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Ethos, Pathos and Logos

2300 years ago, Aristotle wrote down the secret to being a persuasive speaker, the secret which forms the basis for nearly every public speaking book written since then.

Do you know the secret?

If you don’t, you might be wondering what a 2300-year-old theory has to do with public speaking in the year 2010.

In a word — everything!

In this article, you’ll learn what ethos, pathos, and logos are (the secret!), and what every speaker needs to understand about these three pillars of public speaking.

What are Ethos, Pathos, and Logos?

So, what are ethos, pathos, and logos?

In simplest terms, they correspond to:

  • Ethos: credibility (or character) of the speaker
  • Pathos: emotional connection to the audience
  • Logos: logical argument

Together, they are the three persuasive appeals. In other words, these are the three essential qualities that your speech or presentation must have before your audience will accept your message.

Written in the 4th century B.C.E., the Greek philosopher Aristotle compiled his thoughts on the art of rhetoric into On Rhetoric, including his theory on the three persuasive appeals.

Origins of Ethos, Pathos, Logos — On Rhetoric by Aristotle

Many teachers of communication, speech, and rhetoric consider Aristotle’s On Rhetoric to be a seminal work in the field. Indeed, the editors of The Rhetoric of Western Thought: From the Mediterranean World to the Global Setting call it “the most important single work on persuasion ever written.” It is hard to argue this claim; most advice from modern books can be traced back to Aristotle’s foundations.

In The Classic Review, Sally van Noorden points to George Kennedy’s modern translation as the standard reference text for studying On RhetoricKennedy’s translation is the source that I use. (At the time of this writing, it is available from for $24.56, 18% off the list price.)


Before you can convince an audience to accept anything you say, they have to accept you as credible.

There are many aspects to building your credibility:

  • Does the audience respect you?
  • Does the audience believe you are of good character?
  • Does the audience believe you are generally trustworthy?
  • Does the audience believe you are an authority on this speech topic?

Keep in mind that it isn’t enough for you to know that you are a credible source. (This isn’t about your confidence, experience, or expertise.) Your audience must know this. Ethos is your level of credibility as perceived by your audience.

We will define ethos in greater detail, and we will study examples of how to establish and build ethos.


Pathos is the quality of a persuasive presentation which appeals to the emotions of the audience.

  • Do your words evoke feelings of … love? … sympathy? … fear?
  • Do your visuals evoke feelings of compassion? … envy?
  • Does your characterization of the competition evoke feelings of hate? contempt?

Emotional connection can be created in many ways by a speaker, perhaps most notably by stories. The goal of a story, anecdote, analogy, simile, and metaphor is often to link an aspect of our primary message with a triggered emotional response from the audience.

We will study pathos in greater detail, and look at how to build pathos by tapping into different audience emotions.


Logos is synonymous with a logical argument.

  • Does your message make sense?
  • Is your message based on facts, statistics, and evidence?
  • Will your call-to-action lead to the desired outcome that you promise?

We will see why logos is critical to your success, and examine ways to construct a logical, reasoned argument.

Which is most important? Ethos? Pathos? or Logos?

Suppose two speakers give speeches about a new corporate restructuring strategy.

  • The first speaker — a grade nine student — gives a flawless speech pitching strategy A which is both logically sound and stirs emotions.
  • The second speaker — a Fortune 500 CEO — gives a boring speech pitching strategy B.

Which speech is more persuasive? Is the CEO’s speech more persuasive, simply because she has much more credibility (ethos)?

Some suggest that pathos is the most critical of the three. In You’ve Got to Be Believed to Be Heard, Bert Decker says that people buy on emotion (pathos) and justify with fact (logos). True? You decide.

Aristotle believed that logos should be the most important of the three persuasive appeals. As a philosopher and a master of logical reasoning, he believed that logosshould be the only required persuasive appeal. That is, if you demonstrated logos, you should not need either ethos or pathos.

However, Aristotle stated that logos alone is not sufficient. Not only is it not sufficient on its own, but it is no more important than either of the two other pillars. He argued that all three persuasive appeals are necessary.

Is he right? What do you think?

What is Ethos and
Why is it Critical for Speakers?

Jan 31st, 2010

Is your audience listening even before you speak your first words?

Do they have high expectations?

Are they prepared to be convinced by what you have to say?

If not, you are suffering from poor ethos.

The first article in the Ethos, Pathos, and Logos series introduced these core concepts for speakers.

In this article, we define ethos, we look at ways that an audience measures your ethos, and we examine why it is so critical for a successful speech.

What is Ethos?

Ethos was originally defined by Aristotle in On Rhetoric as beingtrustworthy. He stated that we are more likely to believe people who have good character.

Aristotle later broadened this definition of ethos to add that we are more likely to be persuaded by someone who is similar to us, whether by their intrinsic characteristics (e.g. physical age) or the qualities they adapt (e.g. youthful language).

Aristotle does not include the concept of either a speaker’s authority (e.g. a government leader) or reputation (e.g. an industry expert) in his definition of ethos, but this reflects the rather narrow role for public speaking in his world. In our world, where speaking takes so many forms and where we often know a great deal about the speaker, we will include both of these elements in our definition of ethos.

 (as perceived by the audience)

So, then, we will measure the ethos of a speaker by four related characteristics:

  1. Similarity (to the audience)
  2. Authority (relative to the audience)
  3. Reputation or Expertise(relative to the topic)

We will explore each of these characteristics below. In a later article, we look at specific things you can do to improve your ethos as defined by these root characteristics.

1. Ethos = Trustworthiness

An audience is more likely to be persuaded by someone who they trust, and this is largely independent of the topic being presented. If the audience trusts you, then they expect that what you are telling them is true.

If the audience trusts you, then they expect that what you are telling them is true.

Your trustworthiness is enhanced if the audience believes you have a strong moral character, as measured by concepts like:

  • Honest,
  • Ethical or moral,
  • Generous, or
  • Benevolent

Additionally, your audience tends to trust you if you are a member of a group with which these qualities are often associated (e.g. a pastor; a firefighter).

2. Ethos = Similarity to the Audience

Your audience is more receptive to being persuaded by someone with whom they can identify. Like trustworthiness, this aspect of ethos is largely independent of the topic.

If you share characteristics with your audience, great!

If you don’t, you can adapt your language, your mannerisms, your dress, your visuals, and your overall style to match your audience. Consider this the chameleon effect. Keep in mind that there are limitations to how much you can adapt your speech and delivery. Beyond this limit, your audience will see you as lacking authenticity and that’s bad.

If you are similar to your audience, then your audience will be more receptive to your ideas in the same way that you are more likely to open a door at night if you recognize the voice of the person on the other side.

