PERSUADING - Say It Like Obama: The Power of Speaking with Purpose and Vision - Shel Leanne

Say It Like Obama: The Power of Speaking with Purpose and Vision - Shel Leanne (2009)


Barack Obama has delivered a striking number of momentum-building, election-winning speeches. Underlying this success is his power to persuade.

Persuasion is central to effective leadership. It is the act—or, as some would say, the "art"—of influencing someone to do something by advising, encouraging or convincing them. Beyond informing, persuasion involves ways of conveying information that convince listeners to agree with a particular perspective. The goal is to get to "yes", a nod, or that glimmer in the eye of a listener that indicates you've achieved agreement—you've gotten through and the listener is embracing your ideas.

Persuasion plays a central role in enabling leaders to motivate and guide others to achieve designated goals. It is considered so central to effective leadership that scores of books have been written on variations of the topic—the power of persuasion, the importance of persuasion, the craft of persuasion.

Barack Obama's persuasive speeches have become core tools that have enabled his success. His persuasive power is evident through the 2 million individual donors he has motivated to contribute to his 2008 presidential campaign. Obama's notable ability to persuade is also evidenced through the tremendous momentum he experienced in his 2008 primary campaign, his ability to fill a stadium with as many as 75,000 eager listeners, and his success in drawing a German audience of 200,000 for a single speech. What is Barack Obama doing that people find so compelling? How has his effective communication style persuaded so many people to consider his views? How does he inspire people to embrace and ultimately support his vision of the future and of change? We have much to learn from his practices—how he sequences ideas, answers nonrhetorical questions, addresses objections, uses antithesis, and crystallizes his points through juxtaposition, comparisons, and contrasts.


There are many dimensions to persuasion, and many types of tools can facilitate effective persuasion. Body language plays a role. Oratory delivery techniques make an impact. Voice and intonation can sway listeners, as can techniques such as employing dramatic pauses, using emphatic words and employing effective gestures. Descriptive language paints lucid pictures and also serves the cause. In addition, Barack Obama demonstrates that other key practices aid the quest to persuade. As a master of the craft, several of Obama's additional practices are worth exploring.


Barack Obama illustrates that orators skilled in the art of persuasion know how to create a strong sense of logic to their ideas and remarks. The clarity of their reasoning is apparent and they demonstrate the merit of their ideas with sharp arguments.

One key to creating a strong sense of logic involves sequencing ideas. There is no "right" order, as such—only an effective order. The listener must be able to understand the flow of thoughts and find that this flow makes logical, compelling sense. This lays the foundation for agreement. Sequencing information should help achieve the goal of conveying ideas effectively and, if possible, help elicit a yes or a nod.

In his public remarks, Obama sequences his ideas and themes well. It is possible to observe his sequencing within concise series of sentences. For example, during his 2004 keynote address, Obama sequenced his ideas in a way that conveyed logic and strong determination:

We have real enemies in the world. These enemies must be found. They must be pursued, and they must be defeated.

Obama also sequences ideas and themes in parallel order, paragraph by paragraph, which lends his remarks a strong sense of order and helps persuade the listener. Below, for example, Obama structured his points with themes that—sequenced effectively one after the other, by paragraph—successfully reinforced his commitment to the community and ultimately helped persuade many listeners of his sincere dedication to their interests:

I walked away from a job on Wall Street to bring job training to the jobless and after school programs to kids on the streets of Chicago.

I turned down the big-money law firms to win justice for the powerless as a civil rights lawyer.

I took on the lobbyists in Illinois and brought Democrats and Republicans together to expand health care to 150,000 people and pass the first major campaign finance reform in twenty-five years; and I did the same thing in Washington when we passed the toughest lobbying reform since Watergate. I'm the only candidate in this race who hasn't just talked about taking power away from lobbyists; I've actually done it.i [Emphasis added.]

For leaders seeking to develop outstanding communication skills, a best practice is to sequence your ideas in a highly effective manner. Make sure to communicate your points so that you make "compelling sense."


