103 Good Persuasive Speech Topics for Students in 2023
Do you know that moment in your favorite film, when the soundtrack begins to swell and the main character stands up and delivers a speech so rousing, so impassioned, it has the entire room either weeping or cheering by the time it concludes? What distinguishes the effectiveness of such a speech is not only the protagonist’s stellar delivery, but also the compelling nature of the subject matter at hand. Choosing an effective persuasive speech topic is essential for guaranteeing that your future speech or essay is as moving as these. If this sounds like a tall order, have no fear. Below you’ll find a list of some of the best and most interesting persuasive speech topics for high school students to tackle, from the playful (“Pets for President”) to the serious (“Should We Stop AI from Replacing Human Workers?”).
And if you’re craving more inspiration, feel free to check out this list of 85 Great Debate Topics, which can be used to generate further ideas.
What is a Persuasive Speech?
Before we get to the list, we must address the question on everyone’s minds: what is a persuasive speech, and what the heck makes for a great persuasive speech topic? A persuasive speech is a speech that aims to convince its listeners of a particular point of view. At the heart of each persuasive speech is a central conflict. Note: The persuasive speech stands in contrast to a simple informative speech, which is intended purely to convey information. (I.e., an informative speech topic might read: “The History of Making One’s Bed,” while a persuasive speech topic would be: “Why Making One’s Bed is a Waste of Time”—understand?)
And lest you think that persuasive speeches are simply assigned by your teachers as a particularly cruel form of torture, remember that practicing your oratory skills will benefit you in all areas of life—from job interviews, to business negotiations, to your future college career in public policy or international relations. Knowing how to use your voice to enact meaningful change is a valuable skill that can empower you to make a difference in the world.
Components of a Great Persuasive Speech Topic
The ideal persuasive speech topic will inspire the audience to action via both logical arguments and emotional appeals. As such, we can summarize the question “what makes a good persuasive speech topic?” by saying that the topic must possess the following qualities:
- Timeliness and Relevance. Great persuasive speech topics grapple with a contemporary issue that is meaningful to the listener at hand. The topic might be a current news item, or it might be a long-standing social issue. In either case, the topic should be one with real-world implications.
- Complexity. A fruitful persuasive speech topic will have many facets. Topics that are controversial, with some gray area, lend themselves to a high degree of critical thinking. They also offer the speaker an opportunity to consider and refute all counterarguments before making a compelling case for his or her own position.
- Evidence. You want to be able to back up your argument with clear evidence from reputable sources (i.e., not your best friend or dog). The more evidence and data you can gather, the more sound your position will be, and the more your audience will be inclined to trust you.
- Personal Connection. Do you feel passionately about the topic you’ve chosen? If not, it may be time to go back to the drawing board. This does not mean you have to support the side you choose; sometimes, arguing for the opposing side of what you personally believe can be an effective exercise in building empathy and perspective. Either way, though, the key is to select a topic that you care deeply about. Your passion will be infectious to the audience.
103 Persuasive Speech Topics
- Should tech companies regulate the development of AI systems and automation to protect humans’ jobs?
- Should we limit screen time for children?
- Is it ethical for AI models like Dall-E to train themselves on artists’ work without the artists’ permission?
- Should the government regulate the use of personal drones?
- Is mass surveillance ethical? Does its threat to civil liberties outweigh its benefits?
- Are virtual reality experiences a valuable educational tool?
- Do the positive effects of powerful AI systems outweigh the risks?
- Do voice assistants like Siri and Alexa invade individuals’ privacy?
- Are cell phone bans in the classroom effective for improving student learning?
- Does the use of facial recognition technology in public violate individuals’ privacy?
Business and Economy
- Should we do away with the minimum wage? Why or why not?
- Is it ethical for companies to use unpaid internships as a source of labor?
- Does the gig economy benefit or harm workers?
- Is capitalism the best economic system?
- Is it ethical for companies to use sweatshops in developing countries?
- Should the government provide free healthcare for all citizens?
- Should the government regulate prices on pharmaceutical drugs?
- Should the government enact a universal base income?
- Should we legalize euthanasia?
- Is it ethical to use animals for medical research?
- Is it ethical to allow access to experimental treatments for terminally ill patients?
- Should we allow genetic engineering in humans?
- Is the death penalty obsolete?
- Should we allow the cloning of humans?
- Is it ethical to allow performance-enhancing drugs in sports?
- Should the government limit how many children a couple can have?
- Is spanking children an acceptable form of discipline?
- Should we allow parents to choose their children’s physical attributes through genetic engineering?
- Should we require parents to vaccinate their children?
- Should we require companies to give mandatory paternal and maternal leave?
- Should social media platforms ban political ads?
- Do the benefits of social media outweigh the downsides?
- Should the government hold social media companies responsible for hate speech on their platforms?
- Is social media making us more or less social?
- Do platforms like TikTok exacerbate mental health issues in teens?
- Should the government regulate social media to protect citizens’ privacy?
- Is it right for parents to monitor their children’s social media accounts?
- Should social media companies enact a minimum user age restriction?
- Should we require social media companies to protect user data?
- Should we hold social media companies responsible for cyberbullying?
- Should schools ban the use of social media from their networks?
Education – Persuasive Speech Topics
- Would trade schools and other forms of vocational training benefit a greater number of students than traditional institutions of higher education?