There are many characteristics which you might share with your audience:

  • Age, Gender, Race, Culture
    Example: A youthful audience identifies with a youthful speaker, just as a mature audience will identify more with a mature speaker.
  • Socio-economic status
    Rich? Poor? Educated? Middle-class? Urban? Rural?
  • Citizenship
    Where you are from, whether in a global sense (what country are you from?), or in a local sense (are you urban, or rural?)
  • Career or Affiliation
    Do you share a profession with your audience?
    Are you a member of the same organization as your audience?
  • Personality
    Analytical? Emotional? Reserved? Outgoing?

If you are similar to your audience, then your audience will be more receptive to your ideas in the same way that you are more likely to open a door at night if you recognize the voice of the person on the other side.

3. Ethos = Authority

The greater a person’s authority, whether formal (e.g. an elected official) or moral (e.g. the Dalai Lama), the more likely an audience is inclined to listen and be persuaded.

Authority comes from the relationship between the speaker and the audience and is, in most cases, fairly easy to recognize. Several types of authority include:

  • Organizational authority
    e.g. CEO, manager, supervisor
  • Political authority
    e.g. president, political leader
  • Religious authority
    e.g. priest, pastor, nun
  • Educational authority
    e.g. principal, teacher, professor
  • Elder authority
    e.g. anyone who is older than us

In addition to these, every speaker has authority just from being the speaker. When you speak, you are the one at the front of the room, often on an elevated platform, sometimes with a microphone or spotlight. You control the moment and thus, have temporary authority.

4. Ethos = Reputation (or Expertise)

Expertise is what you know about your topic.

Reputation is what your audience knows about what you know about your topic.

Your ethos is influenced by your reputation. Of the four characteristics of ethos, reputation is the one most connected to the topic of your presentation.

Expertise is what you knowabout your topic.
Reputation is what your audience knows about what you know about your topic.

Your reputation is determined by several related factors:

  • Your experience in the field
    How many years have you worked with or studied this topic?
  • Your proximity to the topic or concept
    Are you the one who invented the concept? Were you involved at all? Or are you more of a third-party?
  • Your production in the field
    Books or academic papers written. Blogs authored. Commercial products developed.
  • Your demonstrated skill
    If you are talking about money management, are you a successful money manager?
  • Your achievements, or recognition from others in the field
    Awards won. Testimonials earned. Records achieved. Milestones reached.

How do these characteristics combine?

Ethos cannot be assessed with a checkbox (“yes, you have ethos” or “no, you don’t.”) like you can with, say, pregnancy. It’s more like beauty in the sense that there’s a whole range of beauty and many ways to obtain it. (And, it’s in the eye of the beholder… your audience!)

This is easy to see if you examine how the four characteristics of ethos combine in various ways. Consider the following examples:

  • A CEO speaking to her employees
    As the CEO, she has organizational authority, and this is usually accompanied by a reputation built on years of success within the company. However, she may not be very similar to most of the employees (older than most; richer than most; perhaps more reserved and analytical). Nonetheless, her trustworthiness is solid based on past history of honest communication with employees.
  • The U.S. President giving the State of the Union address
    The President has more authority than most people on the planet based on his job title.  His reputation and trustworthiness probably depend a fair bit on your political beliefs. As for similarity to his audience, it’s a mixed bag — He’s American, and he’s not too old nor too young. But, he’s a politician and in a socio-economic class which puts him apart from most citizens.
  • A Teacher speaking to his students
    He probably has a record of trustworthiness, as long as he truthfully announces when assignments are due and exams are scheduled.  He hasauthority over the 16-year-olds, both by way of position and by age. He has taught in the school for 10 years (expertise), including many of his students’ older siblings (reputation). Unfortunately, he’s not really similar to his students in terms of age, wealth, career, or choice of music.

All of them have significant ethos as they score high on several measures. In particular, authority and reputation often are closely related. (The things you did to earn the reputation often earn authority as well.)

On the other hand, none have perfect ethos. Indeed, this is very hard to obtain as some measures conflict. For example, your authority relative to your audience often weakens your similarity with them.

Why is Ethos Critical for Speakers?

If you have high ethos, your audience is listening and attentive from your first word.

If you have high ethos, your audience is listening and attentive from your first word. They expect that you have something valuable to say, and they are eager to hear it. They are likely to be persuaded by you, provided that your speech is compelling. A bad speech will still sink you, but you’ll have more leeway.

If you have low ethos, your audience may not be listening or paying attention. (In fact, they may not even show up! Poor ethos doesn’t attract a crowd.) Expectations are low, and a poor opening will kill you. Your audience can be persuaded, but your speech needs to be much better to do it.

Unlike pathos and logos (about which we will learn in future articles), your ethos as a speaker is primarily established before you speak your first words. For example, either you have expertise about your topic, or you don’t. Either you are the CEO of the company, or you aren’t.

How do you Establish Ethos?

Having said that, there are many ways to establish ethos and to boost your ethos throughout your speech. 

15 Tactics to Establish Ethos: Examples for Persuasive Speaking

Feb 7th, 2010

Your speaking ethos is critical to ensure that your audience is present, listening, and open to being persuaded by your ideas.

But, how do you maximize your ethos for a given speech and a given audience? Is ethos fixed before you open your mouth? Is there anything you can do during a speech that makes a difference?

This article shows you practical tactics you can employ to establish and increase your ethos.

Definition of Ethos

The previous article in the Ethos, Pathos, and Logos series defined ethos along four dimensions:

  1. Trustworthiness
    Does your audience believes you are a good person who can be trusted to tell the truth?
  2. Similarity
    Does your audience identify with you?
  3. Authority
    Do you have formal or informal authority relative to your audience?
  4. Reputation
    How much expertise does your audience think you have in this field?

We will refer to these four dimensions throughout this article as we link practical actions back to their roots. Look for them in parentheses, like this: (Similiarity). When a certain tactic applies to all four dimensions of ethos, we’ll denote it like this: (All)

Remember that these dimensions are not always independent; rather, they are often intertwined.

Consider the difference between your weight and your overall health.

Caution: Ethos is not an exact measure

  • Weight is precise. Yesterday, you weighted 121 pounds. Today, you weigh 120.5 pounds. If you burn 3500 calories through exercise, you’ll drop one pound in weight. Last week, you weighed three pounds less than your sister.
  • Health, on the other hand, is not precise. Your health cannot be described by a single number. Still, you can make some assertions. You can be pretty sure that one person is healthier than another. Further, you can be confident that certain actions will improve your health (e.g. exercising more; eating spinach) and other actions will damage your health (e.g. smoking;  eating cake).

