How To Appeal To Your Audience: Greek Lessons

by drjim on August 11, 2009

Aristotle Knew A Thing Or Two About Appealing To Audiences<br> (C) - Michael Schmalenstroer

Aristotle Knew A Thing Or Two About Appealing To Audiences (C) – Michael Schmalenstroer

If you are going to go to the effort of creating and delivering a speech, doesn’t it make sense that you’d want to be able to reach your audience and somehow appeal to them? No matter if you are trying to persuade them or educate them, ultimately the goal is find a way to successfully appeal to them. Good news – how to do this has been known for the past 2,500 years!

Aristotle Knew Everything

Robert Oliver has been doing some research and he’s discovered that most of what we are trying to accomplish in our speeches today is exactly what the ancient Greeks were trying to do oh so long ago.

You’ve got to remember that there for awhile the Greeks were at the height of their civilization – they had invented democracy and really had nothing else to do but sit around and give speeches. This meant that they got interested in what made a speech appeal to an audience (and what didn’t).

Having listened to a countless number of speeches,  Aristotle came to the realization that there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” speech. Instead, if you want to appeal to a given audience, you’re going to have to pick the type of speech that will work for that audience. Thankfully, Aristotle went one step further and discovered the three different types of speeches that worked best for appealing to your audience: logical, pathetic, and ethical.

  • The Logical appeal is an appeal to reason that you use to convince your audience that your argument is correct.
  • The Pathetic appeal is an appeal that works on the emotions of the judges themselves.
  • The Ethical appeal involves playing on the audience’s sense of admiration for you.

How To Arrange A Speech To Maximize Your Appeal

Just picking the correct type of speech to use in order to appeal to your audience isn’t enough. You’ve got to take it one step further. It turns out that how you arrange your speech will have a big impact on your ability to reach and convince your audience.

Once again Aristotle found that there were three basic ways to arrange your speech. Each one was a powerful tool – you just had to pick which would work best with your speech and your audience. Aristotle’s suggestions for the three ways to arrange a speech in order to win your audience over are:

  • The Narrative: this is the story format that all of us Accidental Communicators know and love. It doesn’t always have to be a “Once upon a time…” story, rather it can take the form of a parable, an anecdote, a story that is well known to your audience, or even a personal story.
  • Linear Argument: this is the classic courtroom drama style where the facts are laid out from start to finish where a final conclusion is reached. One point to remember here is that the if you are going to use this arrangement style, then just like a jury your audience is going to have to become and stay fully engaged.
  • Dialetic: this is just a big word for a compare and contrast story. You lay out your argument step-by-step but at each step you compare your way to another way to show why your way is better. Careful – if you don’t watch out, this can slide into a negative presentation. Just a note: Aristotle thought that this was the most effective way to present information.

Final Thoughts

As though giving a speech isn’t hard enough by itself, if you want to make an impact on your audience then you’ve got to design your speech correctly. Aristotle had the time back in the day to think about what worked.

His three types of arguments as well as his understanding of how to arrange your speech in order to appeal to your audience still work today. Listen to what the guy from Greece is trying to tell us and you’ll be able to intimately connect with your audience and make an lasting impact in their lives.

Questions For You

Do you think that you do a good job today of appealing to your audiences? Which type of speech to give more often: logical, pathetic, or ethical? When it comes to organizing your speech, do you like to tell stories or present facts in order? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Interestingly enough, this post has nothing to do with global warming. I really don’t care which side of the “warming / not warming” argument you find yourself on right now. The one thing that I think that we can all agree on is that there is quite a debate going on right now – somebody has done a good job of talking this topic up!

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Brenda December 6, 2010 at 1:15 pm

isn’t it pathos, and not pathetic? or is pathos the simpler way to say it?

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Dr. Jim Anderson December 10, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Brenda: I believe that you are correct — so much for my spelling ability! Good catch!

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Brenda December 13, 2010 at 11:09 am

I really don’t know if i am completely correct but i noticed because Im going to be tested on that concept, and i learned it as “pathos”.

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