As part of Introduction to Professional Writing and Rhetoric, a peer
of mine and I created a proposal to hold an event at Elon University
that is connected to the mission of Phi Beta Kappa and the liberal
arts and sciences. In addition to writing the proposal we were required
to create a poster to attract attendees. Hence, TEDxElonUniversity:
Strengthening Diversity in a World of Success was born.
The purpose of this project was to practice writing persuasive documents. The purpose of the proposal was to convince the reviewer that we should be given funding because our event fulfills the mission of the Fund for Excellence (an Elon University grant), is culturally or intellectually engaging and attracts people from all over campus to attend.
The tricky thing about projects like this is that we have two sets of audiences that we are writing for. In reality, the professor is our audience because she is the one doing the grading. However, ignoring the classwork aspect of it, our audience is also whoever would be affected by this event if we were to actually put it on. This includes the reviewers of the proposal, Phi Beta Kappa, and anyone who might see the poster we put up, such as Elon students, staff and faculty. Phi Beta Kappa associates with people and things that demonstrate intellectual integrity, tolerance for alternate viewpoints and a broad range of academic interests. The event needed to reflect those values, as well as connect back to the liberal arts and sciences in some concrete way. The “in a world of success” portion of our project title was invented to engage those with a broad range of academic interests. Our vision relied on Verna Myers, someone who previously gave a Ted Talk, starting the conversation about biases and stereotypes we have about people of color. Then we were hoping for members of Elon’s community to speak about how they have overcome being a minority in some way (not just racial diversity) and become successful.
The writing of the proposal was very straightforward, as the application had specific questions we had to answer. However, we had to use a language that would impress the application reviewers and our professor. Before actually writing, we mapped out or ideas about the content that needed to be included in the document. Then we refined it a little more and created a “Shitty First Draft” that was more of a stream of consciousness. Finally, we refined the writing even more so that we sounded professional and persuasive.
This project engaged me in the art of persuasive writing. In every day conversations we use rhetorical devices to persuade others to go places with us, to act certain ways, to believe certain things, etc. However, outside of the conversational context it becomes difficult to know whether or not your words are persuasive enough. Without the signals of body language or facial expressions, it’s hard to know how to tailor the argument you are making. This project taught me how to use rhetorical concepts to be persuasive in writing. I now have a much better understanding of how to evaluate audience. I feel confident in my ability to write a persuasive proposal.
One thing I wish we would have spent more time on is the poster we created for the event. At the time I hadn't taken any courses on visual/multimedia rhetoric or any Communications classes that would have given me experience in graphic design. Now that I possess the skills and understanding to create an effective visual for the event, I can spot the places the flyer could use more work.