Ethos is not like weight. You can’t say “Oh, my ethos score with this audience is 165 today. Yippee!” (Well, you can say it, but it would be meaningless.)

Instead, ethos is like your physical health. You probably have less ethos than Steve Jobs at a technology convention. Having come to this epiphany, you should also realize that there are certain actions which improve your ethos, and certain actions that damage your ethos. Examples of these actions will be the focus of the remainder of this article.

You probably have less ethos than Steve Jobs at a technology convention.

How to Improve Ethos – Long Before Your Speech

Ethos is about your audience’s perception of you, and this perception can be formed over many months or years, or perhaps over many past speeches. So, we’ll first examine things you can do in the long run to improve your ethos.

#1: Be a Good Person (Trustworthiness)

Let’s start with an easy one. Be a good person, do good things, and think good thoughts. There are far more important reasons to follow this mantra than to gain speaking ethos. Nonetheless, your ethos will grow. The positive effect you have on those around you will spread, and will become known to your audience.

Example: How much ethos does Tiger Woods have (in the wake of the fidelity scandal) in terms of trustworthiness?

#2: Develop Deep Expertise in Topics You Speak About (Reputation)

Your expertise will often differentiate you from competing speakers.

People are busy. (There’s a news flash!) There are many things competing for their attention, and there are often many other speakers competing for their attention. Why will they choose to listen to you speak? Your expertise will often differentiate you from competing speakers.

Example: Suppose an audience has two options for concurrent sessions at a conference:

  1. Speaker A has very interesting ideas, but only 2 years of work in a related field.
  2. Speaker B has written two best-selling books in the field, and is a sought after consultant with 15 years of experience.

Who is the audience going to choose?

There’s a corollary for this rule too. Stick to speaking about topics for which you have deep expertise.

#3: Market Yourself (Reputation)

Developing the expertise doesn’t earn you any ethos if you don’t market yourself and let the world know about it. You’ve got to take charge of your personal brandand make sure that it’s a brand that emphasizes the qualities you want to emphasize.

#4: Analyze Your Audience (Similarity)

Thorough audience analysis is critical for improving your ethos. (It’s critical for improving your pathos and logos too… but that’s a topic for another article. Stay tuned.)

Audience analysis will reveal valuable clues that you can use to adapt yourself to your audience. Seek to find common traits that you share and highlight them. For other traits, find ways to adapt your language, your mannerisms, your dress, your PowerPoint visuals, or your stories to match the audience.

Example: You’ve been invited to speak to a company that is new to you. You don’t know whether their corporate atmosphere is formal or relaxed. Through audience analysis, you discover that nobody in the company wears a suit to work. So, you choose a less formal outfit to adapt to your audience.

How to Improve Ethos — Before Your Speech

Showing up early demonstrates your dedication to serve the audience.

The day of your presentation is too late to develop deep expertise about your topic. However, there’s much you can do before you say your first words:

#5: Show up Early to Welcome the Audience (Trustworthiness)

Showing up with minutes to spare gives the impression that you almost had somewhere more important to be. Showing up early demonstrates your dedication to serve the audience. This, in turn, builds trust.

#6: Share Event Experience with Audience (Similarity)

If your presentation is part of a larger event, try to attend as much of it as you can. Every minute you spend with your audience as an audience member builds your level of affiliation with them. The event becomes a shared experience. The audience sees you as one of them.

#7: Highlight Ethos in Marketing Materials (All)

Depending on the event, you may have an opportunity to provide an author’s bio to complement your speech title. Seize this opportunity. Make it clear to your potential audience why they should spend their time (and their money) to listen toyou. This is particularly critical if you are at an event with concurrent sessions. Don’t assume that people make their decisions on topic alone.

Example: Suppose you will be speaking at the Arizona Teachers Association Annual Conference. Positive testimonials from past presentations to teacher associations would be effective to establish your reputation.

#8: Highlight Ethos in Introduction (All)

Your introduction is probably the single best opportunity for you to establish your ethos with this audience on this day. For this reason, you should always write your own introduction. Don’t let an event organizer wing it. Highlight the essential facts that establish your trustworthiness, similarity, authority, and reputation. As in the example above, pick the material specific to this audience and topic.

Beware that you don’t overdo it. Long introductions are boring. Long introductions filled with every accomplishment you’ve had since age 21 are boring and pompous.

You should always write your own introduction. Don’t let an event organizer wing it.

Example: Suppose you are delivering user training for employees to introduce the new corporate financial system. Key items to highlight in your brief introduction might be:

  1. You were the project manager for implementing the new system (Reputation)
  2. You have implemented similar systems twice before in your career (Reputation)

Note: Much more on effective evaluations can be found in the article: How to Introduce a Speaker: 16 Essential Tips for Success.

How to Improve Ethos — During Your Speech

If you’ve done well so far, your audience is listening from your first word. Don’t get complacent. Continue building your ethos through your presentation:

#9: Tell stories or anecdotes which show you are consistent with your message (Trustworthiness)

Don’t be a hypocrite. Nobody will act on your advice if you don’t.

Example: Suppose you are trying to persuade your audience to support Habitat for Humanity, an international organization that builds homes to eliminate poverty. You can raise your ethos by crafting stories or anecdotes which demonstrate that you are active in the local Habitat organization.

By demonstrating that you follow your own advice, your audience is more likely to believe you on other points which cannot be so easily verified (for example, statistics about Habitat for Humanity).

Don’t be a hypocrite. Nobody will act on your advice if you don’t.

#10: Use language familiar to your audience (Similarity)

Using language familiar to your audience is good for two reasons:

  1. It aids in their understanding (which, indirectly, makes you more persuasive).
  2. It helps the audience identify with you which boosts your ethos.

By “familiar language”, I mean more than English versus Dutch. As well, I mean more than using words which are understood by the audience.

To really get your audience to identify with you, you must use the terms that they would use to describe the concepts.

Example: A few examples might make this clearer:

  1. Many people would understand that property agent is the same thing as areal estate agent. However, depending where you speak, one of these terms will be more common. Use it!
  2. Acronyms are dangerous if you are using ones that your audience doesn’t know. Conversely, if everyone in your audience uses the term P.M. on a daily basis, you should use that term rather than project manager.

#11: Use visuals/examples which resonate with your audience (Similarity)

For any given message, you have a multitude of options for stories, anecdotes, visuals, or other techniques to convey your speech. From this multitude, try selecting the ones which have the biggest impact with this audience. Not only will you get the big impact, but the audience will also start thinking that you are just like them. That’s good for you!