Another way to enhance persuasion is by addressing nonrhetorical questions. Asking a nonrhetorical question—one you intend to answer—is a valuable way to replicate a sense of two-way conversation. The use of nonrhetorical questions, addressed at appropriate length, makes the listener feel as if the speaker is raising and addressing commonly held concerns. Referred to as hypophora, the practice enables speakers to act as if they are vetting key questions from the audience. A well-developed answer demonstrates depth of knowledge and aids effective knowledge sharing. Nonrhetorical questions also focus attention on key concerns and make remarks more engaging.

Barack Obama has shown great skill in employing nonrhetorical questions. Before he delivers his remarks, Obama seems to often consider: What does the audience most want to know and learn? What will it most doubt or question? The next task: ask and answer. Obama has demonstrated the power of asking nonrhetorical questions and providing the answers, replicating effective dialogue. Consider this example, as Obama spoke of Robert Kennedy at the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award Ceremony on November 16,2005. Obama asked:

Why is it that this man who was never president, who was our attorney general for only three years, who was New York's junior senator for just three and a half, still calls to us today? Still inspires our debate with his words, animates our politics with his ideas, and calls us to make gentle the life of a world that's too often coarse and unforgiving?

Obviously, much has to do with charisma and eloquence—that unique ability, rare for most but common among Kennedys, to sum up the hopes and dreams of the most diverse nation on Earth with a simple phrase or sentence; to inspire even the most apathetic observers of American life.

Part of it is his youth—both the time of life and the state of mind that dared us to hope that even after John was killed; even after we lost King; there would come a younger, energetic Kennedy who could make us believe again.

But beyond these qualities, there's something more.

Obama proceeded to elaborate about the relevant attributes of Kennedy. As he often does when using this technique, Obama answers the question at length to underscore his points. In asking a germane question and then answering it, Obama succeeded in creating the feel of an engaging, two-way dialogue and in advancing his key points. This technique can be applied with great success. Leaders aspiring to use their words to persuade others should seek to identify a question or two that listeners would most like to understand. Consider asking and answering a question or two as you deliver your remarks.


Obama also understands the value of addressing objections. This technique, known as procatalepsis, is a useful rhetorical device and an excellent persuasion tool. By airing a potential objection and responding to it, speakers can persuade listeners by providing logical reasons why key counterarguments should be dismissed. Addressing objections demonstrates awareness of key counterarguments and provides the speaker with opportunities to illustrate why their chosen positions are more sensible. In addressing key counterarguments, a speaker can skillfully undercut those arguments, strengthening their own positions. Consider this example from December 27,2007, when Obama addressed concerns that his emphasis on hope was naive:

In the end, the argument we are having between the candidates in the last seven days is not just about the meaning of change. It's about the meaning of hope. Some of my opponents appear scornful of the word; they think it speaks of naïveté, passivity, and wishful thinking.

But that's not what hope is. Hope is not blind optimism. It's not ignoring the enormity of the task before us or the roadblocks that stand in our path. Yes, the lobbyists will fight us. Yes, the Republican attack dogs will go after us in the general election. Yes, the problems of poverty and climate change and failing schools will resist easy repair. I know. I've been on the streets, I've been in the courts. I've watched legislation die because the powerful held sway, and good intentions weren't fortified by political will. And I've watched a nation get mislead into war because no one had the judgment or the courage to ask the hard questions before we sent our troops to fight.

But I also know this. I know that hope has been the guiding force behind the most improbable changes this country has ever made. In the face of tyranny, it's what led a band of colonists to rise up against an empire. In the face of slavery, it's what fueled the resistance of the slave and the abolitionist, and what allowed a president to chart a treacherous course to ensure that the nation would not continue half slave and half free. In the face of war and Depression, it's what led the greatest of generations to free a continent and heal a nation. In the face of oppression, it's what led young men and women to sit at lunch counters and brave fire hoses and march through the streets of Selma and Montgomery for freedom's cause. That's the power of hope—to imagine, and then work for, what had seemed impossible before. [Emphasis added.]

We see above that when preparing remarks with the aim of persuading, addressing objections can prove a useful exercise. For a speaker seeking to persuade, identify key counterarguments and consider whether your remarks can be enhanced by drawing attention to those counterarguments and explaining why your ideas are best.


