Convince Your Audience, Reason with Them
1, 2. What is convincing argument?
1 When you talk you expect your audience to listen, but that is not all. You would also like them to accept the arguments presented and act on them. This they will do if they are convinced of the truthfulness of what you say and if their hearts are right. To convince means to satisfy by proofs. But the proofs alone are not always sufficient. Argument in support of them is usually required. Therefore, to convince by argument involves three basic factors: first, the proofs themselves; second, the sequence or order in which the proofs are presented; third, the manner and methods used in presenting them. In this discussion, which corresponds to “Convincing argument” on the Speech Counsel form, we are going to consider what is said, what proof is given, rather than how you present it.
2 Convincing argument depends upon sound basic reasons, and that is the way your counselor will be viewing it. Your proofs must be convincing even if one were to read them from cold print. If the convincing quality of your talk depends upon the manner in which it is presented and not upon the facts you have used to establish your point, then you will need to develop this quality further in order to make your argument really solid and factual.
3-6. Point out why a foundation must be laid.
3 Foundation laid. Before presenting your arguments, it is necessary to lay a proper foundation. You must make clear what the point of discussion is. And it is advantageous to establish a common ground by emphasizing relevant matters on which you agree.
4 In some instances terms must be clearly defined. All things that are irrelevant must be eliminated. Do not be hasty in laying your foundation. Make it firm, but do not make the foundation the entire building. If refuting an argument, analyze the various points used to support it to find the weak points and to help you determine your line of argument and how to get to the root of the matter.
5 In preparing your talk, you should try to anticipate how much your audience already knows about your subject. This will determine to a great extent how much of a foundation you will need to lay before you actually get into presenting your arguments.
6 Tact and Christian manners dictate a kind and considerate approach, though that is not the point we are working on here. Always draw to the full on your knowledge of Christian principles and open the hearts and minds of your audience.
7-13. Explain the meaning of “sound proof given.”
7 Sound proof given. A matter is not “proved” simply because you, as the speaker, believe it or state it. You must always remember that your audience is fully justified in asking, “Why is that true?” or, “Why do you say that is so?” As the speaker you always have the obligation of being able to answer the question “Why?”
8 The questions “How?” “Who?” “Where?” “When?” “What?” produce only facts and information in reply, but the question “Why?” produces reasons. It stands alone in this regard and demands more of you than just facts. It taxes your thinking ability. Because of this, in preparing your talk, ask yourself that same question repeatedly: “Why?” Then be certain that you can supply the answers.
9 As reasons for statements you make you can often quote someone who is accepted as an authority. That simply means that if he said it, it must be true because he is recognized as one who knows. That makes it reason enough for believing it. The supreme Authority in this field is, of course, Jehovah God. Therefore, quoting a text from the Bible in support is evidence enough to prove a point. This is called “testimonial” evidence because it consists of “testimony” from an acceptable witness.
10 In producing testimonial evidence you must be certain that your witness will be acceptable to your audience. If you use human authorities, be sure of their background and how they will be viewed. Many persons will accept the Bible as divine Authority, but some view it as man’s work and therefore not absolute in authority. In such cases you might have to resort to other evidences or perhaps establish the authenticity of the Bible first.
11 A word of caution. All evidence must be used honestly. Do not take a quotation out of context. Make certain that what you say is exactly what the authority you are quoting had in mind to say. Be specific in your references. Be careful of statistics too. Improperly presented, these can boomerang with devastating results. Remember the man who could not swim and who drowned in a stream that averaged only three feet in depth. He forgot about the ten-foot hole in the middle.
12 Circumstantial evidence is that other than human testimony or divine authority. It is evidence that is based on inferences from facts rather than quotations of witnesses. In order to establish your conclusions and make circumstantial evidence convincing, you must have a sufficient array of facts and arguments in support of your conclusions.
13 If the overall proofs you submit (not necessarily in order) are sufficient to satisfy the audience to whom you are speaking, your counselor will consider it satisfactory. The counselor will ask himself, viewing it from the mind of the audience, “Was I convinced?” If he was, then he will commend you on your presentation.
14. What is an effective summary?
14 Effective summary. Some kind of summary is usually essential to convincing argumentation. It is a final appeal to reason, enhancing appreciation for the arguments used. A summary should not be simply a restatement of facts, although basically it is simply a matter of “since this is so, and since that is so, therefore we conclude . . .” This aspect is designed to tie all the points together and draw them to a conclusion. Many times it is the effective summary that drives home the arguments so they really convince.
15, 16. Why must we help the audience to reason?
15 Even though the arguments you use in a talk may be sound, it is not enough simply to state the facts. You must present them in such a manner that you help the audience to reason, to understand your arguments and to arrive at the same conclusions that you do. This is what the Speech Counsel slip refers to as “Audience helped to reason.”
16 You should desire this quality because God reasons with us. Also, Jesus explained his parables to his disciples and equipped them to teach these same truths to others. Helping your audience to reason, then, means to use those techniques necessary to help your audience to understand your argument, come to your conclusions and be equipped to use your arguments to teach someone else.
17, 18. How is common ground maintained?
17 Common ground maintained. What you say as well as how you say it is vital in establishing a common ground at the outset of your talk. But this common ground must not be lost as the talk progresses or else you will lose your audience as well. You must continue to express your points in such a way that they will appeal to the mind of those in your audience. This requires that you keep in mind their viewpoint on the subject being discussed and use this knowledge to help them to see the reasonableness of your arguments.
18 A classic example of establishing a common ground and maintaining it to the end, that is, helping the audience to reason, is the argument of the apostle Paul, as recorded in Acts 17:22-31. Notice how he established a common ground at the outset and tactfully maintained it throughout his entire talk. When he concluded he had convinced some of his audience of the truth, including a judge who was present.—Acts 17:33, 34.
19-23. Suggest methods by which points can be adequately developed.
19 Adequate development of points. In order for an audience to reason on a subject they must have at their disposal sufficient information presented in such a way that they do not reject arguments simply because they do not fully understand them. It is up to you to help them.
20 To do it effectively, take care not to cover too many points. The good of your material will be lost if presented hurriedly. Take time to explain points thoroughly, so your audience will not only hear them but understand them. When you state an important point, take time to develop it. Answer such questions as Why? Who? How? What? When? Where? In this way help your audience to grasp the idea more fully. At times you can present arguments for and against a point to emphasize the reasonableness of your position. Likewise, after stating a principle, you may find it advantageous to illustrate it so the audience will see its practical application. Of course, discretion must be used. The extent to which any point is developed will depend on the time available and the relative importance of the point to the subject under discussion.
21 Questions are always good in helping an audience to reason. Rhetorical questions, that is, questions presented to the audience without expecting an answer from them, accompanied with appropriate pauses, will stimulate thinking. If you are talking to only one or two persons, as in the field ministry, you can draw them out with questions as you go along, and in this way be sure that they are grasping and accepting the ideas being presented.
22 Since you want to lead the mind of those in your audience, you must build on things they already know, whether from their own experience or from an earlier part of your own discussion. So, in determining whether you have adequately developed certain points, you must take into consideration what your audience already knew about the subject.
23 It is always important to watch the reaction of your audience to make sure that they are following you. Where necessary, go back and clarify points before proceeding to the next argument. Unless you take care to help them to reason, they may easily lose your train of thought.
24. Making application of arguments for your audience serves what good purpose?
24 Application made for audience. When presenting any argument, be sure to follow through by clearly pointing out how it bears on the issue under consideration. Also, include motivation in the talk, urging your hearers to take action consistent with the facts that have been presented. If they have truly been convinced by what you said, they will be ready to act.