Example: Suppose you are speaking to company management on the topic of goal-setting. Through audience analysis, you discovered that the company sponsored employees to run the local marathon. Although there are many metaphors and visuals you could use to talk about goal-setting, you choose to draw parallels between corporate goal-setting and the goals one sets when tackling a challenging race. You feature several vivid photographs of marathon races to complement your arguments.

#12: Choose quotations and statistics from the right sources (All)

Quotations and statistics are common speech tools which, on the surface, may contribute more to your logos (logical argument) than ethos. Nonetheless, if you choose the right sources, you can boost your ethos too.

When you reference a reputable source, you boost your ethos by association.

Example: When researching a speech about cancer research, you discover two statistics that will help you make your argument.

  1. The source of the first statistic is some unknown author on Wikipedia.
  2. The source of the second statistic is the Mayo Clinic.

Which statistic is your audience more likely to believe? If you guessed the Mayo Clinic, you’re right. When you reference a reputable source, you boost your ethos by association.

So, the general guideline is to use quotations and statistics from sources which have high ethos to your audience, whether by trustworthiness, similarity, authority, or reputation.

#13: Reference people in the audience, or events earlier in the day (Similarity)

Earlier, we mentioned that, if possible, you should try to share the event experience with your audience. When you do, you can increase your ethos by incorporating something from that shared experience (or someone in the audience) into your speech. Your audience sees you as “one of them”, and a silent bond forms.

Example: In the presentation preceding yours, the speaker repeated a memorable phrase “It’s never too late.” If you can do it in a meaningful way, try to weave this phrase into your material.

How to Improve Ethos — After Your Speech

Your talk is done, but your effectiveness as a speaker is not yet written in stone. Here’s a few things you can do to continue to build up your ethos with this audience, or with your next audience.

#14: Make yourself available to your audience (Similarity)

Whenever possible, stick around after your presentation is over. Mingle with the audience and continue to share in the event experience. Not only will you have the opportunity for productive follow-up conversations, but your audience will see you as accessible, and accessible is good.

In short, your ethos will rise.

#15: Follow through on promises made during your presentation (Trustworthiness)

One technique for managing a short Q&A session is to defer thorny or complex questions to a later time.

Example: If someone asks a question as part of a 10-minute Q&A session that would take you 20 minutes to answer, it’s okay to defer the question saying: “I’d like to give the complete answer, but we don’t have time today. I’ll send it out to the group on email.”

It’s okay to do that, but only if you do follow up! If you fail to do so, your audience will judge you as being untrustworthy. Even if your presentation was great, your influence on their future actions is diminished.

In the above examples, you may have noticed that trustworthiness and similarity were mentioned much more often than authority or reputation. This is not an accident.

Ethos in the short term versus the long term

  • You can significantly influence your audience’s on-the-spot assessment of your trustworthiness and similarity by following the advice above. While your audience may have preconceptions about you in these dimensions, you may be able to change their mind.
  • It is much harder to change your audience’s on-the-spot assessment of your authority and reputation. Your audience’s perception of you along these dimensions is mostly fixed before your speech starts. Either you are an expert in the field, or you are not. Either you have formal authority over your audience, or you don’t. Not much that you say in a one hour speech will change either of these.

What is Pathos and
Why is it Critical for Speakers?

Mar 8th, 2010

American psychologist William James wrote:

The emotions aren’t always immediately subject to reason, but they are always immediately subject to action.

Emotions — whether fear or love, pity or anger — are powerful motivators for your audience. An audience emotionally stimulated in the right way is more likely to accept your claims and act on your requests. By learning how to make emotional appeals, you greatly improve your effectiveness as a speaker.

In this article of the Ethos, Pathos, and Logos series, we turn our attention to pathos, and the role of emotion in persuasive public speaking.

What is Pathos?

The word pathos is derived from the ancient Greek word for “suffering” or “experience”.

Think about other words from the same root:

  • All of these related words focus on the concept of shared experience or shared emotions.
     and pathologydescribe the source of a patient’s disease or suffering.
  • Empathy is the ability to share the emotions of another person.
  • Sympathy describes a similar ability to share emotions, usually negative emotions such as pain or sadness.
  • Antipathy equates with strong, negative emotions toward another.
  • Something that is pathetic is likely to arouse either compassion or contempt.

As a speaker, your goal is to create a shared emotional experience with your audience. Pathos describes your ability to evoke audience emotions and strategically connect these emotions with elements of your speech.

Pathos: Evoking Emotions In Your Audience

This leads to the obvious question — what emotions can you evoke?

The simple answer is “all of them,” but that isn’t too helpful.

There are a numerous theories of emotion. Philosophers and psychologists have attempted to itemize and categorize emotions into convenient buckets for thousands of years.

According to translator George Kennedy, Aristotle provides “the earliest systematic discussion of human psychology” in On Rhetoric. Aristotle identified the following seven sets of emotions, with each pair representing opposites:

As a speaker, your goal is to create a shared emotional experience with your audience.

  • Anger and Calmness
  • Friendship and Enmity
  • Fear and Confidence
  • Shame and Shamelessness
  • Kindness and Unkindness
  • Pity and Indignation
  • Envy and Emulation

By comparison, twentieth century psychologist Robert Plutchik proposed a set of eight basic emotions along with eight advanced emotions. He, too, arranges them in opposite pairs:

  • Basic Emotions
    • Joy — Sadness
    • Trust — Disgust
    • Fear — Anger
    • Surprise — Anticipation
  • Advanced Emotions
    • Optimism — Disappointment
    • Love — Remorse
    • Submission — Contempt
    • Awe — Aggressiveness

Many others have offered different categories of emotions.

It isn’t important to find the correct classification of emotions; indeed, there may not be a correct classification. Instead, the goals of a persuasive speaker are to:

  1. be aware of the wide range of emotions,
  2. decide which emotions to evoke, and
  3. learn how these emotions can be evoked in your audience.

Pathos: Why Evoke Audience Emotions at All?

If evoking a particular emotion was the final result, it would quite a useless endeavor. Randomly making the audience feel anger or joy or fear or hope will not, in itself, get you anywhere. Emotions do not persuade in solitude.

Aristotle knew that the emotion must be linked with your speech arguments. For example, Aristotle defines anger and describes what causes someone to become angry. He then encourages speakers to associate that anger with one’s opponent:

[...] it is clear that it might be needful in a speech to put [the audience] into a state of mind of those who are inclined to anger and show one’s opponents as responsible for those things that are the causes of the anger and that they are the sort of people against whom anger is directed.

In other words, make your audience angry, and direct that anger at your opponent. If your audience is angry at your opponent, they will be more receptive to hear your ideas.

