Public Speaking, Dr Stone

Establishing goodwill in our listeners

[para 5]
Rhetorica ad Herennium, Dr Stone Dear Gaius

There are four methods we can use to make our audience feel well-disposed towards us:
(1) establishing our credibility,
(2) disparaging the opposing point of view,
(3) appealing to the judgement of our audience,
(4) and by our presentation of the facts.

  1. Establishing credibility: When introducing ourselves to the audience, we can establish goodwill by mentioning our achievements – although you need to do this without showing arrogance. We should reveal important posts we have held and mention our successes, both in any national and local arena. We should relate these achievements to the needs of the local community and to the audience, so choose those aspects of your past experience that are relevant to the topic you are presenting today.

    We could also lay out our current problems, including the things we need in terms of resources or support, what difficulties we have encountered, and any particular bad-luck that we have experienced.

    This should be followed by a plea for help from the audience, while at the same time showing why we need their help in particular.

  2. Pointing out the disadvantages of the opposing point of view: We can further secured the goodwill of our audience by outlining the opposing arguments – pointing out reasons why the audience should dislike the alternatives, the factors that make them unpopular, and explaining why they should not be taken seriously.

    In order to generate negative feelings about the opposition, mention any factors in their behaviour that would be considered immoral, arrogant, treacherous, cruel, impudent, malicious, or shameful.

    We can make our adversaries appear even more unpopular by finding incidents that demonstrate any violent or dominating behaviour, or incidents where they look shallow and facetious. We could point out their wealth, their lack of self-restraint, the fact they are upper class, any previous clients or business associates or a dubious nature, and their record on hospitality or misuse of expenses. We could point out their allegiances to old-boys’ clubs or their marriage alliances, and make clear how they have used these supporting networks, rather than their own merit, to achieve their current positions.

    We can also cast doubt on our opponents arguments by mentioning any of their undesirable personal habits, such as idleness, cowardice, laziness, and extravagance.

  3. Appealing to the good judgement of our audience: We can secure further goodwill by discussing the good nature of the audience. Mention their courage, wisdom, humanity, and the common-sense of any previous decisions they might have made. Explain the importance we attach to their opinions and mention how much interest is being shown in their thoughts and decisions.

  4. And by simply setting out the facts: When we set out the facts of our case, we can influence the audience to feel favourably towards our cause by making sure our case is presented in a favourable light, while showing contemptuous disdain for the opposing argument.

[This is a modern interpretation of Rhetorica Ad Herennium]

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