Does the thought of public speaking make you cringe?
While almost everyone experiences some stage fright speaking in front of an audience, there are ways to tame this debilitating fear.
Half the battle of giving a speech is selecting a topic that engages your audience.
For any speech, whether informative or persuasive, your speech idea should meet these criteria:
- Well-researched with solid examples and evidence
- Broad enough to be universal, narrow enough to be original
- Meaningful and customized to your audience
Additionally, you should possess a measure of expertise on your topic.
Understanding the nuances of what you are speaking about is a sure way to ease those jitters. This is how you come up with the best speech idea.
When choosing a persuasive speech topic, all of the above criteria apply, along with a few additional requirements.
What Makes a Good Persuasive Speech Topic?
While an informative speech merely presents factual information, a good informative speech topic goes a step further.
- The goal of a persuasive speech is to convince the audience that your perspective is valid.
This does not mean that the audience will agree with every opinion you present, but a good persuasive speech makes the audience think.
A great persuasive speech makes an audience act.
As transcendentalist writer Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel.”
Therefore, a strong persuasive speaker will:
- Present a clear and sincere perspective. The audience should not be questioning your stance on an issue.
- Exhibit passion that inspires others to think or act.
- Be confident in both your perspective and topic.
Not all persuasive speeches need to be deeply controversial, but there should be some gray area in your chosen topic.
Political, social and ethical issues make compelling persuasive speech topics for this reason.
The persuasive speech should address a burning question that incites intellectual debate:
- Should strict gun control laws be implemented?
- Is it possible to be an animal lover and a carnivore?
- Is the government at fault for the increasing homeless population?
Such questions may seem divisive, but, in a civilized society, they are essential to ask.
Posing such questions directly to your audience during your speech engages a group in the Socratic Method of critical thinking.
Furthermore, if a topic isn’t inherently controversial, then it might not make the most powerful speech.
Your job as a persuasive speaker is to argue your point, which is not necessary to do on topics that most people agree on.
In that vein, here are a handful of topics that would not make for good persuasive speeches.
- Learning a foreign language is important.
- Fighting in overseas wars can be dangerous.
- Social Security income is not sufficient for many retired Americans.
- Technical skills are crucial in the 21st-century job market.
- Cardiovascular fitness improves longevity.
…And you get the picture. So, what does make a good persuasive speech topic? Well, there are at least 191 answers to that question.
191 Best Persuasive Speech Topics
Before we reveal the 191 best persuasive speech topics, let’s preview each of the categories:
- Politics and law: This topic revolves around pressing issues including voting, Supreme Court decisions, political leadership, and criminal justice.
- Environmental activism: Climate change, offshore oil drilling, and green technology are just a few of the hot-button issues you’ll discover in this category.
- Social justice: Covering all issues of equality, social justice topics invite debate – and demand solid supporting facts or powerhouse emotional appeals.
- Ethics: Comprising our basic morals and values that drive our behaviors, the ethics category examines how to deal with issues like animal abuse, abortion, and stem cell research.
- Health: Regarding important issues like our food supply, how should we best protect and promote human health in the 21st century?
- Potpourri: And now we come to the miscellaneous category of “everything else.” You’ll find engaging or even entertaining ideas related to music, movies, curriculum, and more.
Take a deep breath and read on!
Politics and Law
- Alternative political parties (i.e., Green Party, Libertarian Party, etc.)
- Declaring “Independent” or “No Party Affiliation” on voter registration.
- Should voters with no party affiliation be allowed to vote in primary elections?
- Are newly proposed voter registration laws discriminatory?
- How many terms should politicians be allowed to serve?
- Popular vote vs. Electoral College
- Are women underrepresented in Congress?
- Swing states (i.e., Florida and Ohio)
- Do current proposed abortion laws violate Roe v. Wade?
- Political correctness versus freedom of speech
- Terrorist watch lists – safety precaution or blatant prejudice?
- Corporate lobbyists and campaign contributions
- Are laws too lenient on violent criminals?
- Tax responsibility: income tax, property tax, sales tax.
- Should the voting age be increased or decreased?
- Capital punishment: right or wrong?
- DNA evidence in criminal cases: is it enough?
- Should criminal minors be prosecuted and sentenced as adults?
