Thursday, December 06, 2007

Now, Is That Ethical?

That’s a question that should be on our mind all the time. Within the context of speech presentation it is very important. Since all speech is limited to time available, you must take into consideration what your purpose is and how best to achieve it given the audience you are addressing.

Somewhat easier in the case of the informational presentation: what need you say in providing adequate information to allow the listener(s) to understand? Your purpose is to instruct, you are a teacher and when you are finished your “students” will have acquired information that they can understand and use. With this type of presentation is the sharing of information. (Keep in mind that all information has a biasing quality.)

In the case of persuasive presentation there are additional concerns such as, because of time constraints am I favoring (leaning toward coercion) one side of this issue over the other? Is the presentation fair and balanced? This can be a problem. When you “know you are right” and you believe that it is in the best interests of your audience to agree with you, there will be a temptation to lean toward coercion. Here’s the problem: in the long run you want to be effective so you have already adopted the concept of always telling the truth. (Once spotted lying the listener will always be suspicious.) Once caught coercing (unethically attempting to control others behavior) listeners will always be suspicious. In a lifetime, it is not worth the risk to coerce.

Back to the time available when using the persuasive presentation: you must be fair and balanced to the best of your abilities in order to maintain your effectiveness. Since you feel this constraint you must take great care in the selection and presentation of all materials. You never can mention, let alone discuss all of the data that can be part of your presentation—there isn’t enough time.

To better understand the problem consider what has happened to the current administration in Washington DC over the last few years. They have moved from a position that was very close to “If you say so, it must be true,” to “Didn’t you tell us that Iraq had WMD and it turned out that they didn’t?”

Damaged credibility is difficult (impossible) to repair. Build your credibility carefully over the years and do nothing to damage it. Remain fair and balance in all presentations.

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