What’s the Difference Between Informative and Persuasive Speeches?


The average audience member listening to a speech probably doesn’t spend much time thinking about the type of speech he is hearing. After all, a speech is a speech is a speech, right? In reality, speeches come in many types and each type has a different purpose. Just because a speaker is skilled at one type of speech doesn’t mean he is equally effective at another type.

The most common type of speech given throughout the United States is the informative speech. The speaker is conveying information to an audience in a business, civic or social situation. On the other hand, the persuasive speech is one of the most difficult types of speeches to give. The speaker must have polished speaking skills but also needs to be able to capture the attention of an audience who may disagree with the speaker’s main premise. The speaker’s job is to change the audience’s mind. Not a simple task. Often it’s not even possible.

Let’s look at the purpose of each of these two speeches:

Informative Speech: In an informative speech you are usually talking to the audience about a process, an object or idea, or an event. Your purpose is to convey information. You might be explaining how to do a particular thing, describing something or instructing.

In an informative speech you are presenting information to an audience that is usually willing to listen. Your information is not controversial and your goal is to give information, not try to change anyone’s opinion. People expect that they will gain knowledge or insight as a result of listening to your speech.

A major problem with writing and presenting an informative speech is the potential for information overload. When you are trying to speak on a particular topic it’s difficult to know when to stop. When you really like your topic and are knowledgeable about it, it’s natural to try to disseminate as much information as possible. This has the opposite effect of what you intend, however. Your audience can only absorb a certain amount of information and when you keep adding more and more it becomes frustrating for the audience and they turn off. It’s much better to have 3-4 points about your topic that you talk about in more detail. You’ll never cover it all anyway and it’s better to keep in mind that “less is more.”

For each of the points that you choose to cover have examples of each- preferably a story that captures audience attention and helps personalize the topic.

Persuasive Speech: Persuasive speeches typically deal with a controversial topic. Your goal is to change a belief or behavior or at least create a willingness to consider your viewpoint.

It’s important when giving a persuasive speech that you do not condescend or demean your audience for their beliefs. If you are a representative of Planned Parenthood, referring to the audience members who oppose abortions as “Doctor killers’ is not going to convince any of them that your view is legitimate. Don’t scream, use slurs or inflammatory language. Your goal is to show them that those who are part of Planned Parenthood are rational, knowledgeable, credible and likeable.

Your speaking style should be conversational, as if you were chatting about your issue with a friend. Make sure you have facts and statistics to back up what you say. If pictures will help the audience visualize your message, then use them. Include a call-to-action at the conclusion of your speech. In the Planned Parenthood example, you might be inviting this audience to attend an open house tour of the facility and then a question and answer session afterward. If you can convince audience members to do this first step your speech is a success.

Persuasive speeches need to be extremely well-prepared. Don’t think for a minute that you can give an effective persuasive speech off the top of your head. It takes a great deal of practice and preparation. If you don’t come across as sincere, knowledgeable likable and rational the chances of changes anyone’s opinion are nill.

Here are some tips that will help you write an effective informative or persuasive speech:

Tips for Informative Speeches

  • Don’t cover too much information. Pick 3-4 ideas. It’s always better to cover less information more thoroughly than to just recite a long list of information that the audience won’t remember.
  • Give examples for each point.
  • Summarize your points at the end to increase retention.
  • Try to use stories to illustrate your points when possible
  • Use simple familiar words and and be very clear, especially if you are discussing complicated information.

Tips for Persuasive Speeches:

  • Your job is to convince your audience to share your view and take action as a result.
  • Be very clear in giving your position and why it’s correct.
  • Be likeable. Likability is a huge issue when you are giving a persuasive speech. If the audience doesn’t like you or relate to you, it’s not likely that they will listen to what you have to say.
  • Be passionate and rational and credible in presenting your argument. Screaming, ranting and raving will not encourage anyone to listen to you.
  • Realize that changing someone’s mind through a short speech is not a realistic goal. Your goal should be to get the audience to agree to consider your viewpoint enough to be open to further information.

When you are asked to give a speech, make sure that you know the specific intent of the speech. The first key to an effective speech is to make sure you know exactly what the audience is expecting. If you are asked to give an informative speech, their expectation is to learn new information of some type. If you’re asked to give a persuasive speech you will be expected to be convincing in your supports for your view. As with any speech, the key is preparation and practice!


Source by Barbara A Toney