- How to deal with the issue of illegal immigration
- Should cigarettes be taken off the market and made illegal?
- Legalization of Marijuana
- Should health insurance be mandatory by law?
- Is the death penalty obsolete?
- Private vs. Public Prisons
- Should politicians be allowed to use private donations to campaign?
- Is it right for the government to fund partisan organizations?
- Appointment of Supreme Court Justice
- How can the mass shooting crisis be solved?
- Minimum wage: should it exist or be forgotten?
- Should citizens be required to serve in the military for a period of time?
- Gun rights on school campuses: is it safe?
- Military members and income tax
- Hybrid and electric cars on the road
- Oil spills and world wildlife
- Saving rainforests and their indigenous species
- Palm oil: should it be outlawed?
- Make all bills and business correspondence paperless.
- Dangers of drilling for oil
- Replacing plastic with glass and cardboard
- Trophy hunting: should the penalties be harsher?
- Banning disposable diapers in favor of cloth diapers
- Benefits of public transportation, biking, walking, or carpooling
- Conserving water in our everyday lives
- Wildfires on the rise in California
- Greenhouse gas emissions in Asia
- Global climate change and increased severity of storms
- Growing food as a homesteader
- Impact of big box stores on the environment
- Impact of online retailers’ packaging and shipping on the environment
- Turning the practice of recycling into a law punishable by hefty fines
- Overfishing and dwindling populations of marine wildlife
- Factory farms and greenhouse gas emissions
- Controlling E. Coli and other food borne illnesses
- Are is worth it to ban plastic straws?
- Drones and the environment
- Should hunting be outlawed in national parks to protect its wildlife?
- Hair care and air quality
- Better education for at home waste management
- Should it be illegal to flush certain things into the sewage system?
- Is it right to cut down a tree for the holidays?
- How do marijuana farms affect the surrounding area’s environment?
- Water contamination: What preventative measures can be taken?
- How to reduce your carbon footprint
- Should new homes support solar energy only?
- Organic farming practices
- Do you agree with the research on equal pay between men and women?
- Should government employees go without pay during a shutdown?
- Police brutality and shootings (in general or a specific case in the news such as Philando Castile in Minnesota)
- Should all policemen wear body cameras?
- Is racial discrimination on the rise? Why or why not?
- Scholarship opportunities for minority students
- The benefits (or challenges) of a multicultural society
- Should bullies be expelled from school?
- What can be done about anonymous online bullying?
- Unrealistic beauty/body standards and self-image
- How to create a strong community
- Welfare, SNAP, and other social assistance programs
- The 40-hour work week is too long.
- Comparing the work week in Europe to the work week in the United States
- Caring for an aging population: are Social Security and Medicare enough?
- Civil lawsuits should not receive so much attention in the media.
- Racial and ethnic profiling (including FBI criminal profiling)
- Being a foster or adoptive parent
- Buying local builds up the community.
- Refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance
- Battling stereotypes and making them obsolete
- Mandatory community service for all U.S. citizens
- Is common law marriage outdated?
- Should companies be allowed to deny service to anyone?
- Changing gender on a driver’s license
- Affirmative Action today
- DACA DREAMers Movement
- Legalization of gay marriage
- Should individuals be allowed to adopt?
- Re-sentencing for crimes involving marijuana in states where it is now legal
- Unlimited Paid Time Off vs Accrued time off
- License revoking for older drivers: is it against their rights?
- Wearing fur or using fur for any profit
- Mistreatment of farm animals: what is the solution?
- How do we address the increasing problem of homelessness?
- Tithing – how much should each person give?
- Euthanasia for terminally ill individuals
- Was it right for Dr. Kevorkian (assisted suicide physician) to be imprisoned?
- Pet shops and breeders versus shelters
- Returning or rehoming pets: is it right?
- Preselecting the gender and other aspects of an unborn baby
- Abortion: pro-choice or pro-life?
- Product testing on animals in labs
- Stem cell research
- Protecting children from inappropriate websites
- When should a child be allowed to have a smartphone?
- Should children be allowed into an R-rated movie even with a guardian?
- Should violent movies and video games be banned?
- Do zoos and circuses abuse animals?
- Arranged marriage: a cultural tradition or outdated practice?
