Thank you for arguing: your audience will love it

Speech and presentation writers who want to persuade often turn to stories, quotes, analogies, cleverly worded key messages and other devices. With so much choice it can be easy to overlook the value of the most basic persuasive tactic: constructing solid arguments.  

Argument is the language of logic. (When people argue in this sense, they are not quarreling. Rather, they are stating reasons and conclusions that support their point of view.) Educated audiences are good at analyzing arguments and identifying their strengths and weaknesses. It follows then that well-stated arguments can add to a speaker's credibility and persuasiveness, while poorly constructed arguments can detract. Here are three tips for building arguments that will stand up to scrutiny.

•  Define your terms - Are you in favour of justice, peace and equality? Such terms are "hooray words" says philosopher Jamie Whyte. (In contrast he calls words like murder and cruelty "boo words".) Clarify what you mean when you use concepts with overly broad definitions.

•  Don't stop short at analysis - To provide insight you need to match analysis with synthesis. In other words, you need to tell your audience what you found and what it means.

• Cite experts with care - It's not enough to tell people that experts are in favour of (or against) a product, idea or course of action. You have an obligation to answer the question why? by describing the expert evidence.