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Building on the five questions to ask in any public speaking setting, this section specifically focuses on persuasive speaking and the dynamics of trying to change an audience’s beliefs, behaviors, policies, or actions.
I introduced Stephen Toulmin’s concept of argumentation in the section on critical listening. Here’s a brief review. When we speak about persuasive speaking, we often use the word “argument.” By “arguments” we do not mean interpersonal conflict.
We mean situations in which a person is trying to change the attitude, belief, behavior or policy of another person, persons or organization. Philosopher Stephen Toulmin proposed an understanding of the Structure of an Argument as containing claim, grounds, warrant and backing (Toulmin).
Claims are the statements for which a speaker desires agreement.
Grounds are the supporting materials a speaker uses to justify the claim. There is no structural difference between claims and grounds. The only difference is their placement in the argument. Grounds are used to validate claims. Like claims, they can be propositional statements of fact, value, or policy.
Warrant is the inferential steps a person makes to connect the grounds and the warrant.
Backing is information used to make claim, grounds or warrant more convincing. We have also called this “supporting material”. This could be the credibility of expert providing testimony, the frequency of a particular example, the reliability and recency of statistics. Backing is the reasons why a piece of supporting material should be taken seriously.
Here’s a helpful video that might provide some insight.
In speech communication, we generally speak of three types of claims: (1) fact, (2) value, and (3) policy. Stephen Toulmin himself did not necessarily divide claims this discretely.
Here’s a list of example claims he offered in The Uses of Argument, “Whatever the nature of a particular assertion [claim] may be whether it is a meteorologist predicting rain for tomorrow, an injured workman alleging negligence on the part of his employer, a historian defending the character of Emperor Tiberius, a doctor diagnosing measles, a business man questioning the honesty of a client, or an art critic commending the paintings of Piero della Francesca in each case we can challenge the assertion, and demand to have our attention drawn to the grounds (backing, data, facts, evidence, considerations, features) on which the merits of the assertion depend.”
Claims of Fact
The communicator can want agreement on things that are objectively verifiable. A claim of fact is different than a fact. The earth is a sphere is a fact. It’s not something that rational people think is debatable. However, a manager might make the claim that:
Telecommuting is more cost-effective than having all employees working in brick-and-mortar. This is a claim of fact. It’s contentious; meaning that there is evidence for and against the claim. However, if the manager convinces her superiors or fellow managers of the claim, she has obtained agreement that something is objectively verified.
Claims of Value
The communicator can want agreement that certain qualities, traits, commitments, or ideals are most important in a situation or more important than competing qualities, traits, commitments, or ideals. An IT professional may prefer security more than accessibility. Another IT professional may prefer accessibility over security. These are essential claims about the values of security and accessibility.
Claims of Policy
Claims of policy are propositional statements that propose a change in behavior or technique or practice for a person, family, group, organization, government, etc. Most persuasive speeches involve this sort of change. They propose that persons, people or groups change their ways of acting or functioning.
The thesis statement of a persuasive speech is often a claim of policy. Claims of policy often reveal themselves in the word “should.” Speakers should use the word should. It’s not a bad word no matter how often the self-help people say, “Don’t should on yourself.”
- College students should avoid excessive personal debt.
- Car makers should invest more in alternative forms of energy.
- The Texas Education Agency should require teachers to pass annual subject-matter tests for the subjects they teach.
- Sex education in public schools should include the principle of consent.
- Law-makers should reduce spending on ceremonial desires.
As you consider preparing claims of policy, consider some questions to determine if the claim is substantial.
- Does the claim propose a change or reinforce actions that are already present? If you are proposing only modest changes or suggesting that people already do what they know to do, the change may not be compelling enough.
- Is the change proposed specific enough to be interesting? Students often want to give a speech where the thesis is broad and self-evident. For example, “Employees should develop better work-life balance” is a common thesis. Such speeches are so broad they do not name or describe much. Narrowing such topics would improve their strength.
Here are some ways the “work-life balance” thesis could be narrowed and become more compelling:
Companies should adopt a 30-hour work week.
Employees should take regular breaks of at least fifteen minutes from their work during the day.
- Does the claim address the correct change agent? In a properly stated thesis, the audience being addressed should be the subject of the sentence. This does not mean that all speeches in this class must address the needs of college students.
You can say, “For the purposes of this speech, I imagine that I am speaking to . . . potential customers . . . my coworkers . . . or decision makers in the company.” Clarity about who needs to act helps make the speech concrete and substantive.
- Does the proposed change correct problems or meet needs?
Let’s imagine that you’re trying to persuade fellow students to create public affairs discussion groups at your school. You find evidence from a recent Pew Research Poll saying that the majority of Americans say that our national discourse is less respectful (85%) and less fact-based (76%) in the last several years here.
However, the majority of people still feel that community colleges are places where open dialogue can occur. Seventy-three percent of persons responding to the same survey indicate that “Community Colleges” are places where people are open to differing opinions.
You have evidence that though people see the political discourse as a whole being uncivil, people would support the idea that community colleges can be places where people can give and receive differing opinions with openness. With these thoughts in mind, here’s how the material might fit into Toulmin’s model.
Claim: A public affairs discussion group at this school could help the whole nation.
Grounds 1: Americans feel more negativity toward public discussion.
Backing: A recent Pew Research reports that the majority of Americans say that our nation is less respectful (85%) and less fact-based (76%) in the last several years (Pew Research Center).
Warrant: Honest and open dialogue requires trust and clearly the majority of Americans do not trust our current political discourse.
Grounds2 : People do generally feel that Community Colleges are places where honest dialogue can happen.
Backing: Seventy three percent of persons responding to the same survey indicate that “Community Colleges are open to differing opinions” (Pew Research Center).
Warrant: People’s trust in Community colleges as places tolerant of different opinions can be used to create models of discourse for the larger culture to see.
How I would outline this:
Thesis: A public affairs discussion group at this school could help the whole nation.
- Problem: people feel more negativity toward public discussion.
- Pew Research, June 19, 2019
- 85% more negative; 75% less fact based.
- No trust/no dialogue.
–Obviously you’d add more pieces of evidence to validate the claim.
- Solution: Community College public affairs dialogue groups can model healthy discourse for the rest of the nation.
- Pew Research
- 73% –>Community College are open to differing opinions.
- Building from trust/modeling dialogue.
As we begin looking at persuasive speech models, keep the concepts of claims in mind. The thesis statements in persuasive speeches are most often claims of policy. The main points, the ones indicated with Roman numerals using the Harvard Style outlining I expect in this speech, are grounds.
They are propositional statements that validate the claim. In each model, you will establish that a need, opportunity or problem exists. These are grounds of fact or value. Sometimes you’ll establish a cause for the problem this is a grounds of fact.
In Motivated Sequence, one of the steps is the “solution” step which begins with a grounds statement that a solution exists somewhere in the world. At the main point level, complete sentences in the form of propositional statements (grounds) that validate the thesis (claims) are essential.
Persuasive Speech Model
Persuasive speech models describe ways that you can organize the content of your speech so that it maximizes persuasive appeal. It is the form of the speech. For your speech, you will need to use one of three persuasive speech models: (1) Problem-Solution-Benefits, (2) Problem-Cause-Solution, or (3) Motivated Sequence. NOTE: While you will need to use one for the persuasive speech you give in class, they are very useful for speeches you give elsewhere.
A Problem-Solution-Benefit designed speech can be useful particularly when the speaker wants to advocate a change in behavior or a policy that involves several parts (i.e., that’s complex). In the problem section, the speaker establishes that the problem is significant. It has some profound impact on people’s lives, the employee’s performance, or the organization’s goals and objectives. The benefits main point shows how the solution solves the problem and how it has additional benefits.
The problem-solution-benefits speech has three parts:
- Problem or Opportunity.
This is easy to structure using the typical organizational structure we have been using in this class. An introduction with attention getter, orientation, thesis statement and preview; three main points signposted and introduced; conclusion with review and sense of closure.
This example merely shows the propositional and organizational content of the speech. An actual outline would also need to include source of information. The solution main point does NOT need to be listed as steps. However, it does need to be a substantial part of the speech.
Attention Getter: A scene of people engrossed in iPads, smartphones, and laptops, in the midst of a beautiful day.
Orientation: In the last decade, we have experienced an explosion in personal electronic technology—electronics that people can carry with them (cell phones, tablets, laptops). We have acquired these pieces without giving much thought to their actual benefits and potential harms in our lives.
Thesis: People should embrace a weekly technology fast to reduce the negative impact of personal electronic technology.
Preview: First, I will briefly describe the problems associated with excessive personal electronic technology; second, I will detail my plan for a weekly technology fast; finally, I will describe the benefits with adopting this practice.
- Excessive electronic technology creates problems
- A weekly technology fast reduces those problems
- Step 1—Make a prioritized inventory of your personal electronic technology
- Step 2—Choose one day of the week to be your fast day.
- Step 3—Beginning with the least important pieces of technology slowly stop using those pieces week by week.
- Step 4—Observe the changes in your patterns as you practice your weekly fast.
III. You will discover that this weekly technology fast creates benefits.
Today we have seen that while there are problems with excessive technology use, we can reduce those problems through a weekly technology fast. This fast has the benefit of giving us space to see what we have been missing.
Closure: And maybe next time we encounter a beautiful day and good friends we won’t be so busy with cell phones and laptops that we fail to enjoy it.
Problem-Cause-Solution speeches are particularly useful when people focus on the symptoms of a problem and the speaker recognizes that the underlying cause needs to be addressed in order to truly improve conditions.
For example, a company’s new team-based approach may be failing to produce the creative and collaborative spirit the organization had hoped. A manager might recognize that the problems of people not collaborating, continued competition, and stifled creativity are symptoms of a larger underlying cause that the organization still manages people as individuals.
Rather than giving incentives for teamwork and team performance, performance evaluations still focus on individual performance. There’s no tangible incentive for teamwork. The main points of a speech like this might be:
- Problem: The organization’s team-based approach is failing to create a collaborative creative culture.
- Cause: The organization expects teamwork but incentivizes individual performance.
III. Solution: The organization should make teamwork a central part of employee evaluations to create a more collaborative creative culture.
Motivated Sequence is a very common approach to organizing persuasive speeches. It was developed by Alan H. Monroe at Purdue University (Ehninger, Gronbeck and Monroe). Motivated Sequence design is particularly useful when you have one specific action you want your audience to take.
Unlike the other speeches, the motivated sequence speech moves seamlessly from one element to the next. The elements of structure that we’ve used earlier introduction with preview, signposts and taglines, review and closure are replaced with this structure.
Attention: Grab the audience’s attention.
Need: Present them with a compelling need. A situation that should be changed or opportunity that should be claimed.
Satisfaction: Present them with a generalized recommendation that ameliorates the need.
Visualization: The audience needs to get a clear picture of what their life could be like by adopting the proposed recommendation. Visualization is almost always in the form of narrative.
Action: Give the audience a clear, direct, call to action.
Example Motivated Sequence
Attention: Beautiful day that no one enjoys because their busy interacting with the world through the 3” X 6” smart phones.
Need: With the introduction smart phones people have been craving cell phones that do more and more. Apps for this and apps for that. The effect has been that people’s perspective on the world has been reduced to a tiny frame of reference. This causes stress, eye strain, repetitive motion disorders, and anxiety.
Satisfaction: We all need a cell phone but, what would happen if people went for the least complicated phone rather than the most complicated phone?
Visualization: Imagine, you’re driving down the freeway, trying to use an iPhone and end up in a wreck because it’s too complicated to use and drive at the same time. Imagine you’re in a meeting and you miss the important instructions because you’re responding to an e-mail on your iPhone.
Imagine that your child wants you to read to them but you’re so frustrated with figuring out your new Samsung Galaxy that you snap at her and send her to bed crying.
Imagine instead, that you go with a self-explanatory, intuitive, cell phone, the sort of cell phone that has only the most basic (and really only necessary phone services) you need. Phone, text, address book. You become a safer driver; you are a less distracted worker; you are freed to interact with family with authenticity.
Action : When your cell phone plan says it’s time to “upgrade” think about “upgrading” to simplicity and freedom by getting the least complicated (and probably least expensive) phone the company offers.
Here’s a very helpful video explaining Motivated Sequence and comparing it to Problem-Solution-Benefit. The video suggests that statistics are appropriate in the visualization step. However, I understand the visualization step to be almost exclusively narrative. It asks the audience to “picture” a situation. This psychological picture can either be hypothetical or it can be in the form of an actual story where people adopted the suggested proposal.
Works Cited Ehninger, Douglas, Bruce E. Gronbeck and Alan H Monroe. Principles of Speech Communication. Glenview: Scott, Foresman & Company, 1984. Pew Research Center. “Public Highly Critical of State of Political Discourse in the U.S.” 25 June 2019. www.people-press.org. Document. 6 July 2019. Toulmin, Stephen. The Uses of Argument. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1958.