One of the hallmarks of Barack Obama's powerful oration is his outstanding use of juxtaposition. Through juxtaposition, Obama places opposing ideas side by side, allowing him to crystallize key points about the ideas or concepts by comparing or contrasting them.

When contrasting the ideas, Obama frequently uses antithesis, a technique places two ideas side by side in a sentence or paragraph, often using balance or parallel structures. Antithesis enables a speaker to present "counter propositions," clarifying differences in ideas and contrasting opposite ideas or beliefs.

There are many examples of antithesis in famous American speeches:

[We] observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom—symbolizing an end as well as a beginning—signifying renewal as well as change.

—John F. Kennedy's inaugural address, January 20, 1961

Obama uses antithesis to great effect in his public remarks. In some instances, the comparisons are succinct—simple statements that make profound points. For example, Obama commented after the final primary night in St. Paul, Minnesota, on June 3,2008:

We must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in …

During his remarks on the final primary Night in Minnesota, he also stated:

[T]he chance to get a college education should not be a privilege for the wealthy few, but the birthright of every American. That's the change we need in America. That's why I'm running for president.

During his comments in his speech, "Our Kids, Our Future," in November 2007, Obama noted:

And so while I know hopelessness, I also know hope.

These are examples of succinct uses of antithesis that bring clarity to thought and aid persuasion. Obama is also highly skilled in using a longer antithesis/contrast structure to extend his clarification of ideas. In his remarks following his historic win of the Iowa caucus in January 2008, Obama said:

But we always knew that hope is not blind optimism. It's not ignoring the enormity of the task ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. It's not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it.

Below, Obama juxtaposes ideas in succession in order to clarify the character of the Democratic party:

Our party—the Democratic party—has always been at its best when we've led not by polls, but by principle; not by calculation, but by conviction; when we've called all Americans to a common purpose—a higher purpose.ii

Obama draws on many additional variations of juxtaposition/antithesis. Their net effect is to sharpen the persuasive power of his remarks. Let's delve into some of his key practices.

Juxtaposition and Tricolon

At times Obama combines juxtaposition with other rhetorical techniques such as triadic extension to bring precision to his contrast of ideas. During his announcement for president in Springfield, Illinois, on February 10,2007, for example, he blended juxtaposition with triadic extension to compare what Americans face and what they desire:

It's humbling, but in my heart I know you didn't come here just for me. You came here because you believe in what this country can be. In the face of war, you believe there can be peace. In the face of despair, you believe there can be hope. In the face of a politics that's shut you out, that's told you to settle, that's divided us for too long, you believe we can be one people, reaching for what's possible, building that more perfect union.

Extended Juxtaposition

One of the hallmarks of Barack Obama's effective communication is his use of creative variations of juxtaposition. At times, Obama structures whole paragraphs around opposing ideas. In this example, he presents extended juxtaposition through a series of contrasts and comparisons in back-and-forth succession:

We have a choice in this election.

We can be a party that says there's no problem with taking money from Washington lobbyists—from oil lobbyists and drug lobbyists and insurance lobbyists. We can pretend that they represent real Americans and look the other way when they use their money and influence to stop us from reforming health care or investing in renewable energy for yet another four years.

Or this time, we can recognize that you can't be the champion of working Americans if you're funded by the lobbyists who drown out their voices. We can do what we've done in this campaign and say that we won't take a dime of their money. We can do what I did in Illinois, and in Washington, and bring both parties together to rein in their power so we can take our government back. It's our choice.

We can be a party that thinks the only way to look tough on national security is to talk, and act, and vote like George Bush and John McCain. We can use fear as a tactic, and the threat of terrorism to scare up votes.

Or we can decide that real strength is asking the tough questions before we send our troops to fight. We can see the threats we face for what they are—a call to rally all Americans and all the world against the common challenges of the twenty-first century—terrorism and nuclear weapons; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease. That's what it takes to keep us safe in the world. That's the real legacy of Roosevelt and Kennedy and Truman.

We can be a party that says and does whatever it takes to win the next election. We can calculate and poll-test our positions and tell everyone exactly what they want to hear.

