The Power of Placing Your Arguments Strategically

When doing a speech, you will come across the problem of where to place your strongest argument.  If you ever wondered if the placement of your argument matters, then let me just set the record straight right now: yes.it.does.

This is especially true when you are trying to persuade your audience; however, let’s face it, when are we not?  We do it indirectly and directly, but that is a whole ‘nother story.

Research has shown that when structuring your argument, it is best to have your strongest argument first (anticlimatic) or last (climax) and never in the middle (pyramidal).  Having the argument first sets up the rest of your speech to defend and support that argument and vice versa for having the argument last.  However, it also has to deal with serial position effect, the tendency to better recall earlier messages (primacy) and the tendecy to better recall later messages (recency).

serial_position
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Before I dive in to talk more about primacy and recency, I like to mention depending on what type of channel you are using to present your information, order matters. Take when you are visually presenting the information, like a book.  Readers choose how they want to read, whether starting from the beginning and reading through the entire book or jumping around wherever they want. This means order does not matter as much. When presenting your information orally though, it is best to have your strongest argument first in order to pull in your listeners.

Ok now primacy and recency. So as mentioned earlier, it is all about recall and how much you remember the message. This brings up the issue of is it better to speak first or last? Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, the research results have been mixed.

If you want primacy to take effect, it is better to speak first. The order would go like this:

First message, Second message–Time Delay–>Measurement of Effect

If you want recency to take effect, it is better to speak second.  The order would go like this:

First message–Time Delay–>Second Message, Measurement of Effect

Then there is the situation where neither primacy nor recency is favored.  The order would go like this:

First message–Time Delay–>Second message–Time Delay–>Measurement of Effect

Due to the time delays, it allows people to equally consider the arguments presented in front of them.

One last note on primacy and recency. Research has shown that when you present consumers with two equally desirable products one right after another and ask them to evaluate, it will have a recency effect. This leads the consumers to prefer the later product.  On the flip side, when you present two equally undesirable products, it will tend to have a primacy effect, which will lead them to prefer the first product.  If you want to learn more about this study, click here.


Good luck and let me know if you tried to put this in effect.

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