Leadership & Productivity

Appeal to the head and the heart for a convincing business presentation

6 min read

25 April 2019

In the 4th century BC Aristotle wrote in his book ‘Rhetoric’ that a persuasive speech is supported by three pillars; Ethos - being credible and of good character. Logos - being logical and factual and Pathos - having emotional appeal. Each pillar is important because people are rarely persuaded by just one of them. Incorporate all three and you will greatly enhance the chances of the audience being convinced by what you say.

It’s vitally important to employ Aristotle’s ‘three pillars’ if you want to create a uniquely engaging and emotive business presentation. Why should it be emotional, you ask? Because if you connect with an audience’s emotions, you’re more likely to have them believe the story you’re selling them.

To start, Ethos conveys your expertise and that you are trustworthy and knowledgeable. This makes it likely that the audience will respect you, see you as credible and have confidence in you. The second, Logos, is about appealing to the head by using reasoned argument and solid evidence to back up your message and any claims you may make. Pathos, the third, helps you to appeal to the heart.

Using relevant stories gives rise to feelings by triggering emotions that make the audience support your message

If you miss one pillar out, you are reducing the persuasive power of your talk. Using all three will support your case in a balanced way, like three legs on a stool  You heighten impact by including all three. You will appeal to the different kinds of people in an audience.

Ethos: Establish your credibility, authority, and character

1. Communicate your authority to speak

If being introduced or asked for a biography; write a few lines in the 3rd person. You might include relevant experience, your title and qualifications. Tip Be introduced if possible, rather than introduce yourself because it increases your credibility.

2. Use credible sources

Refer to credible research using objective information from reputable people and organisations. Explain your case in an impartial way to show you are unbiased.

3. Show you have something in common

Use language appropriate to the audience’s field of expertise. Share experiences you have in common. People like others who are similar to themselves.

Logos: Use logic and reason

Avoid rambling and vagueness, instead, be logical and clear.

1. Give facts

Use evidence in the form of indisputable facts and statistics. Graphs, charts and diagrams are ideal for conveying such information.

2. Use logical argument

Ensure that your case makes complete logical sense. Give the rationale behind any recommendations you make.

3. Structure the whole talk in logical steps

Use easy-to-follow steps in the flow of your talk. Signpost where you are going to help people follow the journey.

Pathos: Appeal to emotions

Use the following methods to trigger emotions that help to convince people of your message.

1. Use stories, analogies, and metaphors

Stories fire the imagination and can elicit every kind of emotion. Analogies and metaphors make ideas easy to understand. e.g. ‘this a rollercoaster ride.’

2. Use vivid language

Bring ideas to life by using vivid language.

Paint pictures with your words and you will help the audience to engage emotionally. Help them to see the pictures, hear the sounds and get a feel for what you are talking about.

3. Show powerful pictures

A picture can spark an emotional reaction. Think of how people respond to photographs of children or animals.

Tips to plan a great talk

1. Give it the personal touch

‘Designing a presentation without the audience in mind is like writing a love letter and addressing it: “To whom it may concern” – – Ken Haemer, former Presentation Research Manager, AT&T.

With that in mind ask yourself:

• Who will be in the audience?

• Why are they attending?

• What are their expectations?

• How many will be there?

• What is their level of knowledge about your topic?

• What might their attitude be towards your talk? Put yourself in their shoes and imagine what they may be thinking and feeling

2. Look beyond your talk

The talk is a means to an end. Look beyond your talk to see what outcome you are really trying to achieve as a consequence of it. For example, you might want to be awarded a contract and a presentation to the client is required to make the case.

3. Write a realistic clear objective

Write an objective for your talk that, should you achieve it, will enhance the chances of achieving your ultimate outcome. Make sure that the objective is within your control.

Here is an example: By the end of our presentation the client will understand our products and be convinced of their value to their business. This objective is highly likely to be within your control because the client will understand everything if you explain things well.

Go forth and engage your audience using Aristotle

Check that your objective is achievable within the allotted time and with that particular audience. Now you are ready Having got your audience in mind, a clear outcome and objective, now put Aristotle’s three pillars into practice as you plan your presentation.

In doing so you will be able to create a talk that includes appeals to the head and also the heart, making a personal connection with your audience. You now have a proven method to convince your audience every time.