, gripping an audience full of strangers is different.
There are three potential goals of any persuasive speech:
When you think about it, these objectives are pretty ambitious. Delivery plays a huge part in achieving these goals. It will be hard to move your audience to pursue any of these goals without clear articulation, professionalism, and charisma.
Strong delivery can be developed. Yes, there are those to whom oratory skills come more naturally, but this is rather an exception than the rule. Many successful orators were terrified of public speaking but worked hard to overcome their fears. A good example of this is King George VI of England. Before taking the throne in 1936, he was already an infamously bad speaker. The King trained to keep his speech impediment and nerves at bay once he was crowned and delivered one of the most inspiring speeches against Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich at the beginning of World War II.
There are several strategies you can implement to develop strong and convincing delivery, but one bulletproof method is practice. This may sound cliché but knowing your speech inside out will certainly mitigate the risk of freezing in front of an audience. Why? Because you will know your speech so well, that even if you lose focus, you can start from where you left off.
Remember, you do not have to memorize your speech – in fact, I would discourage you from doing so. Practicing your presentation will make you comfortable speaking about the topic using different sentences, words, phrases, and even examples. Practice instills confidence and security in your knowledge of the speech. After you practice alone in front of a mirror, you can slowly start presenting in front of family members, friends, and classmates. Grow your audience as your own confidence grows – this will help you gauge how your speech is coming across to a variety of people.
What you must remember is that delivery can carry your speech. Even if you stumble or lose your focus, good delivery can minimize these hiccups, so your audience stays engaged and involved in your topic.
Now that you know what makes a speech topic persuasive, let's go over a step-by-step formula that will help you choose the right topic for you.
- Brainstorm where your convictions lie and what you are passionate about. You must reflect on what interests, hobbies, news, events, individuals, and activities of yours could be developed into a persuasive, strong narrative.
- Narrow these down to 2 or 3 topics that are particularly important or riveting to you.
- Now comes the practical side of the brainstorming process: take a moment to think whether preparing a comprehensive and compelling speech on this topic is feasible in the amount of time you have available. Consider the following questions: Are the topics of your choice well researched by you? Do you know these topics well? If you are not well-versed in the topic of your choice, do you have enough time to do research to present a comprehensive and complete narrative? Do you have enough time to form a well-developed stance about this topic? A thesis? Will you be able to cover several sides of this topic in the amount of time you have available?
- If you have answered “No” to these questions regarding each of the topics you had in mind, you must go back to the drawing board.
- If you have come up with a topic that results in a positive response to all the questions mentioned in step 3, you might have found the winner.
- Start by developing a thesis, i.e., the main message of your speech. Without a thesis, you will not have a strong speech.
- Develop arguments that endorse your thesis and support them with facts. Remember, a strong speech must be based on facts, rather than opinions and unsubstantiated statements.
- Research counterarguments to your thesis. While you may not personally support these, you must present a well-rounded picture of the issue you are discussing.
- You can finish off your speech by responding to the counterarguments in a way that reinforces your thesis. Don't forget to re-emphasize your main message in the closing paragraphs of your speech.
Know your audience
It is always a good idea to know who your audience is. Whether you are giving a speech in your high school, or traveling to attend an undergraduate conference, reflect on who will be listening to your speech. Before you sit down to write it, consider whether you can give yourself the freedom to use technical language, jargon, or make inside jokes on the matter. In general, I would advise you to avoid overly technical or niche language. It is never a good tactic for making a persuasive speech – this might alienate a large part of your audience.
However, if you are delivering a speech to a like-minded audience, you may use "industry lingo". For example, if you are delivering a speech at a video game convention, it is likely that many, if not most, attendees will be familiar with the terms and vocabulary you use. You will be able to strengthen your speech by using language that unites you with your audience. In this case, you are encouraged to engage the public by making inside jokes, using niche terminology, and creating a relatable experience with your speech.
Knowing your audience will allow you to develop a language for your speech. It will also allow you to gauge how deep you can delve into the topic of your choice. For example, if you are a young physics aficionado who is giving a lecture on black holes to your sophomore classmates, you might want to consider the fact that many of them have never studied physics in depth. This may help you shape your speech into something accessible and interesting for others.
If you are unsure about who your audience might be, try researching it. It is always good practice to know whom you will be addressing. Not only will it help you prepare the speech, but it will also ease your anxiety about the day of your speech delivery.
Hook the audience
Your opening sentences can hook the audience and guarantee their attention. While it will be the substance of your speech that keeps them listening to you, the opening must be captivating for your speech to have a chance for success.
So, what do I mean by hooking the audience with your opening? For example, you can state a shocking statistic about your topic. It will be especially impactful if it is related to your audience’s experiences, geographical area, community, or hot-topic issue. Here’s an example for an opening sentence for a speech about the importance of bike lanes:
“Last year, the city of Toronto recorded 715 serious accidents involving cyclists, with over 5% of these accidents resulting in a fatality."
Now, if I was living in Toronto, I would be surprised to hear such information; especially, if I have never thought about this before. I am saddened by this statistic and would like to learn how we can help prevent these accidents.
Let’s examine another opening. This time, we will consider a speech topic involving a historical event. For example, if you are captivated by the mystery of Princess Anastasia of the Russian royal family, the House of Romanov, you might start your speech thusly:
“The question of whether the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanova survived the brutal execution of her entire family by the Bolsheviks is one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th century.”
