A speech is an address given to an audience for a variety of purposes. A speaker may aim to inspire or to motivate, to amuse, to inform or to persuade.
The focus of this guide will be persuasive speeches, those that are intended to sway the audience to agree with the speaker. We will examine the impact of rhetorical structure and devices.
A speech, no matter the subject, requires a speaker, an audience, and a purpose. You can think of a speech as a rhetorical triangle such as the one below.
To be persuasive, the speaker must take the audience into consideration and appeal to them in ways that will convince them. The Greek philosopher Aristotle (384 BC–322 BC) described three appeals that can be used to persuade an audience: ethos, pathos, and logos.
Logos: The speaker appeals to the audience’s sense of reason, using logic, facts, and statistics.
Ethos: The speaker tries to show the audience that he or she is reliable, credible, and trustworthy. The speaker also tries to build a bridge to the audience by using first-person plural pronouns (we, us).
Pathos: The speaker appeals to the audience’s emotions, using emotional language, sensory images, and anecdotes.
We can see an example of how these three types of appeal interact in a speech by former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to the fourth World Conference of the United Nations. Clinton speaks about the rights of women around the world. Look at these excerpts: