Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Persuasive Speech Topics to Avoid

You see it in the news at least once a week: The Topic That Won't Die. The Death Penalty. The Legalization of Marijuana. Violence on TV. Or you can pick your own, there are plenty to choose from. These are topics that are overused, and should be avoided for your persuasive speech, except in certain very limited circumstances (more on that in a moment).

The allure of these topics is easy to see; they are popular, everybody is talking about them, and you don't need to introduce or explain the issues at hand. Unfortunately, these are the very reasons that you should avoid them like the plague, especially if you want to persuade your audience towards a particular point of view. Because your audience has probably heard all of the arguments for and against the topic, they have probably already made up their minds, which leaves you either preaching to the choir, or facing a hostile audience.

The only exception to this is if the topic is relevant to the group you are addressing. One possible example could be speaking to a cancer group about the benefits of marijuana as a counter to the effects of chemotherapy. (Note: I am not advocating this as a topic, nor do I advocate the use of marijuana, just using it as an example for this discussion)

While it may be tempting to use one of these topics, I will say again, don't do it, because your goal when giving a persuasive speech is not to keep the discussion going, but to persuade your audience. These “hot” topics are too hotly contested. Your audience has heard all the arguments before, and even if you do manage to persuade them to a different point of view, all your work could easily be demolished when the next news headline causes them to change their minds back.

Some examples of persuasive speech topics to avoid are:

  • Gun Control
  • Drunk Driving
  • Drug Legalization
  • Abortion
  • Eating disorders
  • Capital Punishment

These topics are good examples of what to avoid because they are controversial. They are overused, custom built to start an argument, emotionally charged, and everybody talks about them. They are not persuasive. The rule of thumb is that if everybody else is using it, you shouldn't, because it has long since ceased to be a persuasive speech topic.

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