Speech Preparation


When preparing a persuasive, argumentative speech, you need to consider both matter (what you are going to say) and manner (how you are going to say it).

1. Matter

When preparing the matter for a persuasive speech, the golden rule is ‘quality not quantity’. A brief and simple message has the dramatic and persuasive appeal that a long- winded, rambling discourse does not. You want simply to deliver a clear and expressive message.

2. Rhetorical Techniques:

There are several stylistic devices we can use for dramatic and persuasive effect.

Emotive language:

Words that appeal to the listeners’ emotions rather than to their powers of reason and logic. These are some-times called ‘loaded’ words as they contain a message that is subtly telling the listener what to think or believe.

Rhetorical questions:

 A rhetorical question is one put by a speaker for effect, not to draw an answer. An example is: ‘Who would believe such nonsense?’, the implication being that no-one, would. The speaker is engaging the listener.


Rhythmically balanced phrases and sentences appeal to the ear. They can have a hypnotic effect, persuading listeners to accept what is being said.

          “*I came to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” * Mark Antony

Faith is harder to shake than knowledge.

Love is less subject to change than respect.

*Hatred is more lasting than dislike.   *Hitler



Like the above, this has a cumulative, convincing effect.

*“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender”  * Winston Churchill


‘Crescendo’ effect: **  Climax**

Using a sentence that rhythmically and cumulatively builds up to a climax is dramatic and, therefore, convincing. This device is often used in the final sentence of an address to leave a lasting impression.


Bathos  -  Anti-climax:

Also called the ‘let down’  effect, the speaker leads the audience to expect a resounding high climax, only to let them down to an unexpected low note:


My father warned me against dealing in guns, drugs or health products

He entered the room, saluted, pulled out his gun and burped.

Walls and furniture was gutted, even the wallpaper was scorched.

The ‘three effect:

For some reason, three balanced phrases or three strong, emotive or alliterative words have a particularly dramatic impact, for example.

*I came, I saw, I conquered.  *Julius Caesar

*Of the people, by the people, for the people.  *Abraham Lincoln

*Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.  *Winston Churchill



Inverted phrases:

Changing well know phrases by inversion or subversion can be extremely engaging.

We are no longer the lucky country; we must become the clever country”

Bob Hawke

*This is not the end.  It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is perhaps, the end of the beginning.   *Churchill


Alliteration and assonance:

An excellent device is the repetition of consonants or vowels at the beginning of two or more words, eg. ‘radical ratbags’, and ‘unloved, unlovable and unlovely’. This is alliteration. Where the internal vowel in two or more words has a similar sound, we have assonance, as in ‘this bumbling, stumbling lumbering idiot’.

Poetic devices:    

Other poetic devices such as imagery, metaphor, simile and personification can also be used, where suitable, to add life and colour to what is being said.


Try not to get carried away by the above devices - these ‘tricks’ of the oral trade. Make sure that you have a solid, underlying argument, which is logically developed and supported.


Criteria for assessing oral presentations

SKILLS (Aural - these key words pertain particularly to vocalisation).

  1. Fluency

  2. Clarity

  3. Enunciation

  4. Modulation of pace

  5. Modulation of tone

  6. Modulation of volume

  7. Expression

  8. inflection

  9. Pitch

NON-VERBAL These key words pertain particularly to the use of the body as an adjunct to speech.

  1. Eye-contact

  2. Appropriate facial expression

  3. Appropriate gestures

  4. Stance

  5. Body Language

  6. Movement

  7. Variety and range

LANGUAGE SKILLS These key words pertain particularly to language choice and usage.

  1. Appropriateness of language to the audience, the character and the occasion

  2. Vocabulary

  3. Phrasing

  4. Syntax

  5. Sequencing

  6. Climax

  7. Denouement

  8. Persuasiveness

  9. Effectiveness of introduction and conclusion