Just as having high ethos makes your audience more likely to be persuaded, pathos can also make your audience more susceptible to being persuaded. By making an emotional connection with your audience:

  • Your audience will be more likely to understand your perspective (via the shared emotion or experience).
  • Your audience will be more likely to accept your claims.
  • Your audience will be more likely to act on your call-to-action.

Positive Emotions versus Negative Emotions

If you utilize pathos well, your audience will feel the same emotions that you do. Your audience will feel the pain, the joy, the hope, and the fear of the characters in your stories. They will no longer be passive listeners. They will be motivated to act.

Are all emotions equal? In other words, will any emotion do? Will my audience adopt my views equally if I make them feel surprise as when I make them feel anger?

No. The evoked emotion must be appropriate to the context. In general, you want the audience to feel the same emotions that you feel about your arguments and the opposing arguments.

One convenient way to see this is by looking at the difference between evoking “positive” emotions versus “negative” emotions.

  • Positive emotions (e.g. surprise, joy, awe) should be associated with yourclaims, or your “side” of the persuasive argument.
  • Negative emotions (e.g. fear, contempt, disappointment) should be associated with your opponent’s claims.
    • Sometimes, you may have a human opponent (e.g. a political debate).
    • Other times, your opponent may be the status quo which you are seeking to change.

Why is Pathos Critical for Speakers?

In summary:

  • If you utilize pathos well, your audience will feel the same emotions that you do. Your audience will feel the pain, the joy, the hope, and the fear of the characters in your stories. They will no longer be passive listeners. They will be motivated to act.
  • If you do not utilize pathos well, your audience will not be motivated to disrupt the status quo. They will be more likely to find fault in your logical arguments (logos, the topic for a future article). They will not feel invested in your cause.

How do you Develop Pathos?

How do you develop it?

In this article we defined what pathos is and why it is important, but there are still several major questions:

  • Is it your speech content that creates pathos, or your delivery?
  • What are the most effective strategies you can employ?

18 Paths to Pathos: 
How to Connect with Your Audience

Mar 15th, 2010

The previous article of the Ethos, Pathos, and Logos series defined pathos and described why emotional connection is so important for your presentations.

In this article, we explore how to build strong pathos in your presentations through a variety of emotional pathways.

Pathos Superhighways: Your Primary Paths to Emotional Connection

All roads are not created equally. Freeways move lots of traffic fast; country lanes often guide just a single, meandering car.

Similarly, all pathways to emotional connection with your audience are not created equally. Some paths are more effective and more commonly used to connect emotionally. Let’s review these superhighways from which you can create the pathos of your presentation.

  1. Themes and Points
  2. Words
  3. Analogies and Metaphors
  4. Stories
  5. Humor
  6. Visuals
  7. Delivery Techniques

#1: Select Emotional Themes and Points

You always have choices to make about which points to include in the time allotted. Be sure that some of them carry emotional power.

#2: Choose Words which Add Emotional Emphasis

Example: Suppose you have identified fifteen reasons why your audience should consider public speaking training. Unfortunately, your short speech only allows you to discuss three or four of them. Which do you choose? “Conquer your public speaking fear” probably evokes stronger emotions than “Learn to speak with more precision.”

Some words are emotionally neutral, while some are emotionally charged. Exercise judgment to select the words which fit the emotional tone that works to your advantage.

Example: Consider the difference in words used to label a suicide bomber on opposing sides of a political war. What emotion does the label “terrorist” evoke? What emotion does the label “martyr” evoke? Which one would best complement your speech?

#3: Use Rich Analogies and Metaphors

Analogies, metaphors, and other figures of speech not only make your speech more interesting, but often allow you to make an emotional connection by tapping into emotions already felt by your audience.

Example: If you speak about gang violence, you might plainly state that “We have a problem in our city…” On the other hand, you might say “We have a cancer in our city…” The latter analogy draws on your audience’s pre-existing feelings about cancer, and makes them want to eradicate the cause!

#4: Tell Stories

Stories are often the quickest path to the greatest emotional connection with your audience. Carefully crafted stories allow you to evoke any of a wide range of emotions. This may explain why stories are often the most memorable components of a speech.

#5: Use Humor

Stories are often the quickest path to the greatest emotional connection with your audience.

Humor is closely related to storytelling, because you usually arrive at humor through stories. Nonetheless, humor merits special mention. Humor in a presentation evokes emotions such as joy and surprise, and often triggers secondary emotions such as calmness and friendship. If your audience is laughing, they are having fun. If they are having fun, they are happy to be listening to you and they are attentive. As an added boost, humor makes your audience like you (at least for a moment), and that boosts your ethos too.

Nearly every presentation would benefit from more humor. How can you add humor to yours?

#6: Connect through Visuals

Maybe you have slides with photographs. Maybe you have a prop. Either way, a concrete visual element opens many more emotional pathways than abstract words alone.

Examples: Consider the following pairs, and ask yourself which creates the stronger emotional impact:

  • Saying that “smoking damages lung tissue” versus Showing a slide with a photograph of tar-like lung tissue
  • Claiming that cords from window blinds pose a risk to children versusShowing (with a prop) how the cords might strangle a baby doll.

#7: Model the Emotion with Your Delivery Techniques

The emotional effectiveness of stories, humor, visuals, and other “content” tools often depends greatly on your delivery. Great delivery magnifies emotions; poor delivery nullifies them.

Example: Words from your mouth or slides on a screen may induce sadness in your audience, but the effect is multiplied when combined with sadness on your face, in your posture, and in your voice.

Additional Paths to Develop Pathos in Your Speech

Now that you are familiar with the core pathos tools, we can sample some of the additional tools at the disposal of a skilled speaker. Many of these build on top of the core building blocks above.

#8: Analyze Your Audience

When your audience feels an emotion, they are motivated to act.

Without doing any audience analysis at all, you always know two things:

  1. Everyone in your audience is human.
  2. Most humans share many emotional triggers.

As a result, you can always achieve moderate success applying the first seven tools.

But to hit a pathos home run, you’ve got to analyze your audience. Are they old or young? Technical or non-technical? Male or female? Rich or poor? Liberal or conservative? These and many other factors will impact which emotional triggers will have the strongest impact. Do the analysis!

#9: Evoke Curiosity with Marketing Materials

When your audience feels an emotion, they are motivated to act. If the emotion is pity, they are motivated to address the situation (e.g. perhaps by donating money to your charity).

In a similar way, if you make your audience curious through your marketing materials, they are motivated to act. How does one act on curiosity?

  • Show up to the presentation.
  • Pay attention.
  • Take notes.
  • Engage with the speaker and follow along.