- Should colleges use standardized testing in their admissions processes?
- Is forcing students to say the Pledge a violation of their right to freedom of speech?
- Should school districts offer bilingual education programs for non-native speakers?
- Should schools do away with their physical education requirements?
- Should schools incorporate a remote learning option into their curriculum?
- Should we allow school libraries to ban certain books?
- Should we remove historical figures who owned slaves from school textbooks and other educational materials?
- Should colleges pay student athletes?
- Should we ban violent contact sports like boxing and MMA?
- Should sports leagues require professional athletes to stand during the national anthem?
- Should sports teams ban players like Kyrie Irving when they spread misinformation or hate speech?
- Should high schools require their athletes to maintain a certain GPA?
- Should the Olympic committee allow transgender athletes to compete?
- Should high schools ban football due to its safety risks to players?
- In which renewable energy option would the US do best to invest?
- Should the US prioritize space exploration over domestic initiatives?
- Should companies with a high carbon footprint be punished?
- Should the FDA ban GMOs?
- Would the world be a safer place without nuclear weapons?
- Does AI pose a greater threat to humanity than it does the potential for advancement?
Social Issues – Persuasive Speech Topics
- College education: should the government make it free for all?
- Should we provide free healthcare for undocumented immigrants?
- Is physician-assisted suicide morally justifiable?
- Does social media have a negative impact on democracy?
- Does cancel culture impede free speech?
- Does affirmative action help or hinder minority groups in the workplace?
- Should we hold public figures and celebrities to a higher standard of morality?
Politics and Government
- Is the Electoral College still an effective way to elect the President of the US?
- Should we allow judges to serve on the Supreme Court indefinitely?
- Should the US establish a national gun registry?
- Countries like Israel and China require all citizens to serve in the army. Is this a good or bad policy?
- Should the police force require all its officers to wear body cameras while on duty?
- Should the US invest in the development of clean meat as a sustainable protein source?
- Should the US adopt ranked-choice voting?
- Should institutions that profited from slavery provide reparations?
Easy Persuasive Speech Topics
- Should schools have uniforms?
- Can video games improve problem-solving skills?
- Are online classes as effective as in-person classes?
- Should companies implement a four-day work week?
- Co-ed learning versus single-sex: which is more effective?
- Should the school day start later?
- Is homework an effective teaching tool?
- Are electric cars really better for the environment?
- Should schools require all students to study a foreign language?
Funny Persuasive Speech Topics
- Should we allow pets to run for public office?
- Does pineapple belong on pizza?
- Would students benefit from schools swapping out desks with more comfortable seating arrangements (i.e., bean bag chairs and couches)?
- Is procrastination the key to success?
- Should Americans adopt British accents to sound more intelligent?
- The age-old dilemma: cats or dogs?
- Should meme creators receive royalties when their memes go viral?
Interesting Persuasive Speech Topics
- Is the movie ranking system an effective way to evaluate the appropriateness of films?
- Should the government place a “health tax” on junk food?
- Is it ethical to create artificial life forms that are capable of complex emotions?
- Should parents let children choose their own names?
- Creating clones of ourselves to serve as organ donors: ethical or not?
- Is it ethical to engineer humans to be better and more optimized than nature intended?
- Should we adopt a universal language to communicate with people from all countries?
- Should there be a penalty for people who don’t vote?
I’ve Chosen My Topic, Now What?
Once you’ve selected your topic, it’s time to get to work crafting your argument. Preparation for a persuasive speech or essay involves some key steps, which we’ve outlined for you below.
Putting Together a Successful Persuasive Speech, Step by Step
- Research your topic. Read widely and smartly. Stick to credible sources, such as peer-reviewed articles, published books, government reports, textbooks, and news articles. The right sources and data will be necessary in helping you establish your authority. Take notes as you go.
- Create an Outline. Your outline should include an introduction with a thesis statement, a body that uses evidence to elaborate and support your position while refuting any counterarguments, and a conclusion. The conclusion will both summarize the points made earlier and serve as your final chance to persuade your audience.
- Write Your Speech. Use your outline to help you, as well as the data you’ve collected. Remember: this is not dry writing; this writing has a point of view, and that point of view is yours. Use anecdotes and examples to back up your argument. The essential components of this speech are logos (logic), ethos (credibility), and pathos (emotion). The ideal speech will use all three of these functions to draw the audience in and engage them.
- Practice! As Yoda says: “Mastery, you seek. Practice, you must.” It sounds cheesy, but it’s true: the more you practice, the more confident you’ll be when it’s time to get up there. Read your speech out loud several times. Be sure to speak slowly and enunciate, and don’t be afraid to make eye contact with your listeners to stay connected.
Good Persuasive Speech Topics—Final Thoughts
The art of persuasive speaking is a tricky one, but the tips and tricks laid out here will help you craft a compelling argument that will sway even the most dubious audience to your side. Mastering this art takes both time and practice, so don’t fret if it doesn’t come to you right away. Remember to draw upon your sources, speak with authority, and have fun. Once you have the skill of persuasive speaking down, go out there and use your voice to impact change!
With a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from Columbia University and an MFA in Fiction from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin, Lauren has been a professional writer for over a decade. She is the author of the chapbook A Great Dark House (Poetry Society of America, 2023) and the forthcoming novel The World After Alice (Viking/Penguin).
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