Or we can be the party that doesn't just focus on how to win but why we should. We can tell everyone what they need to hear about the challenges we face. We can seek to regain not just an office, but the trust of the American people that their leaders in Washington will tell them the truth. That's the choice in this election.

We can be a party of those who only think like we do and only agree with all our positions. We can continue to slice and dice this country into red states and blue states. We can exploit the divisions that exist in our country for pure political gain.

Or this time, we can build on the movement we've started in this campaign—a movement that's united Democrats, Independents, and Republicans; a movement of young and old, rich and poor; white, black, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American. Because one thing I know from traveling to forty-six states this campaign season is that we're not as divided as our politics suggests. We may have different stories and different backgrounds, but we hold common hopes for the future of this country.

In the end, this election is still our best chance to solve the problems we've been talking about for decades—as one nation; as one people. Fourteen months later, that is still what this election is about.

Millions of Americans who believe we can do better—that we must do better—have put us in a position to bring about real change. Now it's up to you, Indiana. You can decide whether we're going to travel the same worn path, or whether we chart a new course that offers real hope for the future.iii [Emphasis added.]

This back-and-forth comparison, aided by the parallel structures of paragraphs, brings great clarity to the comparison and contrast of ideas, increasing the potency of Obama's assertions.

Broad-Stroked Juxtaposition

Another key technique Obama employs to sharpen the persuasive power of his communication is an "idea-pivot-contrasting idea" structure for presenting contrary ideas. In this broad-stroked style of juxtaposition, Obama devotes ample space for the discussion of an initial view, usually the view with which he disagrees. Next, he provides a powerful transition sentence, indicating that a contrasting idea or view will follow. Then Obama expounds upon a contrasting position, usually the one he supports. This structure enables Obama to elaborate at length about why his position is superior to the contrary one. Consider this example:

It's not change when John McCain decided to stand with George Bush ninety-five percent of the time, as he did in the senate last year.

It's not change when he offers four more years of Bush economic policies that have failed to create well-paying jobs, or insure our workers, or help Americans afford the skyrocketing cost of college—policies that have lowered the real incomes of the average American family, widened the gap between Wall Street and Main Street, and left our children with a mountain of debt.

And it's not change when he promises to continue a policy in Iraq that asks everything of our brave men and women in uniform and nothing of Iraqi politicians—a policy where all we look for are reasons to stay in Iraq, while we spend billions of dollars a month on a war that isn't making the American people any safer.

So I'll say this—there are many words to describe John McCain's attempt to pass off his embrace of George Bush's policies as bipartisan and new. But change is not one of them.

Change is a foreign policy that doesn't begin and end with a war that should've never been authorized and never been waged. I won't stand here and pretend that there are many good options left in Iraq, but what's not an option is leaving our troops in that country for the next hundred years—especially at a time when our military is overstretched, our nation is isolated, and nearly every other threat to America is being ignored.

We must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in—but start leaving we must. It's time for Iraqis to take responsibility for their future. It's time to rebuild our military and give our veterans the care they need and the benefits they deserve when they come home. It's time to refocus our efforts on al Qaeda's leadership and Afghanistan, and rally the world against the common threats of the twenty-first century—terrorism and nuclear weapons; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease. That's what change is.

Change is realizing that meeting today's threats requires not just our firepower, but the power of our diplomacy—tough, direct diplomacy where the president of the United States isn't afraid to let any petty dictator know where America stands and what we stand for. We must once again have the courage and conviction to lead the free world. That is the legacy of Roosevelt and Truman and Kennedy. That's what the American people want. That's what change is.

Change is building an economy that rewards not just wealth, but the work and workers who created it. It's understanding that the struggles facing working families can't be solved by spending billions of dollars on more tax breaks for big corporations and wealthy CEOs, but by giving a the middle-class a tax break, and investing in our crumbling infrastructure, and transforming how we use energy, and improving our schools, and renewing our commitment to science and innovation. It's understanding that fiscal responsibility and shared prosperity can go hand in hand, as they did when Bill Clinton was president.iv [Emphasis added.]

