Arguing with Whiskey

Have you ever struggled with how to structure your message so you will get buy-in from your audience? If you are in a management position you will know what I mean. T0 truly get full buy-in from your audience, you need to get inside their heads and understand what they want and what they are thinking.

One of the greatest examples of understanding your audience comes from the 1933 Mississippi Lawmaker Noah ‘Soggy’ Sweat. During the debate about prohibition he was asked for his thougths on Whiskey. This is what he had to say:

If when you say whiskey you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.

If when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman’s step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.

This is my position, and as always, I refuse to be compromised on matters of principle.

This is a classic example of how to structure your message to include certian parts of your audience.

The strength of this speech lies in the listeners opinion. For example, if you are against whiskey then you would love the first half of his speech. If you were for whiskey, then you would hold on to the second part of his speech. But the clever part is that the speech shows the strength of the opposing views. This helps to bring the two sides together.

How can you use this in the workplace?

If you are presenting an argument, consider the opposing sides view. This is often called playing the Devils Advocate. By understanding where you audience is positioned, you will be equipped to present an argument that they will accept and adopt.

‘Til next time.


Darren Fleming – Australia’s public Speaking Coach

Posted in comedy, humour in presentations, Politics and speaking, public speaking, public speaking humour, public speaking tips, Understanding your audience

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