You know how it is – standing there; your heart beating so hard you can feel it in the whole body. All the senses are tuned to the extreme. Many people are looking at you.
Here is another situation – you are in a heated argument with your friend about smoking, or maybe even about the meaning of life.
We often need to communicate certain messages to others. Be that your research paper or business idea, we need to connect to a certain audience, motivate and persuade them to consider our points seriously. Is there a recipe for this?
Before going to the stage a speaker needs to master the art of rhetoric. With roots in ancient philosophy, rhetoric was largely shaped by good old Greek and Roman thinkers whose contributions are still relevant and valued around the world. One of them is Aristotle who defined three core appeals of good arguments:
1) Ethos (credibility): Can I trust the speaker?
If you are a 25-year-old giving a speech to war veterans, it might be challenging to feel you deserve their attention, unless you tell them about your own grandfather who was in war. Have you noticed that most of toothpastes are advertised by people in white coats? Establishing trust is the defining step to any communication.
2) Pathos (emotions):
How does the speaker make me feel? If you watched any of the famous TEDtalks, you probably noticed that almost every speaker starts with a personal story or at least a joke. We are not as rational at every second of our lives as we tend to think. People connect best when they feel it. Probably one of those things missing from many of your university lectures, isn’t it?
3) Logos (reason):
Does the speaker make sense? Your arguments carry the main messages you want to communicate. Make sure they are clear and have strong proof, and that everyone understands them. Follow these three golden rules: say what you are going to say; say it; and say what you have just said.
It is easy to understand these three appeals. Just watch a video with a well-known speech and try to identify how the speaker establishes trust, plays with emotions and builds logical arguments. But how to direct this knowledge into creation of a persuasive speech? Another philosopher, Quintilian, saw the answer to this question in five steps, or cannons of rhetoric.
Start from inventing your speech: think what you want to say and to whom you are speaking. This is where you define the balance between credibility, emotions and logical arguments.
Then arrange the structure: how will you start- with a joke, story or maybe rhetorical questions? When will you present your arguments and how should you conclude in a strong way?
Make your speech attractive and work on style: use proper language and figures of speech, be clear. Memorise your speech so well so that it sounds spontaneous. Finally, deliver it paying attention to your voice and body language.
Now, ‘establishing trust’ or ‘playing with emotions’ – is it really ethical to manipulate someone in such a way?
In everyday life and through the history we see how this art can be misused to dilute people’s opinions or turn them to a destructive way. Those minds who worked on rhetoric witnessed this already long ago, and believed that through studying it one can become critical and start distinguishing negative from positive, as well as put forward ideas beneficial for the society.
Isn’t that exactly what you as a future global leader want to achieve?
Maxim Vlasov is from Russia and has a degree in marketing. He is currently studying for his Master’s degree in Environmental Economics and Management at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala.
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