So, make your audience curious. Include a bold claim or a startling statistic. (Of course, you need to follow up in your presentation.) Focus on the benefits to be realized by your audience, and their curiosity will attract them to your speech.

#10: Evoke Surprise (in the Introduction and elsewhere)

A great way to connect immediately with your audience is to start with a surprise. I admit there’s no logical reason to suggest that a speaker who starts with a surprise will deliver a more valuable presentation. But, we’re not talking logic here (that’s the next article on logos). A surprise gets your audience excited. Getting them excited makes them listen.

Surprise can be effective elsewhere, particularly as the length of your speech grows. Like curiosity, your audience is motivated to act on the surprise. How? They try to resolve how this surprising element fits with the rest of the presentation. To do that, they have to listen.

Note that I’m not talking about deliberately confusing your audience. Surprise is planned, and is usually followed quickly by an explanation. Confusion, on the other hand, results from poor planning, and usually lasts beyond the end of your presentation, at least until the Q&A.

#11: Use Vivid, Sensory Words

When you use sensory words, your audience feels emotions they have associated with those words.

Tool #2 above advised the use of emotional words. One way to do this is to concentrate on concrete, vivid, sensory words. When you use sensory words, your audience feels emotions they have associated with those words.

Example: When you mention “the touch of your father’s flannel shirt” or “the aroma of your grandmother’s kitchen”, you’ve done more than just mention fabric and smells. You have evoked emotions which, depending on your audience, probably include loving memories of childhood.

#12: Be Authentic

Remember that the goal of pathos is to connect with the audience and shareemotions with them.

To share an emotion, you’ve got to feel it too.

Pathos is not about tugging emotional strings as if you were a puppeteer. You get zero marks for that. Actually, you get negative marks for that, because your ethos gets destroyed when the audience realizes you are toying with them.

Be honest. Share your presentation in a way that your audience will feel as passionately as you feel.

#13: Match Your Vocal Delivery to the Emotion

Vocal delivery is one clear clue to how you feel about what you are saying. Your tone, volume, pace, and other vocal qualities should mirror your emotions.


  • Anger might be accompanied by a loud, defiant voice.
  • Sadness or despair might call for a softer voice.
  • Optimism or excitement might be matched by a quickened pace.

#14: Match Your Gestures to the Emotion

Your body is another clue for the audience to gauge your emotions. If you are telling a story about love or joy, your body shouldn’t look like a mannequin. If you are revealing your own disappointment in a story, your shoulders should probably droop, and you shouldn’t be smiling.

Some speakers find it difficult to do this because they are speaking about past events where the emotions have dulled with the memories over time. The emotions were felt then, but aren’t as easy to summon now. You’ve got to show the audience how it felt in the moment. Remember that they are hearing this story for the first time.

#15: Connect with Your Eyes

To share an emotion, you’ve got to feel it too.

Eye contact isn’t a scorecard. Your aim isn’t to collect check-marks from each person who you look at over the course of your presentation.

Meaningful eye contact is about connecting with one person at a time. Your eyes should express your frustration, your contempt, or your joy. In the ideal case, the person you’re looking at will mirror your emotion back to you. That’s connection!

#16: Eliminate Physical Barriers to Connect with Your Audience

In most speaking situations, your goal should be to reduce barriers between you and your audience. Get out from behind the lectern. Move closer to the audience. Ask them to sit in the seats near the front.

The closer you are to your audience, the more personal your presentation feels for them. The more personal it feels, the greater your chance for emotional connection. For much more on this topic, read Nick Morgan’s excellent article: How to Connect With Your Audience by Moving Closer.

#17: Eliminate Competing Emotions in the Environment

There usually are a myriad of competing elements in and around the room which are evoking emotions in your audience. For instance, a marching band practicing outside might be annoying your audience. If this annoyance is strong, it may prevent you from evoking competing emotions with your presentation.

The solution is to take charge and eliminate or minimize these causes whenever you can so that your audience can focus on you.


  • Hunger and biological needs create strong emotions. Take appropriate breaks if you delivering lengthy training.
  • Excessive noise, temperature extremes (either too hot or too cold), or poor lighting make your audience uncomfortable and perhaps even angry at you or the organizer. Do whatever you can to optimize the conditions.
  • Speaking over your allotted time may make your audience nervous or anxious if they’ve got to pick up their kids. Stick to your time bounds.
  • Hecklers — and your response to them — can evoke many emotions. Learn how to handle them smoothly and professionally.

#18: Avoid Tripping Emotional Land Mines

Situations where you aren’t familiar with your audience are potentially dangerous. Perhaps you’ve been invited to speak at a company which has just experienced massive layoffs. Perhaps you’ve been invited to speak to an audience of a different culture. In either case, you’ve got to be careful not to say something (or gesture something) which accidentally triggers an emotion that you had not intended.

If you’re lucky, you’ll just say something that provokes unexpected laughter. If you’re not, you’ll say something that deeply offends your audience to the degree that they tune you out completely.

What do you think?

Your best defense against this is extensive audience analysis. Do your homework. Sometimes, it may still happen despite your best efforts. In this case, it’s important that you are actively reading your audience. If you have evoked an unintended emotion, you can usually tell. It’s wise to address it and, if necessary, apologize for the unintended offense.

The methods listed above are far from exhaustive. There are many other ways to connect emotionally with your audience as a speaker.

What is Logos and
Why is it Critical for Speakers?

Aug 15th, 2010

Have you ever listened to a speaker and thought:

  • “I’m… so… lost.”
  • “How did he come to thatconclusion?”
  • “Interesting theory, but it wouldn’t work for me.”
  • “No way! That number has to be wrong.”
  • “Nice slides, but I’ll stick with my own method.”

In all of these cases, the speaker probably suffered from poor logos. As a result, it’s doubtful that you adopted their central message or followed the call-to-action.

In this article of the Ethos, Pathos, and Logos series, we examine logos and the importance of conveying your message in a way that is both understandable and convincing to your audience.

 is the Greek root word from which the English logic is derived.

What is Logos?

So, it isn’t surprising that, in speaking, logos is often equated with “logical reasoning” or “an argument based on reasoning”.

You might be thinking that logic is dry and boring. You might also be thinking that you want to be a dynamic and fun speaker, and so logical reasoning isn’t really that important to you.

While you may not get turned on by logical analysis, it is critical to your success. Before we can see why logos matters to you as a speaker, however, we need to define a few terms.

