How to Pursuade

People - General 182

Speech Purpose

An audience sitting in a slightly-darkened, warm room faces a bright screen. This audience is a group of OB/GYNs, and the screen images feature an imaginative approach to measuring a developing fetus’ “crown-rump length” (size of torso, which helps monitor growth over time). Many are thinking, “Yeah, that’s what the radiologists are doing. I can incorporate that in my practice if I just . . .”

Their spouses, waiting for the catered lunch, wonder “How long is this going to continue? Why does anyone care about a few tenths of an inch?”

The same audience, in the same room, viewing pictures of a tropical resort may be thinking, “I’d like to go there, but I wonder what it costs. How long would we stay?”

The first speaker persuades with logic and her credentials; she uses “ethos” and “logos” to persuade. (The three methods of persuasion, identified by Aristotle long ago, are Ethos – credibility of the speaker, Logos – logical argument, and Pathos – emotion or feelings.) The second is using pathos; “what would it feel like to visit that resort?”

Both speakers are connecting to their audience with pictures – and hopefully with stories. “This is what you can do to improve your OB/GYN office visits” and “This is what I experienced at the resort.”

These five tools of persuasion are powerful: ethos, logos, pathos, and pictures and stories.

But they are only powerful if they are specific – to the audience.

If we choose to employ ethos, our expertise on the subject can be stated or woven into the introduction.

If we are using logos we’ll need to establish a problem, show a solution, demonstrate our solution’s excellence and clearly show the audience how “it all fits together.” If we choose pathos we’ll emphasize the pain, joy, pride or . . . that our solution provides.

A good example was a talk to help persuade water customers that rate increases were necessary. It started with a picture of a three-foot wide water pipe with “beards” of rust and debris hanging from the walls.

“Do you want to drink the water from this pipe? This is why we need to replace the fifty-year old pipes in our town. But it’s only going to cost each of us about the same as a bottle of designer water – for all of the water we use in our home every month.”

The engineer used ethos (as a likeable, licensed civil engineer), logos (in terms the audience could absorb), and pathos (aroused disgust) to persuade. He used pictures as well – all selected to carry his message to that specific audience.


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