An argument at any level occurs when two or more people disagree. But at the rhetorical level, an argument involves an effort to support a particular point of view and convince others of its validity.
If you are called upon to make a persuasive speech, for example, in a fund-raising appeal, you may have a matter of minutes in which to make your case and get your audience to start writing checks. How will you do it?
Here are some proven strategies that can help:
1. Know your audience. Find out ahead of time such facts as their general age, education level, socio-economic background, race or ethnicity, political leanings, and personal interests. While all of this information may not be available, of course, some of it may be, and it’s up to you to make the most of it in your speech. For example, if you are trying to raise money for a new school building in your community, you may be invited to speak to a group of homeschooling parents that may be interested in sending their kids to a new building, as opposed to the old one, which many feel is unsafe.
Perhaps you realize that these parents are middle-class residents of a suburban community, many with a four-year college degree, and with two or three children at home. Your persuasive approach might include the idea that a new school will provide quality education for their kids, a goal that many people with the above attributes tend to value. But if you don’t know your audience’s income, aptitudes, and limitations, you may find yourself giving the wrong spiel to a crowd that couldn’t care less.
2. Aim your message. Whatever your audience’s needs, tastes, or goals, shape your speech to meet one or more of these. Your goal is to present a key idea, perhaps even a sales pitch, that will so move the audience that they will readily support it. Pitch the idea in terms your listeners can relate to. If you’re looking for donations to a new community ball field, remind hearers that sports involvement keeps many kids off the streets, provides valuable life-long lessons, and offers a positive social outlet.
3. Avoid emphasizing the cost or other negative features. If you must ethically mention possible detracting features, “bury” them in the middle of your presentation or cut them down to size. For example, when urging your listeners to contribute to a $10,000 local park clean-up, remind them that they will only need to sacrifice pennies a day to make a difference to the community and provide a safe, attractive place for children to play.
4. Experiment with a variety of appeals. If you are a collections officer for a loan company, consider the following range of options:
A. “This is a friendly reminder that your payment is late.”
B. “”Don’t let a late payment impact your credit rating.””
C. “Your professional reputation may be compromised by a failure to pay this debt.”
D. “We may garnishee you wages if you don’t pay.”
E. “Expect to hear from our attorney within ten days if we don’t receive your payment by then.”
5. Sweeten the pot. Instead of the “stick” motivation outlined in point #4 above, try the carrot approach. This means that you offer positive reinforcement to those who respond to your point of view. You may want to “persuade” customers to pay their bill a little early by offering a five percent discount on statements paid in full within ten days of receipt. Or use verbal strokes to compliment the person who volunteers time or makes a donation of money to a worthwhile cause. Most of us can find something pleasant to say or do in encouraging others to adopt our way of thinking.
Persuasive speaking is not really that difficult. You just need to know what you want to say, who you’re talking to, and what they want (or fear) to hear in order to be successful.Persuasive speaking