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21 - Persuasive Speeches

Finding a Two-Sided Persuasive Topic

Any persuasive topic must be two-sided. If there is not an opposing viewpoint then there is really no argument or position to prove. Your first step for your last set of speeches is to choose a two-sided topic. You can then develop a claim of Fact or Value based upon your research and conclusion drawn. This will provide background evidence and reasons for your arguments of a claim of policy in the fourth and final speech.

What Is a Two-Sided Topic?

A two-sided topic is one with a strong enough “flip side” that another person could easily argue against your position.

Here are examples of possible two-sided topics:

  • Nuclear Power—Some will argue due to the increase of population and power usage there is a need for building more nuclear power facilities. Some will argue this is harmful to the environment and a national security risk.

  • Electronic Books—Some will argue electronic books are the wave of the future for college textbooks. And some will argue nothing beats a hard copy book to use for studying.

  • Light Rail Service in Louisville—Some will say due to the increase in suburban sprawl and the rising cost of fuel there is a need for a light rail system in Louisville. Some will say due to the construction time and cost a light rail system will not be effective for commuters in the Louisville area.

  • “Green” Building Practices—Some will argue all the buildings on campus need to meet minimum green building/sustainability requirements and must be retrofitted. Others will argue it is cost prohibitive and will not make much of a difference in the area’s environment.

These are only a few examples of the many thousands of two-sided topics you could address for your persuasive speeches. Ask friends, ask your instructor, or talk with a Speech Mentor to help you brainstorm a two-sided topic.

You may already have a two-sided topic in mind! Try it out by creating both sides of the topic. Use your argument with the flip side and evaluate if it is a good two-sided argument.

Remember: A persuasive speech attempts to change the attitudes, actions, and/or beliefs of your audience members. A Claim of Fact or Value provides evidence and reasoning a problem exists, its severity, and its effect upon the audience. A Claim of Value adds a moral/ ethical, right/wrong aspect to the speech. A Claim of Policy argues a change in policy is needed and provides a solution and how it will work. Claims of Policy usually contain the words should/should not.

Try other topics/arguments if needed to help you strengthen your position.

Remember: Persuasion is two-sided. If there is no opposition, what’s your persuasion?

If you still need help finding a two-sided topic, try these ideas. Ask yourself:

  • What are the topics you argue or debate with friends or family members (or that you would like to argue and debate)?

  • When you listen to or watch the news, do you ever hear a story that makes you say to yourself, “Boy, I disagree with that” or, “I disagree with how that is being handled”?

  • What makes you mad or angry or raises questions in your mind?

  • Do you ever see a better way to do something? If so, maybe that’s a possible topic.

  • Is there something (for example, a service or a product) that is better than the current one being used? Perhaps that might be a topic.

  • What did you hear on the news, read in the media, or see on social media that makes you think of different approaches? Maybe that could be a topic.

  • Also remember, you may want to argue the status quo is fine and change could be bad.

Note: Do not pick a topic because there is  “a lot of stuff” on it—pick a topic of interest to you, that matters to you, and that you can relate to your audience.

21 - Persuasive Speeches
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