Learn to Create a Persuasive Speech: What are the Tools to Investigate Your Topics (Part 1)
There is an ancient parable about a group of blind men who hear about a strange animal called an elephant. They want to learn what this animal is by going and touching it. The first man, whose hand lands on the trunk, says, “This animal is like a thick snake.” To another man whose hand reaches its ear, it seems like a kind of fan. The third man places his hand on the elephant's side and says, “This animal is a wall.” Another, who feels its tail, describes it as a rope. The last man feels its tusk and describes the elephant as something that is hard and smooth, like a spear. They each think the others are lying and end up in a huge argument.
The moral of this story is that humans tend to think something is true based on their limited personal experiences, even though other people's experiences or knowledge may be also true. This means that every time you give a speech, even if it's about the most creative topic in the world, your audience might already have their own opinions, or prior knowledge, that could be different from what you are presenting. This means that convincing them that your opinion is right, or encouraging them to take action, might be harder than you expect. So, if you want to be a persuasive speaker, it's important that understand “the whole elephant,” better than the blind men did. So, in this article, you’ll learn strategies to effectively investigate your topic and build knowledge around it.
Now, you might wonder, “Where do I even start?” Good question. How can you ensure that you’re investigating the right information for your topic? Let’s take a look.
Think again about the parable of the blind men and the elephant. Even if you have some knowledge on the subject, you investigate in order to become better informed. You can then answer questions, show understanding, and have rational discussions. After gaining an understanding of a topic, we begin to form opinions and ideas about that topic. You then use evidence and examples from your investigation to support your opinions and ideas. The evidence and examples that you uncover will make your ideas more credible and persuasive through facts, statistics, and the opinions of experts on the topic. But be careful! Don't just rely on the first result from a quick internet search. It's not difficult to find others who agree with your ideas and opinions – but this doesn't mean they're reliable sources! Your information must come from sources that are experts or authorities on the subject. This could be a person, like a well-known professor, or an institution such as the United Nations. Additionally, our evidence and examples should be recent. As a general rule, try to information from within the last five years. This ensures that the information you’re referencing is most likely still relevant and not out-of-date. Finally, the information we use should provide clear and sufficient reasoning that will help strengthen your message.
To begin, you'll need to do some self-reflection. Assuming you already have a topic in mind, you need to start by asking yourself some important questions. But even before that, you should create four lists. On the first list, write down everything of importance that you know. This should be information that you can objectively prove to be true so that on the second list, you can write down how you know it – what is the source of this information? On the third list, write down information that you need to know – any questions or points that you're not sure about but can help you better understand the topic. Then, on the fourth list, write down any ideas for where you could find this information, and keywords and phrases you could use to search for this information online. Keep in mind that these four lists will be continuously changing and growing, and information will move from one list to another. However, your goal will be to move more information towards the first and second lists, to the list of things you know and can prove.
Now that you have your topic and a template of lists to effectively organize your investigation and its results, let's get to work! In part two of this article, you’ll learn how to put these new tools into practice.