- Raising children without being married
- How to impart ethical behavior to the next generation
- Ethics as a mandatory high school class
- Do parents deceive children by telling tales of Santa Claus?
- Should pharmaceutical patents be removed so affordable generics can be made?
- 13 Reasons Why: Did it glorify suicide?
- Wrongful termination case study
- Is the borrowing limit for student loans too high?
- Pay for play in college athletics
- Performance enhancing steroids in competitive sports
- Is it right to own a gun for personal protection?
- Mandated reporting (Mandated reporters are individuals who are required to report any information they receive about abuse, suicidal ideation, etc.)
- Can an influencer be held responsible if they promote a harmful product unknowingly?
- Conventional versus organic produce
- Food additives, preservatives, and cancer rates
- Meat consumption and its effects on life expectancy
- Dangers of sitting at a desk all day
- Fast food industry and obesity rates
- Medical marijuana to treat chronic conditions
- GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) in foods: to label or not to label?
- Mandatory CPR and First Aid training for new parents
- School cafeteria food and children’s health
- Alternative uses of oral contraceptives
- Restaurant responsibility with peanut, gluten, and other allergies
- Everyday products that could be dangerous: deodorant, toothpaste, etc.
- Teaching yoga and meditation in public schools
- Moving from the “medical model” to holistic health
- Massages as necessities rather than luxuries
- Which vitamin supplements are worthless and should go off the market?
- The mind-body connection and its influence on health
- Social media and mental health
- The cumulative effects of poor sleep (and how electronics impact our sleep)
- IVF (Invitro fertilization): Should becoming a parent be covered?
- Should there be more physical education in schools?
- Is diabetes reversible?
- Doctors and insurance: should they accept all insurance?
- Do detox diets really work?
- Is binge-watching Netflix bad for our health?
- Keto vs Paleo vs Vegan: which is better?
- Should a patient be allowed to deny medical care?
- Pre-existing conditions and insurance rates
- Employers should offer mental health days without question
- Alternative sex education (not abstinence-only and inclusive of LGBT lifestyle)
- Mind-body fitness versus traditional Western sports
- Best genre and time period of music
- Healthiest world cuisine
- Uneven distribution of wealth: the top 1% versus everyone else
- Cost of living versus average salaries
- What to do about cults, gangs, and similar groups
- How to get accepted into an Ivy League school
- Religion versus spiritualism
- Survival skills should be taught in school.
- Benefits of forest schools for children
- The best U.S. President in history
- The most influential leader or figure in history
- Most effective ways to manage stress
- Obscure movies that people should watch
- Multitasking: fact or fiction?
- Buying a house versus renting an apartment
- Most exciting travel destination
- How to ace any test
- Overcoming social anxiety
- How our phones are hurting our eyes
- Are multi-level marketing companies really pyramid schemes?
- Protests: are they effective?
- Is a wedding reception worth the price tag?
- Should catfishing be a criminal offense?
- Mandatory study abroad semester in college
- Student loan borrowing: should it ever be forgiven?
- Responsible credit card strategies
- Living with parents to save money
- Can someone find true love on The Bachelor?
- Telemarketers and Harassment
- Marvel vs DC
And there you have it – 100+ unique topics to stoke your imagination and help you identify your passion.
Feel free to go beyond these springboard ideas or customize them to your perspective.
Advice from Persuasive Speech Experts
To help you out even more, we asked the experts on the best tips for giving a persuasive speech.
From Melora Kordos, visiting assistant professor of theatre arts at Sweet Briar College:
When selecting a persuasive speech topic, a student should first look to her own interests and passions. If she chooses something that she cares deeply about or has great interest in, then she will be able to more easily identify the best three points that support her argument and focus on those in her speech.
If she is not already engaged in the topic, it will be much harder to persuade others to agree with her point of view. She should use both logical and emotional appeals throughout her speech, giving her a better chance of resonating with a larger percentage of her audience.
From Dr. Allison Beltramini, associate professor of communications at Waubonsee Community College:
When doing a persuasive speech, it’s helpful to choose a topic that you personally believe in or support. It’s much easier to speak on something that you have a connection to.
The next tip is to do your homework. This includes exploring the opposite side of the issue. Your audience needs to know that you are well-versed in the topic.
Incorporate this research to support the claims you are making.
