American Association of
Cost Engineers, Oak Ridge
Using Rhetoric to Make a Business Case
Director, Business Development
Rhetoric has a bad name …
• the undue use of exaggeration or display; bombast.
• the art or science of all specialized literary uses of language in
prose or verse, including the figures of speech.
• the study of the effective use of language.
• the art of prose in general as opposed to verse.
• the ability to use language effectively.
• the art of making persuasive speeches; oratory.
• (in classical oratory) the art of influencing the thought and
conduct of an audience.
but it is part of all we do
Tony’s definition of rhetoric
The art and science of making an argument.
An (at least somewhat) intentional attempt to influence an
audience, using words, images, and actions.
Related to the larger social process of group dynamics.
Rhetoric is never a substitute for substance,
but it is often the most powerful factor when
we decide what to do.
Why rhetoric is important
• Ideas do not exist in a vacuum
• Ideas may be born within a brain, but they
are enacted socially, in a group
• Bad ideas (theirs) win
• Good ideas (mine) fail
• Leaders abuse their power
• Consensus is difficult to achieve, but not much
will get done unless we agree.
Rhetoric is essential to success
How can I do better?
Emotional Inspiration & Fears
Social Rectitude & Social Status
Intellectual Logic & Reasoning
Constructing an argument
All elements of your argument must be
constructed for a specific
•Group Emotional – Inspiration and
•Individuals Social – Rectitude and social
•Situation Intellectual – Logic and
My great idea – New toaster wi.
Group Individual Situation
Emotional Fears burnt toast John hates toast The old one is on
its last legs
Social Likes eating toast John is New, larger
together embarrassed kitchen
Intellectual Don’t know how Sarah is a techno Auto-toast was
to use auto-toast weenie just introduced
Sequencing the argument
• Matters of decision – key reason(s) why you
should want this
• Matters of judgment – there could be debate,
but this way is best
• Matters of fact – here is what can be said with
absolute certainty about my way
The form of the argument, within each
element, is ALWAYS:
Workin’ for the toaster
– Toaster will enhance our “together toast time”
– Will look great in the new kitchen
– Training will mitigate lack of operational knowledge
– New toaster technology should reduce burnt toast
– Toasters wi. auto-toast feature are between $25 - $45
Expressing the argument
• Picture us, gathered around the new toaster, eating
perfect toast together in our new kitchen
• No one will be left out, because the recently-introduced
toaster models will do bagels
• Our own Sarah has volunteered to provide training and
• Toaster is within our discretionary budget
• We will miss our old toaster, but not the burnt toast
(which, during it’s last days, were a frequent