A (Very) Brief Tour of Logical Reasoning

Logical reasoning has two flavors:

  1. Deductive reasoning, and
  2. Inductive reasoning

Deductive Reasoning

Deductive reasoning consists of one or more deductive arguments. You generally start with one or more premises, and then derive a conclusion from them. Premises can be facts, claims, evidence, or a previously proven conclusion. The key is that in a deductive argument, if your premises are true, then your conclusion must be true.

For example, consider the following deductive argument:

  1. Audiences hate all boring things. (premise)
  2. Bullet-point slides are boring. (premise)
  3. Therefore, audiences hate bullet-point slides. (conclusion)

So, if audiences hate boring things (yes!) and if bullet-point slides are boring (yes!), then audiences must hate bullet-point slides.

Inductive Reasoning

Inductive reasoning is similar in that it consists of premises which lead to aconclusion. The difference is that the conclusion is not guaranteed to be true — we can only state it with some degree of confidence.

For example, consider the following inductive argument:

  1. All Six Minutes articles you have read in the past were insightful. (premise)
  2. This is a Six Minutes article. (premise)
  3. Therefore, this article is insightful. (conclusion)

Given these premises, it is reasonable to expect that this article will be insightful, but it cannot be stated with certainty based on those premises. It must be inferred.

Audiences and Logical Arguments

Your audience is applying deductive and inductive reasoning all the time.

Okay, so why is this important?  It’s important because your audience is applying deductive and inductive reasoning all the time. It happens subconsciously, but they are doing it before you start speaking, while you speak, and after you’ve finished.

Let’s consider an example.

Example Scenario: You are trying to convince your audience to try a new weight-loss diet.

  • You claim that the new diet reduces hunger. (premise A)
  • You claim that reducing hunger will reduce caloric intake. (premise B)
  • You claim that reducing caloric intake will cause weight loss. (premise C)
  • You conclude that the new diet will cause weight loss.
    (This is a sound, deductive conclusion which must be true if premises A, B, and C are true.)

What could your audience be thinking?

  • Every diet I have tried in the past has failed miserably. (premise D)
  • This new diet is like those failed diets. (premise E)
  • Therefore, this new diet will fail miserably.
    (This is a reasonable inductive conclusion drawn from premises D and E.)

Because their own conclusion is based on strong, emotional experiences (i.e. a failed diet is emotional), it has high pathos and probably trumps your conclusion. Since your audience has to resolve these conflicting conclusions, they will look to your arguments for flaws. Although your deductive conclusion is sound, they will doubt your premises:

  • “I’m always hungry when I am on a diet!” (counters premise A)
  • “But if my caloric intake drops, I won’t have enough energy to exercise, and I’ll gain weight!” (counters premise C)

Your success depends on your ability to simultaneously make your argument stronger and competing arguments weaker.

How can you be persuasive in this challenging scenario? Your success depends on your ability to simultaneously make your argument stronger and competing arguments weaker.

For example:

  • You can boost your argument by providing supporting facts, diet research, or even your personal success story with the new diet.
  • You also must show why this new diet is unlike all those past failed diets. If successful, you would significantly cast doubt on premise E, and their entire inductive argument.

Kill Two Birds with a Single Stone: Commonplaces

It may seem impossible to build a strong argument when you’ve got to compete against a lifetime of beliefs and premises that your audience has previously formed. You may wonder how you can persuade anyone of anything.

The answer: commonplaces.

Commonplaces are simply beliefs which are widely held. Commonplaces often represent “shared wisdom”, and come from many sources. For example:

  • Family members may agree that “eating dinner together every day keeps us strong”.
    • This commonplace would make it hard for you to convince them to join a club that meets in the dinner hour.
  • Organizations may have core values which include “communication is key to our success”.
    • This commonplace means that they are particularly receptive to ideas which promise to improve organizational communication.
  • Society at large generally believes that “freedom of speech is a good thing”.
    • This commonplace would be a good starting point to persuade members of your school board not to ban controversial classics from the school library.

There are two keys to using commonplaces in your speeches:

  1. Commonplaces can be used as (often unstated) premises in your speeches. You can use them just as you would use any other fact or claim.
  2. When your commonplaces are different from your audience’s commonplaces, use theirs, not yours!

A wonderful example of this second principle is provided by Jay Heinrichs in Thank you for Arguing, page 101:

Suppose you want to encourage students graduating from an elite private liberal arts college to enlist in the military. Use the audience’s commonplaces, not the military’s. Instead of “A strong nation is a peaceful nation,” say, “Our armed forces can use independent, critical thinkers.”

When you use your audience’s commonplaces as your premises, your arguments appear much, much stronger. You don’t have to convince them to adopt a completely new viewpoint; rather, you are simply encouraging them to take what they already believe (the commonplace) and apply it to a new scenario.

Okay, I’ll Use Commonplaces. Anything Else?

Unfortunately, there’s more to it than that. Using audience commonplaces is just one particularly strong technique.

In general, you can develop strong logos by following three general principles:

  1. Make it Understandable
    Whatever arguments you employ, they have to be easily understood by the audience before they can be persuasive.
  2. Make it Logical
    Make sure your arguments stand up under the deductive and inductive reasoning that your audience will be using. Make sure your premises don’t have holes in them, and have a strategy for addressing competing arguments which your audience already believes.
  3. Make it Real
    Premises which are based on concrete and specific facts and examples tend to be accepted quicker than premises which are abstract and general. The more easily your premises are accepted, the more easily your conclusions will be as well.

Preconceptions are not easily pushed aside. If your presentation is hard to follow, or if your arguments are fairly weak, your audience will find it easy to dismiss your ideas.

Why is Logos Critical for Speakers?

Sound, logical arguments, on the other hand, are hard for your audience to ignore. When combined with good ethos and pathos, strong logos will cause all but the most stubborn audience members to give strong consideration to your ideas.

The Circular Relationship between Logos and Ethos

By demonstrating logos with strong, logical arguments, your audience will tend to see you as knowledgeable and prepared. This, in turn, raises your ethos (because, after all, only someone with pure intentions would work so hard to prepare such a convincing argument).

Similarly, speakers with high ethos tend to receive less opposition when they present logical arguments. Their facts and claims are more easily believed.

Work on both traits, and you will be much more persuasive.

17 Easy Ways to Be a More Persuasive Speaker

Aug 22nd, 2010

The previous article in the Ethos, Pathos, and Logos series defined logos and described why logical arguments are so important for your presentations.

Okay, that’s all very good in theory, but do we need to be logical masters to build high logos?

No, not at all.

In this article, we examine simple techniques you can use in your presentations to be more persuasive by improving your logos.

