How to Give a Persuasive Speech

Why is public speaking SO HARD? And how can we do it more effectively and more persuasively?

Here are my answers from a lifetime of blowing into microphones...

If you’ve got to give a presentation, then chances are you want to make it persuasive. If the audience doesn’t believe or behave differently than they did before they heard you, then you simply didn’t do your job as a speaker.

You’ve probably heard the classic public speaking formula a zillion times:

1. Tell them what you’re going to tell them.

2. Tell them.

3. Tell them what you’ve told them.

That might be okay for informative speeches, but it’s terrible for persuasive speeches. And it’s boring. SOOOOO boring!

Telling is NOT selling. Being informative is simply not good enough to influence the human brain.

As a professional speaker, I use a fairly complex process to craft my talks (which includes a 3-step framework and a 50-Point Public Speaking Checklist that I’ll never deliver a speech without.)

Whether it’s a 20-minute “lunch and learn” webinar or a 60-minute keynote address for a management conference, the basic formula remains the same.

You can have my 50-point checklist for free HERE. For my 3-step framework...just keep reading.

PUBLIC SPEAKING TIP: A maze is much easier to solve backwards.

Influencing someone is a complex, daunting task. The process of going from where they are to where you want them to be can often seem maze-like.

I have a secret: Do it backwards.

What do you want them to do after hearing your speech? Decide that FIRST.

For example, let’s say you want to convince non-voters to get out and vote. That’s the end of your maze. Now we can work our way backwards from there.

You can’t just say, “Go vote.” That won’t carry any weight. You’ve got to build a connection with them first.

So, the step before “call to action,” is “build connection”.

But can you build connection if no one is listening to you? Before we build connection we must first earn their attention.

And that’s my 3-Step Public Speaking Framework: “ACA” (Attention, Connection, Action).

Follow these guidelines and you'll be well on your way to a great speech!


GOAL: Make them think, “This will be different, I like this person, and this will be FUN.”

You’ve only got a few moments, so think hard about what you can do to accomplish the important goals above.


Expressing similarity (“I remember sitting right where you are now…”), Humor (especially self-deprecating), Communicating novelty (”This will be unlike anything you’ve ever heard before on the topic of influence”), Dressing distinctly, Walking in from the back of the room instead of the wings, etc.

Body language is the fastest and best way to grab attention. Here’s a crash course on good body language.


GOAL: Make them think, “This relates to my life and it is simple enough for me to do.”

If it’s not relevant to my life, you’ve lost me. If it’s too complicated, you’ve lost me. I can’t fix global warming, but I can cast a vote. Connect your message to me (especially through storytelling), and you’ve got a chance.


Stating their problem or their possibility. A problem is about pain and possibility is about gain. (Keep in mind, pain is twice as powerful as gain.)

Examples: “How many of you are tired of negative people and chronic complainers in the workplace?” (Problem)

“I’ve uncovered a little-known niche that can bring you more customers than you can imagine.” (Possibility)

Simplifying your message. Just because you are an expert on your topic, doesn’t mean your audience wants to become one too. A confused mind does NOTHING. There’s no faster way to make an audience tune you out than to overload them with information.

Sharing a “mess to success” story - featuring you as the “guide”. Example: “Toni was failing as a manager. Her team wasn’t performing but yet she was the one taking all the blame. She wanted to be the ‘cool boss’ so she tried being everyone’s friend. That backfired. Then she tried "laying down the law". That backfired too! It all changed when she discovered the power of my influential communication framework. Suddenly, her team genuinely respects her, they are more productive and creative than ever before, and her boss gave her a raise!”

Toni is the hero. She’s the one everyone can relate to. If she can do it, they can do it. You’re merely the guide who helped make it all possible. Donald Miller of StoryBrand teaches that too many people try to be the hero. Instead, he suggests taking on the role of Yoda so the audience can feel like Luke Skywalker.


GOAL: Encourage them to ACT!

Too often, we either forget to ask, or we’re afraid to ask. Don’t forget a direct call-to-action in your speech. Tell them exactly what you want them to do. Don’t be shy and don’t make them guess.


Sharing a closing story.

This last story should be in alignment with how you want the audience to feel when they leave. If you want them to feel energized, tell an energetic story. There is almost nothing more captivating or more persuasive than a good story.

Delivering one last one-liner that tells them exactly what you want them to do next.

Example: “Remember...Grab your coat and go out to VOTE!” (Bonus points if it rhymes.)

Speaking of bonus...Ready to download my 50-Point Public Speaking Tips Checklist? This guide will tell you exactly what you need to add to (or take away from) your speech. You'll never again miss an important point or forget to do something obvious during your presentation.


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