Aristotle and Persuasion: Ethos Pathos Logos

2300 years ago Aristotle wrote that in order to persuade an audience a speaker needed to provide proof and that the most persuasive of speakers employed three different types of proof. Ethos which is personal credibility, Pathos an emotional argument and Logos which is a rational argument. We find the same thing when we are writing presentations for clients; we even often follow the same order.

  • Credibility.  Sell yourself, your company and then your product in that order.
  • Empathy.    Show an understanding of the audience’s needs, desires or issues.
  • Rational.     Here’s why you should act, here’s evidence that acting will work.

The mistake we find more often than not is an over reliance on credibility. A presentation that last 45 minutes and spends 44 of them telling the audience how great the presenter’s organisation is. Sure it may in fact be interesting that you have 300 delivery trucks but do I really care? So What?

Most of our clients’ presentations (well the 15000 that are B2B sales presentations) follow this structure:

  • Who are we?
  • What do we do?
  • Why do you need it?
  • Why do you need it from us?
  • Can I have your business?

The credibility comes in the first section and usually fits on one slide. “What we do” is not normally a service description but more a results description (Improve your sales conversion rates by 30% rather than produce PowerPoint presentations) and then the presentations become about the audience not the presenter. Ethos followed quickly by Pathos concluded with logos.

We find presenting the emotional argument prior to the rational argument more effective since to quote Nixon “When you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow

So humanity hasn’t changed much in 2300 years, same old same old. My problem is I can’t now read the name Aristotle with out hearing John Cleese and Michael Palin singing “Aristotle Aristotle was a bugger for the bottle, Socrates himself will be particularly missed, a nice little thinker but a bugger when he’s pissed”   Philosophers Song.. Live!

Written by nick and filed under Presentation Psychology

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