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Aristotle and the art of rhetoric

Aristotle was an ancient Greek philosopher and scientist, renown for a variety of contributions to everything from logic, to mathematics, to ethics.

He is also one of the founding fathers of rhetoric. Rhetoric is the art of persuasive speech and writing. When it comes to presenting, public speaking and communication skills, rhetoric becomes highly important.

There are three key pillars to rhetoric, which Aristotle introduced. When writing your next speech or presentation, make sure you contain these three elements to make your presentation engaging and persuasive.

1. Ethos

Ethos is all about credibility. Why should I listen to you?

One way to incorporate ethos is by having someone else introduce you before your presentation, bringing out key reasons as to why you have the authority to talk on such a subject, or important information about your background and expertise. Another way to use ethos in speech is by quoting stats, insights and evidence-based facts from reputable sources that will resonate with your audience.

2. Logos

Logos - as the name suggests - is all about logic. What is the logic and sense behind your presentation?

One way of incorporating logic in your presentation is to use cause and effect when explaining matters (e.g. X is what happened and this was caused by Y.) Always explaining the "why" behind something or "so what" will help create more logos in your speech.

Using a clear, smart structure with sign-posting is also helpful. It will help your audience keep up with you and process the information in a logical manner.

3. Pathos

Pathos is all about emotion. How do you create feeling in your audience?

Any good presentation or speech should include some form of emotional dimension that will tap into the hearts of the audience. Humour is a good example, as is using a powerful anecdote or story that your audience can relate to.

Another quick win is to bring your self into the presentation - can you include something about your own challenges or experiences that are relevant to the topic? Bringing your self into the presentation will again help create that emotional response, even if subtle.

Artistole's three pillars of rhetoric is fundamental to good public speaking and presenting. Depending on the purpose or context of your presentation, you will probably find yourself using one more than the other (think high pathos in a best man speech where humour is key, vs high logos in an investor business case where your argument must run clear).

There's no doubt these are a great way to help you present with better content.

Why not experiment the next time you give a presentation!


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