Curate your sources carefully. Know who/what organizations are behind the sources you are using. And please, verbally cite your sources. Using research without the verbal citations in your speech is plagiarism.
Persuasion is incremental. You can’t just tell someone something and expect they will believe you. You have to set up the issue, show how the problem effect people, talk about what will help or fix the problem and show why the solutions will work. All of these steps are vital.
Finally – practice is essential. Your speech should be prepared but conversational. Reading to an audience word for word is not a good idea.
From Nate Masterson, HR manager of Maple Holistics:
The key to giving a persuasive speech is to engage your audience, and there are several ways to do this. Firstly, make eye contact with different people in the audience, but make sure to scan the whole room and not just focus on one area.
Also, research the group of people you will be addressing so that you better know their priorities, cultural norms, inside jokes, etc.
To make sure that your speech is sufficiently compelling, stick to just a few main talking points or objectives. This will ensure that your speech stays focused and that you can spend adequate time and energy backing up these main points without boring your audience.
From Jeffrey Davis, executive speech coach at Speak Clear Communications:
First, the best speakers build their argument emotionally as well as logically. Every point has a complelling story attached to it. Second, they make arguments that are novel and innovative. The “how” of the argument is as important as the “why.”
Lastly, great speakers do not hold back on hand gestures! Gesturing is scientifically proven to enhance a speaker’s impression with the audience.
From Bridgett McGowen, CEO of BMcTALKS:
While it’s important your audience has a memorable experience during your presentation and that it learns something new or gains a new perspective on something it already knew, it is equally important to move the audience to actually do something with what you shared … something that will inspire or change their lives, professions, or communities … because you are there to persuade!
Remember any time you present, consistently think to yourself “In what difference-making endeavor do I want my audience to join?” or “Now that everyone has heard this, now what?” Give them the answers to those questions to further your persuasive message.
From Martha Krejci, business coaching leader:
Don’t write everything out! The last thing you want to do is look like you’re reading a speech verbatim. You want to illuminate your authority in the field you are speaking about.
Reading does not do that….at all. So, here’s what I do. I think about the end goal of what I’m trying to communicate. Then, reverse engineer the points that take us there. Write the points out on a notecard if you need it, or if you’re lucky enough to have a teleprompter, use that.
And finally, above all…tell stories! Don’t just have a bunch of dry information that anyone with a wifi signal could google. Tell stories that bring your audience into your problem, but also your solution you propose. If you can master storytelling, you may just be surprised by how good you can get at public speaking.
From Neil Thompson, founder of Teach the Geek:
Telling an easy-to-follow story is crucial in being persuasive. If people have to think too hard to understand what you’re talking about, they’re less likely to listen. If they don’t listen, you won’t have a chance to persuade them.
If there are studies, surveys, or other types of data that can vouch for what you’re saying, that’ll also go a long way to persuading others. Lastly, you have to believe what you’re talking about. If you truly believe your message, it’ll shine through and people will be inclined to believe you, too.
From Adam Cole, expert writer and author:
Number one is the invitation to listen. It ensures that the listener has a context in which to understand what you are presenting so that everyone is on the same page when the important information comes. The invitation may contain relevant humorous anecdotes to break the tension and present the speaker as appealing, and it must be accessible enough that the listener will at least know what the topic is and why they should care.
Number two is the topic. Depending on the complexity of the topic, it should be structured for maximum clarity. While humor and anecdotes can be used to illustrate the point, they should not distract from it or become the focus (unless the task is to highlight the speaker, rather than the topic, which is ok).
Number three is the follow-through. If the listener has learned something, a good summation will help them retain the most important points from the learning so that they can remember it and follow up with more learning (perhaps from the speaker’s books, videos, or other appearances!) Taking the topic and framing it in terms of an action step for the audience may be a powerful way for them to keep the presentation (and the speaker) in their heads.
Conclusion: Best Persuasive Speech Topics
Remember, your passion and expertise on the topic will translate to audience engagement – and hopefully a good grade!
- Delivering a persuasive speech doesn’t have to be a nerve-wracking experience if you’re prepared and passionate.
In the words of Cicero: “A good orator is pointed and impassioned.”
To follow the advice of the great Roman orator, find your passion and then express it through your persuasive speech.
The skills you develop now in this area will benefit you throughout your professional and personal life.