Channel Aristotle’s art of persuasion when presenting

Blog post by David Bliss, Head of Learning at Edison Red…

The goal of many presentations is to influence the audience’s view on a certain subject, whether that means changing their opinion completely or strengthening an existing view.

The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, conceived three means of persuasion – ethos, pathos and logos – to classify the vital building blocks of successful speeches. Follow our guide to harnessing these appeals in your presentation to effectively persuade your audience.

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Ethos relates to the authority or credibility of the presenter as perceived by the audience. If the audience is convinced that the presenter is qualified to speak on a particular subject and that they can be trusted, they are more likely to be persuaded.

How to demonstrate Ethos in your presentation:

Know your subject

Stick to topics you know about, and address opposing arguments, in order to rebut them.

Demonstrate your authority

Highlight your own expertise. Back up your points with credible – citable – sources.

Show that you can be trusted

Don’t make spurious claims you can’t back up.

Anticipate objections

Acknowledging other sides of the argument will also increase your trustworthiness in the eyes of the audience.

Identify with your audience

Highlight common traits. Do your research and find ways to adapt your language, mannerisms and dress to match the audience.

Learn from an expert

Susan Cain's "Power of Introverts": Improve ethos through shared experience


Pathos is an appeal to the audience’s emotions. Use Pathos to position the audience in a certain frame of mind that will make them more receptive to your message.

How to use pathos to persuade:

Know your audience

Understand the beliefs and values of your audience in order to tailor your message in a way that will resonate with them.

Use storytelling

Appeal to the audience’s imagination and hopes using storytelling techniques and paint a positive scenario of the future results, following the proposed course of action.

Use humour

Depending on the subject, humour can be a very powerful tool in winning round your audience and keeping their attention.

Be visual

Images or videos can be used to evoke a strong emotional response in the audience that facts and figures may not convey on their own.

Enrich your language

Metaphors, similes and vivid, descriptive language can all provoke a stronger emotional response.

Demonstrate your passion

Show that you believe in what you are saying and modify your speech and body language to convey the emotion you want to inspire in the audience.

Learn from an expert

Jill Bolte Taylor's "A Stroke of Insight": Improve pathos by showing you care


Logos is the logical appeal of the argument: the proof, or apparent proof, that supports the foundation of your claim or thesis. Even a passionate speech from a credible presenter will fall apart if the audience doesn’t believe the argument is sound.

How to demonstrate logos in your presentation:

Be clear

A sound argument will fall on deaf ears if it is not understood. Don’t confuse your audience – use plain language and avoid technical jargon or convoluted speech.

Be logical

Express your argument in an explicit and meaningful way. Present facts sequentially, using progressive disclosure to demonstrate cause and effect.

Present facts clearly

Make sure any facts or statistics are meaningful to your audience. Use charts and diagrams to visually represent complex figures.

Keep it real

Always go for concrete and specific examples over abstract and general points. Use real examples and case studies to back your arguments.

Ask questions

Encourage active participation, so that when you arrive at the crux of the argument the audience feel ownership of the conclusion.

Learn from an expert

Amy Cuddy, "Body language": Improve logos by visualizing evidence

Work ETHOS, PATHOS & LOGOS in Combination

A truly persuasive presentation is one that combines all three rhetorical appeals.

Pathos can be particularly powerful if used well, but for your message to be truly accepted it needs to be backed up by a sound, logical argument. Logos in turn enhances Ethos, because the speaker who can back up their claims with facts and figures will look knowledgeable and credible to the audience.


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