Two emerging methods of persuasive speaking

Gandhi and Adolf Hitler

Despite there being many different ways of forming and delivering a persuasive argument when public speaking, in the many speeches that I have witnessed in the past fortnight there has seemed to be two core ‘styles’ emerging. I am going to describe them below, with a few thoughts on when each might be most effective.

The dictatorial style

When persuading his/her audience, the dictatorial speaker states their opinion as fact. Using lines such as ‘ladies and gentlemen, what I mean is…’ and ‘and therefore, this proves that…’.

This speaker’s style of persuasion may begin in a similar way to that of any other speaker, however once the argument has been presented and the facts brought to light, the speaker will always finish with bold statements. This speaker will declare to their audience exactly what it is that this evidence means and exactly how that should make the audience feel.

The democratic style

The democratic speaker delivers their argument in a much more subtle way and in my opinion engages their audience on a much higher level.

The democratic speaker will present the argument and the facts in much the same way as the dictatorial speaker. However, the democratic speaker will lace their speech with rhetorical questions, allowing their audience to debate the argument in their own minds, perhaps guiding their conceptions through the use of clever rhetoric.

The democratic speaker’s style is much like a map to the end goal for the audience, allowing them to find their own way, in opposition to the dictatorial speaker’s glaring signposts to the destination.

So which style is best?

Sorry, there is no ‘better’ style in my opinion. As ever with public speaking it is down to the speaker to marry their own speaking style with the objectives of the speech and the characteristics of the audience.

A trade unionist’s speech to peers during a time of strike might best achieve its objectives by clearly stating what has gone before and what needs to be achieved. However, a speech designed to inspire an audience of young people to achieve their career dreams might work best using the democratic style – allowing the audience to paint their own picture based on the evidence and conclusions that are presented.

So what’s your natural style – democratic or dictatorial? Or are you lucky enough to be able to flit between the two. I’d be interested to hear if you have even discovered a third way?

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Rich Watts is the UK Business Speaker of the Year and a past JCI National Public Speaking champion. He setup and now runs Rich Public Speaking providing presentation skills and public speaking training.

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