Speech Essentials Good for 2300 Years

Aristotle’s Advice

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Aristotle wrote that the secret to being a persuasive speaker lies is ethos, pathos and logos. 2300 years later, his points are still valid.

Ethos refers to the credibility (or character) of the speaker. Ethos, then, is your level of credibility as perceived by your audience. We can use ethos by establishing through our introduction or in our opening that: we are trustworthy and likeable, we belong (we’re similar to you, the audience member), and that we have authority or expertise – we have a reputation in the issue being discussed.

A smile and serial direct eye contact goes a long way is establishing our “belonging;” we seem “friendly.”

Pathos appeals to the emotions of the audience. Emotional connection is often made through stories. The stories link an emotional reaction with an aspect of our primary message. We can affect emotions by our choice of words, use of stories and application of rich metaphors. Striking visuals can also trigger emotions which we are trying to link to our premise(s).

Consider the description we choose for a recently deceased; “a martyr to the cause of freedom, struck down in his prime” or “a terrorist justly terminated by the bullets of patriots.” “It feels sticky and oppressive like it was in Florida” or “It’s so humid the mosquitos are wearing snorkels.”

Logos is synonymous with a logical argument. The message must make sense and should appear to be based upon facts, evidence – or just plain logic. There should be a natural progression from examining the premise to the call for action.

We enhance logical appeal by using common terms and stories, citing support for an idea, and by using concrete, common and appealing pictures – mental or actual images that support our argument.

Aristotle said ethos, pathos and logos are the pillars of (effective) public speaking. We could do well to consider them as we plan our next Toastmasters speech.


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