Presentation Wisdom from Ancient Greeks: 3 Powerful Persuasion Techniques

Aristotle's rule of three - Ethos Pathos Logos

“Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind; the third on the proof, provided by the words of the speech itself.”  – Aristotle, Rhetoric

If you wish to master the art of persuasion, it’s imperative that you begin with Aristotle. The Greek philosopher and the father of many disciplines laid the foundation of persuasive presentations way back in 4th century B.C. with his book ‘Rhetoric’. It’s unarguably the most respected document on the art of presenting and worthy of your attention if you want to be a successful presenter.

If not anything else, Aristotle’s three means of persuasion set forth in this book are going to benefit you immensely. They are the Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. Ethos means credibility of the speaker, Pathos is emotion, and Logos is logic. You need all three to deliver a knockout presentation. Excited to know more? Let’s get started:

Ethos: Show others that you are credible, knowledgeable and good-willed

Why should others listen to you? Are you an expert on the subject? Do you have something of value to share or your own axe to grind? Are you a person of good character?

Yes, you first have to convince audiences with your character. They should perceive you as a person who is an authority on the subject, has their best interests at heart, and is likeable. Here are some ways to help you build credibility in the eyes of the audience:

  • Right at the onset of your presentation, briefly share your expertise on the subject, your achievements and the research you put in for the presentation, but without bragging. You don’t want to put off the audience with your know-it-all attitude. 
  • Present yourself attractively: Audience makes first impressions on the basis of how smartly you are dressed up for the occasion. That does not necessarily mean you have to suit up for the presentation. Your grooming should also be flawless.
  • Show your enthusiasm for the subject: Share what made you choose the topic for the presentation and how much you are passionate about it. Your enthusiasm will reflect in the way you deliver your presentation and engage with the audience.
  • Build a common ground: Identify the similarities between you and your audience and intersperse your speech with expressions such as “Like you, even I was first skeptical about this product but later….”. This makes you just one of the others in the audience and someone who can be trusted.

Pathos: Tap into the audiences’ emotions

Poet Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

In a battle between mind and heart, it’s the heart that always wins. The audience may believe your reasoning but they will never put your ideas into practice unless you moved them. How do you that?

  • Tell a story: Stories connect like nothing other. Share your personal story or one of your clients to humanise your topic. Stories stays in audience minds long after the session is over. Read 6 types of stories that you can use in your presentation.
  • Use Appeals: You can use both positive and negative appeals. Watch advertisements and identify the appeal they used: Benefit, beauty, sex, health, achievement, etc. Convince the audience that your idea or proposal could positively influence their lives. You can also use fear appeal, though negative yet a very strong appeal. A presentation on smoking can use fear appeal to create an urgency in smokers to quit before it’s too late.

Logos: Persuade others with logic and reasoning

Aristotle’s favorite. He infact defined man as “a rational animal.” You may use an emotional story but it’s the facts, the evidence that gives spine to your story. Here’s how you can add more credibility to your content as well as yourself (Ethos):

  • Give Facts: However, mere dumping facts alone won’t work. You need to weave those lifeless facts into a story and humanize them. For instance: “One in three Americans are obese. Are you one of them?” 
  • Cite Studies: Studies published in reputed journals add weight to your speech. “A research, published in the American Journal of Public Health, suggests obesity accounts of about 18 percent of all deaths in the United States.” Death is a very strong fear appeal and will instantly demand attention of the audience.

Are you missing out any of the three components of persuasive presentation? Prepare your speech keeping these three factors in mind and then see the difference. 

You can also try using the Power of 3 to create unforgettable presentations.

About Author
Anuj Malhotra

A potter maniac, I live in a world inhabited by wizards and Marvel’s superheroes. Writing is my defence mechanism (Mr. Freud, analyze this). Presentations are my new found love.

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