Aristotle’s 3 Hacks to the Perfect Speech
March 13, 2020
Image from https://brewminate.com/the-science-and-biology-of-aristotle/
Most of us are familiar with the 3 components of a speech: the speaker, the audience, and the subject of the speech.
For Aristotle, it stood to reason then that the three technical means of persuasion were either in the character or credibility of the speaker (ethos); the emotional nature of the audience (pathos); or in the speech or argument itself logos).
As a leader, this three-part framework is still the key to delivering a speech that can captivate, influence and persuade your listener to accept and act on your message.
So how can you use these three modes of persuasion for better communication? Here’s what you need to know.
Ethos: Establishing your Credibility as a Speaker
It is said that the message is inseparable from the speaker. If the audience does not trust your credibility as a speaker, they will naturally distrust or dismiss what you are saying. In order to be a better speaker, you must first prime your audience to trust you.
How can you do this?
Primarily by appealing to your authority and stating its source. Are you a world-renowned researcher or professor? Do you have decades of professional experience or training in the subject you will be discussing? Tell your audience how you became an authority on your subject. You do not need to brag, but do state your credentials.
If other authorities in the field have recognized your work –with an accolade or honorary position, for instance— mention it. The important thing to remember is that the burden of proof is on you to tell the audience who you are and the value of your experience and perspective.
Pathos: Knowing and Rousing your Audience
Once there is trust with your audience, the door has opened for you to build an emotional connection with them. Pathos is an appeal to your audience’s emotions, which includes their ideals, fantasies, desires and hopes.
What are the paths to pathos?
The rhetorical devices here are well-known, but not always practiced. The most important path to pathos which we’ve written about before is telling a story in your speech. Stories can evoke a range of emotions and responses from an audience and each person takes a different lesson. That is probably why stories are often the only thing the audience will remember from a speech. If you want to learn more about telling good stories, read our blog on storytelling.
Other common strategies for pathos include the use of humor, rich analogies or metaphors, an impactful visual, or even modeling emotions with your body language, which we have written about extensively here and here.
Logos: The Persuasiveness of Your Argument
If pathos appeals to the audience’s emotions, logos appeals to their sense of reason or logic. In fact, the word logic is derived from the Greek word logos.
How can you establish logos to be more persuasive in a speech?
Primarily by using facts, figures, and data to support the point you are trying to get across. You can do this effectively with easily digestible visuals like charts or diagrams; or you might bring up an opposing argument and refute it with data; likewise, you could use inductive or deductive reasoning to walk your audience through your logic step-by-step.
The key is to make your data or logic understandable and to help the audience connect the dots.
Another benefit is that by establishing good logos with data and logic, your audience will see you as more competent and prepared, which in turn enhances your ethos (your credibility as a speaker). Similarly, speakers with strong ethos (credibility) also find less resistance from their audience, enhancing the receptivity to their logos (or arguments). Work on both to double your effectiveness as a public speaker.
Use ethos, pathos, and logos in all communication
Aristotle’s approach isn’t just applicable to speeches. Whether you’re writing an academic essay, creating a marketing video, interviewing for a job, or delivering a product pitch to investors, these communication tools apply. The most important thing to remember is that there are three technical means for you to persuade: your character or credibility as the speaker (ethos); the emotional nature of your audience (pathos); and your speech itself (logos).