Every persuasive speech you’ve heard in your life—a marketing spiel, a political campaign speech, a call to action—is governed by the same three pillars of speech. These pillars have already been laid out more than 2,000 years ago, but they remain as relevant to the persuasive speeches you endeavor today.
In his work, On Rhetoric, the great philosopher Aristotle spelled out the three elements of appeal that work together to make a speech persuasive: ethos, logos, and pathos. If you want to make your public speaking more compelling, looking into these three pillars is valuable in convincing your audience to hear your message.
In this article, we’ll go into detail about what these three pillars mean, and actionable points of how to maximize them on your next presentation.
What Are Ethos, Logos, and Pathos?
To successfully give a persuasive presentation, you must look to master these three pillars of persuasive speech:
- Ethos: the ethical appeal; your authority, credibility, and character
- Logos: the logical appeal; your arguments’ strength, soundness, and coherence
- Pathos: the emotional appeal; your arguments’ emotional bond and impact on your listeners
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Let’s put these elements into context and see how they work. Let’s say you are a salesperson trying to sell your company’s newest car to a customer. If you are going for strong Ethos, you can say, “As someone who has worked with cars for 15 years, I can guarantee that this model is the most economical one.”
If you want to attack with Logos, you can load up on the car’s newest features and go, “This car is designed with a new camera system, smart suspension, a multizone climate system, and more latest features to make your drive 200% better than other models.”
And if you’re going for Pathos, you can say, “Your kids will just love this new car, and it’s perfect in bringing your whole family on a road trip to the beach.”
Do you see how these pillars each persuade the customer in a different way? All persuasive speakers use a combination of Ethos, Logos, and Pathos to drive the message home and win over their listeners. Understanding the rhetorical triangle and its components is one of the first steps toward improving your presentation skills.
Now let’s go a little deeper to see how you can employ these three pillars to deliver a strong, persuasive presentation yourself.
But First, Invention
Before you can decide how you’re going to appeal to your audience, you must first gather the necessary information that will guide you on your feat. As the famous Roman orator Cicero explained, this step is called Invention, the discovery and development of the arguments that govern your message.
You must do ample research and information gathering, not only about your topic but also about your audience. You must understand your listeners, their interests, inclinations, biases, and expectations. Without this grounding, you’re setting yourself up to blindly create strategies that are not targeted to your listeners.
Using this research, you can now decide on how you’re going to entice your audience by leveraging the three pillars of persuasion.
Ethos: The Ethical Appeal
Ethos is all about character. It defines how credible, trustworthy, and relatable you are as a speaker. Before your audience listens to what you have to say, they first examine you to see if you have locus standi, or the right to be heard.
It’s not enough that you have the credentials or the expertise to talk about the subject, but you need to translate this by building trust and rapport with your audience. You can exude more Ethos if you are confident when you’re presenting, shown in your voice, gait, mannerisms, and even attire.
Another thing that increases Ethos is similarity and relatability. When presenting, you can use a shibboleth—a specialized term used by a specific group of people—to show that you are in the know. Make the effort to show that you are part of the group and that your message heeds listening to.
Logos: The Logical Appeal
Logos is all about your arguments. Does your message make sense? Is it supported by facts and evidence? Can it counter any opposing opinion?
Logos appeals to your audience’s reason and intelligence, and what your listeners are looking for is to find the truth through the facts of the argument. This not only entails traditional facts like statistical data and figures but relevant stories as well. Depending on the context, you can include personal experience and case studies to further amplify the Logos of your speech.
Your arguments must also be comprehensive and easy to understand. If the context allows, effective visual aids are powerful in making sure your audience grasps the message. To make your slides more appealing and reach your audience, you can design a killer presentation by using free & good backgrounds for presentations.
Pathos: The Emotional Appeal
Pathos is all about emotional impact. The most memorable and persuasive speeches all had high Pathos, those that stirred strong emotions within us and compelled us to understand and follow the speaker’s point of view.
Choose which emotion you want to evoke in your audience that will amplify your message. If you’re trying to sell a product, induce joy and desire. If you’re asking for donations for a sick patient, induce pity and hope. And don’t forget the power of humor in engaging your audience and increasing your likeability.
One of the most effective strategies to increase Pathos is to tell a story. Paint a picture, and link an emotional response to the most important parts of your message to make them memorable.
Understanding Ethos, Pathos, and Logos and how they work is the first step in improving your public speaking and presentation skills. The next step would be to put them into practice. Using some of the actionable points we have shared, plan out how you’re going to best appeal to your audience. Once you’ve mastered the three pillars, your speech is guaranteed to drive its message home.
Ethos, Logos, and Pathos are valuable benchmarks that you can follow to make sure your presentation is compelling and impactful to your listeners. While some may argue that one pillar is more important than the others, a persuasive speech with a balanced combination of all three pillars of a rhetorical triangle will always be more successful than a speech only focusing on one.
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