The use of broad-stroked juxtaposition and parallel structures makes Obama's remarks excellent in their capacity to contrast positions and strengthens their persuasive power. Consider another example from Obama's remarks titled, "A More Perfect Union," delivered in Philadelphia in March 2008:

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division and conflict and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle—as we did in the OJ trial—or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina—or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day, and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time." This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a twenty-first century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the emergency room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should've been authorized and never should've been waged, and we want to talk about how we'll show our patriotism by caring for them and their families and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for president if I didn't believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. [Emphasis added.]

In the example that follows, Obama's outstanding use of parallel structure reinforces his use of juxtaposition and paints a clear contrast between his assertions of what John McCain believes and what he believes:

John McCain is an American hero and a worthy opponent, but he's proven time and time again that he just doesn't understand this. It took him three tries in seven days just to figure out that the home foreclosure crisis was an actual problem. He's had a front-row seat to the last eight years of disastrous policies that have widened the income gap and saddled our children with debt, and now he's promising four more years of the very same thing.

He's promising to make permanent the Bush tax breaks for the wealthiest few who didn't need them and didn't ask for them—tax breaks that are so irresponsible that John McCain himself once said they offended his conscience.

He's promising four more years of trade deals that don't have a single safeguard for American workers—that don't help American workers compete and win in a global economy.

He's promising four more years of an administration that will push for the privatization of Social Security—a plan that would gamble away people's retirement on the stock market; a plan that was already rejected by Democrats and Republicans under George Bush.

He's promising four more years of policies that won't guarantee health insurance for working Americans, that won't bring down the rising cost of college tuition, that won't do a thing for the Americans who are living in those communities where the jobs have left and the factories have shut their doors.

And yet, despite all this, the other side is still betting that the American people won't notice that John McCain is running for George Bush's third term. They think that they'll forget about all that's happened in the last eight years, that they'll be tricked into believing that it's either me or our party is the one that's out of touch with what's going on in their lives.

Well I'm making a different bet. I'm betting on the American people.

The men and women I've met in small towns and big cities across this country see this election as a defining moment in our history. They understand what's at stake here because they're living it every day. And they are tired of being distracted by fake controversies. They are fed up with politicians trying to divide us for their own political gain. And I believe they'll see through the tactics that are used every year, in every election, to appeal to our fears, or our biases, or our differences—because they've never wanted or needed change as badly as they do now.

The people I've met during this campaign know that government cannot solve all of our problems, and they don't expect it to. They don't want our tax dollars wasted on programs that don't work or perks for special interests who don't work for us. They understand that we cannot stop every job from going overseas or build a wall around our economy, and they know that we shouldn't.

But they believe it's finally time that we make health care affordable and available for every single American; that we bring down costs for workers and for businesses; that we cut premiums and stop insurance companies from denying people care or coverage who need it most.

They believe it's time we provided real relief to the victims of this housing crisis; that we help families refinance their mortgage so they can stay in their homes; that we start giving tax relief to the people who actually need it—middle-class families, and seniors, and struggling homeowners.

They believe that we can and should make the global economy work for working Americans; that we might not be able to stop every job from going overseas, but we certainly can stop giving tax breaks to companies who send them there and start giving tax breaks to companies who create good jobs right here in America. We can invest in the types of renewable energy that won't just reduce our dependence on oil and save our planet, but create up to five million new jobs that can't be outsourced.

They believe we can train our workers for those new jobs and keep the most productive workforce the most competitive workforce in the world if we fix our public education system by investing in what works and finding out what doesn't; if we invest in early childhood education and finally make college affordable for everyone who wants to go; if we stop talking about how great our teachers are and start rewarding them for their greatness.

They believe that if you work your entire life, you deserve to retire with dignity and respect, which means a pension you can count on, and Social Security that's always there.

This is what the people I've met believe about the country they love. It doesn't matter if they're Democrats or Republicans; whether they're from the smallest towns or the biggest cities; whether they hunt or they don't; whether they go to church, or temple, or mosque, or not. We may come from different places and have different stories, but we share common hopes and one very American dream.