QUALITY OF RESPONSE NO RESPONSE POOR / UNSATISFACTORY SATISFACTORY GOOD EXCELLENT Content (worth a maximum of 50% of the total points) Zero points: Student failed to submit the final paper. 20 points out of 50: The essay illustrates poor understanding of the relevant material by failing to address or incorrectly addressing the relevant content; failing to identify or inaccurately explaining/defining key concepts/ideas; ignoring or incorrectly explaining key points/claims and the reasoning behind them; and/or incorrectly or inappropriately using terminology; and elements of the response are lacking. 30 points out of 50: The essay illustrates a rudimentary understanding of the relevant material by mentioning but not full explaining the relevant content; identifying some of the key concepts/ideas though failing to fully or accurately explain many of them; using terminology, though sometimes inaccurately or inappropriately; and/or incorporating some key claims/points but failing to explain the reasoning behind them or doing so inaccurately. Elements of the required response may also be lacking. 40 points out of 50: The essay illustrates solid understanding of the relevant material by correctly addressing most of the relevant content; identifying and explaining most of the key concepts/ideas; using correct terminology; explaining the reasoning behind most of the key points/claims; and/or where necessary or useful, substantiating some points with accurate examples. The answer is complete. 50 points: The essay illustrates exemplary understanding of the relevant material by thoroughly and correctly addressing the relevant content; identifying and explaining all of the key concepts/ideas; using correct terminology explaining the reasoning behind key points/claims and substantiating, as necessary/useful, points with several accurate and illuminating examples. No aspects of the required answer are missing. Use of Sources (worth a maximum of 20% of the total points). Zero points: Student failed to include citations and/or references. Or the student failed to submit a final paper. 5 out 20 points: Sources are seldom cited to support statements and/or format of citations are not recognizable as APA 6th Edition format. There are major errors in the formation of the references and citations. And/or there is a major reliance on highly questionable. The Student fails to provide an adequate synthesis of research collected for the paper. 10 out 20 points: References to scholarly sources are occasionally given; many statements seem unsubstantiated. Frequent errors in APA 6th Edition format, leaving the reader confused about the source of the information. There are significant errors of the formation in the references and citations. And/or there is a significant use of highly questionable sources. 15 out 20 points: Credible Scholarly sources are used effectively support claims and are, for the most part, clear and fairly represented. APA 6th Edition is used with only a few minor errors. There are minor errors in reference and/or citations. And/or there is some use of questionable sources. 20 points: Credible scholarly sources are used to give compelling evidence to support claims and are clearly and fairly represented. APA 6th Edition format is used accurately and consistently. The student uses above the maximum required references in the development of the assignment. Grammar (worth maximum of 20% of total points) Zero points: Student failed to submit the final paper. 5 points out of 20: The paper does not communicate ideas/points clearly due to inappropriate use of terminology and vague language; thoughts and sentences are disjointed or incomprehensible; organization lacking; and/or numerous grammatical, spelling/punctuation errors 10 points out 20: The paper is often unclear and difficult to follow due to some inappropriate terminology and/or vague language; ideas may be fragmented, wandering and/or repetitive; poor organization; and/or some grammatical, spelling, punctuation errors 15 points out of 20: The paper is mostly clear as a result of appropriate use of terminology and minimal vagueness; no tangents and no repetition; fairly good organization; almost perfect grammar, spelling, punctuation, and word usage. 20 points: The paper is clear, concise, and a pleasure to read as a result of appropriate and precise use of terminology; total coherence of thoughts and presentation and logical organization; and the essay is error free. Structure of the Paper (worth 10% of total points) Zero points: Student failed to submit the final paper. 3 points out of 10: Student needs to develop better formatting skills. The paper omits significant structural elements required for and APA 6th edition paper. Formatting of the paper has major flaws. The paper does not conform to APA 6th edition requirements whatsoever. 5 points out of 10: Appearance of final paper demonstrates the student’s limited ability to format the paper. There are significant errors in formatting and/or the total omission of major components of an APA 6th edition paper. They can include the omission of the cover page, abstract, and page numbers. Additionally the page has major formatting issues with spacing or paragraph formation. Font size might not conform to size requirements. The student also significantly writes too large or too short of and paper 7 points out of 10: Research paper presents an above-average use of formatting skills. The paper has slight errors within the paper. This can include small errors or omissions with the cover page, abstract, page number, and headers. There could be also slight formatting issues with the document spacing or the font Additionally the paper might slightly exceed or undershoot the specific number of required written pages for the assignment. 10 points: Student provides a high-caliber, formatted paper. This includes an APA 6th edition cover page, abstract, page number, headers and is double spaced in 12’ Times Roman Font. Additionally, the paper conforms to the specific number of required written pages and neither goes over or under the specified length of the paper.
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