In the last article, we identified, three general principles that you can adopt to improve your logos:

General Strategies for Improving Your Logos

  1. Make it Understandable
    Can your audience understand you? Or have they only absorbed half of your points?
  2. Make it Logical
    Do your arguments make sense? Or do you require your audience to make an extreme leap of faith? How easy is it for your audience to connect the dots?
  3. Make it Real
    Concrete and specific tends to win over abstract and general.

We’ll now look at 17 specific techniques derived from these three general strategies.

You may wish to compare to techniques in previous articles:

Make it Understandable

If your audience doesn’t understand you, they can’t be persuaded by you. To be an effective communicator, you’ve first got to be a clear communicator. To be a clear communicator, you must use words, phrases, examples, and visuals that are understandable, and you’ve got to deliver them at a pace that the audience can absorb.

How can you do this? Let us count some ways…

#1: Use plain language.

Use words that your audience uses. Avoid technical jargon that your audience (or a portion of your audience) isn’t familiar with.

Favor short words and phrases over long and convoluted counterparts. Don’t imitate the language you might find in a legal transcript or an academic paper. Technical language is necessary for those contexts, but it isn’t helpful in a conversation or presentation.

Note that “plain” language doesn’t mean “boring” language. Use vivid and descriptive language where appropriate.

#2: Be explicit.

To be an effectivecommunicator, you’ve first got to be a clear communicator.

Your audience should not need a decoder ring to figure out your message. It should be obvious. Spell it out if necessary. Make sure you are not misinterpreted.

It is particularly important to make the connection between premises and conclusions explicit. Because is a magic word for this purpose:  “Because premise Aand premise B, we can see that conclusion must be true.

If your arguments involve more than a couple premises, be sure your audience sees the relationship between them. “And these five advantages — capital costs, scheduling, inventory control, marketing, and employee satisfaction — together make this a winning proposal.

#3: Trace sequences or processes in order.

To help your audience understand a sequence or process, march through the steps or phases in a meaningful order, usually sequential. If you jump around the steps out of order, your audience will be confused.

As the number of steps increases, so does the need to use a diagram for clarity.

#4: Use diagrams.

Carefully crafted and focused diagrams almost always enhance the understandability of your arguments. It doesn’t matter if you draw in PowerPoint, on a white board, or on the back of a napkin — it only matters that you clarify concepts for your audience.

But, be careful not to introduce an unnecessarily complex diagram. In the worst case, a busy diagram or one with lots of irrelevant details will frustrate your audience and diminish your understandability.

#5: Use charts.

Like diagrams, a carefully crafted chart or graph will speak volumes and clarify a previously fuzzy relationship.

Remember the warning about unnecessary complexity applies to charts too.

#6: Use progressive disclosure.

Suppose the diagram (or chart) which best explains the concepts is a complex one. What then?

It doesn’t matter if you draw in PowerPoint, on a white board, or on the back of a napkin — it only matters that you clarify concepts for your audience.

In nearly all cases, it should be possible to use progressive disclosure. This means that you build up the entire diagram (or chart) progressively as a series of chunks, revealing only a part of the overall diagram at a time. If you are drawing the diagram as you speak, you are inherently using progressive disclosure. (You draw a few lines, explain what you’ve drawn, draw a few more, explain again, and repeat.) This is easy to do with PowerPoint too.

#7: Use comparisons, analogies, and metaphors.

Whenever you introduce new concepts, search for an appropriate analogy which helps the audience understand the new concept in terms of how they already understand the old one.

Make it Logical

Okay, your audience understands what you are saying, but does what you are saying make sense?

Does it pass the logical tests which your audience will be applying subconsciously?

#8: Leverage audience commonplaces.

Commonplaces often provide the most stable foundation for your argument. It’s a good ideas to start with these — because your audience already believes them — and build the remainder of your argument outward.

In a similar manner, framing the issue from your audience’s perspective is a great way to be more persuasive.

#9: Ask questions, and get your audience thinking.

Questions engage your audience and make them active participants in the conversation. Rather than passively waiting for you to provide answers, they’ll be contributing to the answers as you go. As a result, they will collectively feel ownership when you move toward conclusions. In the best case, they will feel that they came to the conclusions themselves — a sure way to guarantee your persuasiveness.

#10: Address the opposing point of view, and refute it.

On the surface, it seems foolish to bring up the opposing arguments. What if your audience didn’t think of that? Now you’ve just planted a seed of doubt!

On the contrary, bringing up opposing arguments makes you seem unbiased and boosts your ethos. (“You must be trustworthy; you are pointing out your opposition!“) Further, and more importantly, it allows you to directly refute the opposing arguments with logical arguments of your own.

#11: Emphasize the points of most value to audience

Unless you are using only perfect, irrefutable facts as premises, and making a purely deductive argument (where the conclusions follow immediately from premises), there are going to be holes in your inductive argument. (This doesn’t mean you’ve done a poor job. Inductive arguments have uncertainties by definition.)

Since your presentation has a finite length, you must make choices how to best spend your time. You will be most effective if you devote the majority of your presentation to discuss the issues of primary interest to your audience.

Make it Real

Concrete and specific details improve the strength of your arguments, and thus make your overall message more persuasive.

Explaining the theory behind why your new solution will raise profits is a good start; sharing a story about a company which raised profits 17% by adopting your solution is much stronger.

#12. Use props or photographs.

Talking about something in abstract terms is good, but using real objects or photographs carries more logos. Visual evidence is very hard to refute.

Personal stories and anecdotes carry more logos than stories or anecdotes ‘which happened to a friend of mine.’

#13: Use vivid details.

In lieu of photographs, you can make your claims more real by supplying vivid details.

#14: Use facts and statistics.

Assigning numbers adds to the impact.

Compare the following statements:

  • Every year, many people die of cancer.
  • Every year, 3000 people in our community die of cancer.

Which one of these statements is more likely to persuade your audience to contribute money to cancer research?

#15: Cite your sources.

A statistic may be accurate, but without citing a source, your audience may dismiss it. By citing a source, you tip the scale towards believability.

(The credibility of your source is also important, but that is more closely related to ethos.)

#16: Use real examples and case studies.

You can construct convincing arguments about theories and ideas, but your audience will be left to wonder whether the theory holds in reality. Real examples and case studies show that the theory works in the real world.

#17: Use personal stories and anecdotes.

What do you think?

A personal story combines the power of a real example with that of a cited source. Assuming you are a credible source, personal stories and anecdotes carry more logos than stories or anecdotes “which happened to a friend of mine.”

The techniques listed here are far from complete. There are other ways to improve your logical arguments and your persuasive effectiveness.

What other techniques do you use?

When you are in the audience, what qualities of the presentation make you more likely to judge it to be a sound argument?