That is the dream I am running to help restore in this election. If I get the chance, that is what I'll be talking about from now until November. That is the choice that I'll offer the American people—four more years of what we had for the last eight or fundamental change in Washington. [Emphasis added.]

Finally, in this additional example, Obama draws on the experience of Martin Luther King Jr. He uses juxtaposition to crystallize his ideas in ways that might provide them greater influence:

[I]f Dr. King could love his jailor; if he could call on the faithful who once sat where you do to forgive those who set dogs and fire hoses upon them, then surely we can look past what divides us in our time, and bind up our wounds, and erase the empathy deficit that exists in our hearts.

But if changing our hearts and minds is the first critical step, we cannot stop there. It is not enough to bemoan the plight of poor children in this country and remain unwilling to push our elected officials to provide the resources to fix our schools. It is not enough to decry the disparities of health care and yet allow the insurance companies and the drug companies to block much needed reforms. It is not enough for us to abhor the costs of a misguided war, and yet allow ourselves to be driven by a politics of fear that sees the threat of attack as way to scare up votes instead of a call to come together around a common effort.

The scripture tells us that we are judged not just by word, but by deed. And if we are to truly bring about the unity that is so crucial in this time, we must find it within ourselves to act on what we know; to understand that living up to this country's ideals and its possibilities will require great effort and resources; sacrifice and stamina.

And that is what is at stake in the great political debate we are having today. The changes that are needed are not just a matter of tinkering at the edges, and they will not come if politicians simply tell us what we want to hear. All of us will be called upon to make some sacrifice. None of us will be exempt from responsibility. We will have to fight to fix our schools, but we will also have to challenge ourselves to be better parents. We will have to confront the biases in our criminal justice system, but we will also have to acknowledge the deep-seated violence that still resides in our own communities and marshal the will to break its grip.

That is how we will bring about the change we seek. That is how Dr. King led this country through the wilderness. He did it with words—words that he spoke not just to the children of slaves, but the children of slave owners. Words that inspired not just black but also white; not just the Christian but the Jew; not just the Southerner but also the Northerner.

He led with words, but he also led with deeds. He also led by example. He led by marching and going to jail and suffering threats and being away from his family. He led by taking a stand against a war, knowing full well that it would diminish his popularity. He led by challenging our economic structures, understanding that it would cause discomfort. Dr. King understood that unity cannot be won on the cheap; that we would have to earn it through great effort and determination.v [Emphases provided]

Obama's varied uses of juxtaposition and comparison/contrast offer many best practices. For leaders seeking to use communication to persuade others, consider the many variations of juxtaposition, comparing, and contrasting. Draw on these useful techniques when they will help you crystallize your arguments, clarify your points, or draw attention to why your positions or ideas are worth adopting.


In this chapter, we have seen the valuable communication techniques that allow Barack Obama to persuade others so effectively. Obama has mastered an ability to persuade others, eliciting a nod, a glimmer in the eye, the "yes." Leaders can glean many lessons from his successful techniques. When constructing remarks, for example, sequencing ideas can be useful—within a single sentence, among multiple sentences, even among paragraphs. Sequencing helps provide a strong sense of logic to remarks, crystallizing the clarity of reasoning so that speakers seem to make "compelling sense." Addressing nonrhetorical questions is also a useful practice. This helps communicators replicate two-way conversation, as if they are vetting questions. Excellent communicators will often identify questions the audience would most like to probe. Then, they ask and answer. Well-developed answers impress listeners and enhance effective knowledge sharing.

Addressing key objections is also a valuable persuasion technique. In addressing objections, the skilled communicator demonstrates awareness of key counterarguments and undercuts those counterarguments, showing why their position is superior. In the quest to persuade, comparison and contrast can also play a role. Leaders can clarify key points by placing ideas side-by-side for comparison and contrast within a single sentence, among multiple sentences or among paragraphs. A skilled communicator will draw as needed on a wide variety of techniques—whether presenting their comparison with a back-and-forth succession or with an "idea-pivot-contrasting idea" construction. In their many variations, comparison and contrast, juxtaposition and antithesis give remarks greater potency, as excellent communicators sharpen the differences between their ideas and opposing views, in order to persuade listeners that their ideas are best.