This sentence performs several tasks:
Coming up with a strong opening sentence is not easy, but very worthwhile for delivering a persuasive speech. If you are having trouble finding the right opening sentence, you do not need to wait to start writing your speech. If you are stuck, move on to the main body of your speech and return to creating a captivating opening later.
To be persuasive, your speech must have a thesis. A thesis is the main argument you are trying to convince your audience of, or simply put, the purpose of you giving the speech. Without a thesis, your speech will be aimless, chaotic, and most likely, unengaging.
And while you can write your introduction after the main body of your speech is ready, you cannot write your speech without a thesis. It will be the landmark, the leading light, of your speech. Everything you say and every fact and argument you include in your essay must support your thesis. Certainly, you will be able to bring up alternative points of view later in the speech, but as we already discussed, your objective is to persuade the audience that your thesis is the correct one.
Let’s return to our bike lanes example. If you are a proponent of bike lanes, your thesis should be more than “Bike lanes are good”. While this can be considered a thesis, it is pretty thin. Instead, find a way to make your thesis compelling, include a supporting statistic, or a benefit of having bike lanes. For example:
“Having more bike lanes in our city will not only reduce traffic by X% but also allow our city to be at the forefront of the environmentally friendly initiatives happening all over our country.”
This thesis is clear and introduces the audience to some of the main points of the speech. The listeners get a concise prelude to what the speech is about and what it stands for.
Research and Arguments
Research is always conducted before you sit down to write. While you may have some general knowledge about your topic, remember that you are trying to be as persuasive as you possibly can be. This means that you need the latest statistics, the most up-to-date information, and the strongest support from experts in the field.
Tip: keep in mind your thesis as you are writing. All your arguments and facts must be in support of the main purpose of your essay. While you should present alternative points of view in your speech to make it well-rounded and unbiased, a strong speech must contain arguments that make it clear that your thesis is the correct one.
Concluding your speech has a twofold purpose. In addition to persuading the audience of your thesis, you must complete your narrative. Give the audience some closure about the topic. On the other hand, you must leave them even more interested in learning about your research. In other words, they must be compelled to explore on their own.
Tip: your conclusion cannot be a dry summary of your thesis and arguments. While you must restate your thesis in the conclusion, you are strongly encouraged to incite an emotional response from your audience. For example:
“More bike lanes will alleviate the heavy traffic and relieve our city from car fumes and soot. It is our responsibility to start making our city more eco-friendly. These small steps will inspire even more initiatives across our hometown and lead to a brighter, greener, future."
In this example, the audience is not only reminded of the main purpose of the speech but is also encouraged to think of other green initiatives that can help their town. The author does a good job of invoking responsibility for the future to encourage their audience to act.
Want to learn how to choose persuasive speech topics? Check out our infographic:
Now, let’s go over 150 persuasive speech topics that can inspire your own essay and presentation! Note that these are questions that should help you form ideas, arguments, and most importantly, theses. Rather than giving you the thesis upfront, we are encouraging you to come up with your own opinion and answers to these questions.
1. How long should my speech be?
Your speech should be between 15 to 20 minutes long. Anything longer may lose your audience's attention. If applicable, don't forget to factor in some time after your presentation for questions from the audience.
2. How can I choose a persuasive speech topic?
The best way to approach the choice of topic is to reflect on your convictions and passions. If you are truly interested in a topic, your excitement will be felt by the audience.
3. What makes a speech persuasive?
Of course, you must be interested in your topic, first and foremost. Secondly, your speech must demonstrate a level of expertise and knowledge that will allow the audience to believe that you know what you are talking about. Thirdly, your delivery will have a great effect on whether you succeed in persuading the audience. Even a well-researched speech will suffer from poor delivery.
4. How can I improve my delivery?
Firstly, only practice can really help you improve. Once you have written your speech, read it over several times. Do not memorize it, but rather, remember the structure, the flow of your arguments, your main points. Then start practicing pronouncing your entire speech in front of the mirror. Do this until you are quite confident with the content of the essay. Then, you can start practicing with family members, your friends, and classmates. Ask for their feedback: can they hear you well? Are you being articulate? Does your speech have a logical flow? Did they understand your thesis? Their feedback can help you modify not only your content, but also your presentation.
5. How should I structure my speech?
Your speech should take the form of an academic essay: introduction, main body, and conclusion.
6. Why is having a thesis important?
Your speech must have a thesis, otherwise it will be meandering and pointless. A thesis will guide you and keep your essay/presentation well-structured. A thesis is what you will be arguing for (or against, if it's a negatively stated thesis) throughout your speech. And while you can include some alternative points of view in your speech, your thesis will inform every argument you make in the speech.
7. Should I use technical language or jargon to strengthen my speech?
Typically, you should avoid using overly technical language. Even if you are presenting at a professional conference in front of peers, there is a chance that some of your audience will be unfamiliar with the professional terminology. To be inclusive, you should avoid niche language.
8. What is the best speech topic?
To be frank, there is no such thing. You can make a great speech on any topic of your choosing! Your research, your delivery, and your passion will determine whether your speech is successful.
9. Why should I include arguments that do not support my thesis?
Acknowledging opposing views and presence of debate will demonstrate your thorough knowledge of the topic. Additionally, you will demonstrate that you came to your conclusion/thesis after researching the topic, rather than simply forming an uneducated opinion.