Good public speaking takes practice and skill, but how do you go from being a good speaker to a great one? In this succinct and practical article, marketing experts Kenny Nguyen, Gus Murillo, Robert Killeen and Luke Jones of Big Fish Presentations discuss why using three basic rhetorical devices in public speaking – “ethos, pathos and logos” – can help you influence the perspective of any audience you might encounter. getAbstract recommends the authors’ advice and tactics to everyone looking to improve their public speaking and presentation skills.
A great, persuasive public speech involves more than just delivering a message. It aims to evoke a specific response in an audience so you can influence their perspective on a given topic. Persuasive public speaking requires practice. But effective speakers also master “a variety of arguments and strategies” which belong to three rhetorical devices: “ethos,” the appeal to ethics; “pathos,” the appeal to emotion; and “logos,” the appeal to logic.
“In a persuasive speech, it’s not simply enough to capture your audience’s attention; the speaker must also quickly establish [his or her] credibility.”
Establishing ethos, or credibility, is vital if you want to convince individuals of your expertise. To establish proper ethos, first make sure you master the subject matter: People need to believe you know what you’re talking about. Second, make sure you understand to whom you’re speaking. Get to know their background, what they want from the speaker, what medium would appeal the most to them, and what information or approach they might find objectionable. Finally, be sure to use “credible sources”: If, for instance, you are discussing a new medical product, you might consider quoting a physician to support your claims.
“An audience wants to hear a speaker [who] will shape, challenge or refine the crowd’s belief. With ‘logos,’ this requires factual arguments against their current beliefs.”
Using logos means employing “reason” and “factual arguments” to persuade an audience, with the goal of aligning their perspective with yours. That said, facts, in and of themselves, are not an argument; they are merely the basis for a well-reasoned argument. Speakers may use facts as a way of finding common ground with an audience, for instance, by claiming, “We can all agree that X is true,” or as a means of making connections between ideas, by saying, “If X, then Y.”
“‘Pathos’ appeals to the audience in a way that relies on their emotional or personal connection to the subject matter.”
Using pathos to persuade means appealing to people on an emotional level. Pleas to emotion can take several forms. You might use visuals or storytelling to evoke an emotional response or to “connect with the audience on a personal level.” Whatever approach you take, you should tailor the form of the appeal to your audience and the topic under discussion. At times, with certain subject matters, too strong of an emotional response may actually interfere with the effectiveness of the speech. In those instances, limit emotional appeals in favor of other approaches.