Persuasive five-minute speeches help high school and college students practice reasoning and public speaking skills. Topics should center on subject matter that's controversial, so students can develop convincing arguments. Teachers, parents and tutors can help students organize their ideas to ensure that the topic is narrow enough to discuss in five minutes. As a student, choose which side of the argument to represent in your speech but provide strong details and supportive, credible evidence to back your views.
Highly Debatable Topics
A persuasive speech requires you to take a strong stance. Select a topic, such as animal rights and scientific experimentation, the distribution of contraceptives in high schools or the cloning of humans, and choose a side to support. Focus your arguments on a specific angle on the topic, so you can effectively cover the material in five minutes. For example, if you're arguing that the cloning of humans is ethical, focus on the benefits of stem cell research and development.
Call to Action
Select a topic that encourages your audience to respond, making a call to action. The goal of a five-minute persuasive speech is to quickly capture your listeners' attention and convince them that their involvement can make a difference. For example, when arguing that junk food in vending machines in high schools contributes to childhood obesity, suggest that your listeners' call the board of education to request healthier vending foods. Or, argue that cities should provide free public Wi-Fi to their residents, and encourage your audience to write or call the mayor's office requesting it. Include reasons, examples and statistics to support your arguments.
Choose a controversial incident or topic in history and argue a specific angle. Ensure that the topic is specific rather than broad or generalized so that you can cover it in five minutes. The goal of a short, historical persuasive speech is to quickly and effectively present logical arguments that convince listeners to consider and possibly even support your views. For example, argue that the New Deal wasn't an effective solution to the Great Depression or that the attack on Pearl Harbor was the major turning point in World War II. Or, argue that the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki wasn't morally justifiable.
Avoid Core Values
Choose a topic that strives to change or influence your audience's dispositional beliefs -- judgments that may change over time -- rather than their core beliefs, suggests the peer-reviewed academic resource Writing Commons. In five minutes, you don't have time to try to change your listeners' core values. Avoid topics such as the existence of a higher power or the importance of moral conduct, which are too broad to address in a short time. Opt for topics that your audience might not have considered or may be willing to change their minds about, such as the benefits of video game censorship, dress codes at high schools or school tuition vouchers.
As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.