Previous literature recommends using stylistic (or rhetorical) devices in presentations such as rhetorical questions (RQs: Does anyone want bad teeth?) to make them more professional, to appear more charismatic, and to convince an audience. However, in oral presentations, it is not only the what that matters in using stylistic devices like RQs, but also the how, i.e., the RQs’ prosodic realization. To date, however, virtually no handbook on the way of giving a good presentation scrutinizes this prosodic how. Therefore, our investigation focuses on the prosodic realization of German RQs in sales pitches. Specifically, we carry out a perception experiment in which 72 listeners rated both the sales pitch and its speaker based on presentations that contained questions that were lexically biased towards a rhetorical interpretation. They were realized with either the prosody of RQs or information-seeking questions (ISQs: What time is it?). An additional baseline condition was constituted by regular declarative statements with the corresponding prosody. More precisely, we investigate whether particular identified prosodic realizations-previously found for German RQs and ISQs-meet the listeners’ expectation in the context of a presentation situation. We found that listeners prefer lexically marked RQs that are produced with a prosody that is characteristic of German ISQs. We therefore suggest that handbooks should provide their readers not only with clear definitions of RQs as a stylistic device in presentations (i.e., the what), but also with the respective prosodic realization (i.e., the how) to make them a properly implemented stylistic device.
© 2022. The Author(s).