Presentation tips from Aristotle

Ethos, pathos, logos—all play a part in conveying your message. Here’s advice on implementing them to your best advantage.

According to Aristotle, the recipe for a persuasive presentation can be simplified to three essential ingredients: ethos, pathos, and logos.

1. Ethos: Credibility

Presentation success is irrevocably intertwined with perceived credibility. There are many ways to improve your credibility, including:

  • Read books, blogs, and academic papers that stretch your mind and enhance your expertise. If you don’t know where to start, check out Alltop for the latest blog updates.
  • Take a class at your local community college or online to expand your knowledge. Lynda is an exceptional resource for at-home learning.
  • Watch online presentations for examples of what credibility sounds and looks like. Start with the curated TED collections.
  • Exude confidence with a strong but relaxed posture. Take some notes from social psychologist Amy Cuddy for tips on displaying increased confidence.

2. Pathos: Emotional appeal

Even the most credible presenter will struggle to motivate audience members to follow a call to action if an emotional connection is not established. Infuse your presentation with inspiration by using these techniques:

  • Tell a personal story. A good story will engage your audience’s imagination and thus activate their emotions.
  • Look people in the eyes, but do not stare. A brief, natural glance is better than an extended connection, which can be intimidating.
  • Be passionate. Passion does not mean that you must be over the top and dramatic in your presentation. True passion will be felt even if it is communicated calmly and quietly. If you are not passionate about your topic, consider rewriting your content to include points that are meaningful to you.

3. Logos: Logic

The precise sequencing of data and information is the final element to presentation excellence. Follow these steps to meticulously lay out the information that builds your credibility:

  • Isolate the most important message of your presentation, and use that as a starting point for organizing your information. Ask yourself, “What does the audience need to know before they can develop the desired conclusion?”
  • At the end of your presentation, provide a quick summary of the most important information to ensure that the audience fully understands the flow of your logic.
  • Practice your argument for an uninformed friend who will point out any flaws in your logic.
  • Prepare for a rigorous Q&A session to ensure that any holes in your presentation will be covered.

Even in 2013, Aristotle’s wisdom from the 4th century B.C. is still illuminating the pathway to success for presenters. Be trustworthy, inspiring, and logical, and then prepare to enjoy the sound of applause.

Ethos3 is a Nashville-based presentation boutique providing professional presentation design and training for national and international clients, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to branded individuals like Guy Kawasaki.

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