Category Archives: Public Speaking Tips

If you want to engage your audience, move!

Lectern on stageStanding behind a lectern is the easy option.

It’s traditional, it’s expected and it provides a wonderful shield between us and the audience.

How do our audience see a speaker stood behind a lectern?

Traditional, expected and shielded from them.

In other words, completely unengaging.

If we want to really connect with our audience then we need to move.

We need to move closer to our audience to engage them, and we need to move around to bring our stories to life.

The lectern lends itself to neither of these things.

So next time you have to stand up and speak, don’t stand still, leave the lectern.

Step towards your audience and use the full space of your stage to being your story to life.

Use different ends of the stage for different sides of your argument, illustrate characters within your story by their position on the stage. Even use your stage as a time line, explaining the history of your company from left to right.

Whatever you do, don’t be traditional, expected and tied to your lectern: Don’t stand still.

The Vote of Thanks Template

Thank You!I get a lot of inquiries asking for help with giving short vote of thanks speeches. A vote of thanks is often tough to do well because you are generally:

a. following an established ‘headline’ speaker for the event who has been hired to wow the crowd

b. the last piece on the event agenda – the audience are itching to get away

c. the last thing that the audience will remember from the event – it’s your job to make a good final impression!

So, for your delight, here’s my tried and trusted template for giving an engaging, concise and relevant vote of thanks.

Intro – introduce yourself to the audience.

Thanks for attending – thank the audience for coming along (they love being mentioned first!)

Emotion / joke – make a humorous comment on the day or give a positive personal opinion about the event. This helps to build rapport quickly.

Specific thanks – thank the speaker, highlighting three points from their speech that you felt were the most enjoyable and relevant. Explain why you felt they were so good.

Wish safe journey – wish the audience a safe journey home (they love being mentioned again!)

Soundbite / action – finish with a final point that is memorable and relevant – something that the audience will remember.

So that you can see the above template in action, here’s a short (humorous and fictional!) vote of thanks written using this very template:

[INTRO] Good evening ladies and gentlemen, my name is Rich Watts and it is my job this evening to give the vote of thanks.

[THANKS] I’d like to start by thanking you all for attending and supporting the wonderful cause that is this fundraiser for the Monkey Tears charity.

[EMOTION / HUMOUR] The highlight for me has been Mrs Jones’ cake stall and if you haven’t already, I’d urge you to try the blueberry muffins before you leave, but not the chocolate ones, because I’m hoping to take as many as possible home with me tonight!

[ SPECIFIC THANKS] I’m sure you will all join me in thanking once again our speaker tonight, Mr David Ferneybottom.

APPLAUSE.

David, I particularly enjoyed your speech. I couldn’t agree more with your points about how we should all adopt a monkey next year to help develop economic prosperity. Such a scheme truly is required if we are to get out of this recession.

I delighted in hearing about your experiences of monkeys from your school days, and it reminded me vividly of my own wonderful days of education and those long, hot summer holidays.

Finally, I’m still laughing at your joke about the banana and the monkey. I think we all are, and I shall be sharing it with my wife when I return home tonight.

[WISH SAFE JOURNEY] All that remains now is for me to wish you all a safe journey home.

[SOUNDBITE/ACTION] And as My Ferneybottom has taught us – never mess with a monkey with a banana in its hand!

Good night

Be prepared for everything to fail

Forget Ancient Rome, this is the golden age of public speaking. Even Google tells us so (see the video below)

We are truly blessed. We have Powerpoint, we have the Internet, we have the microphones and therefore we have the power to influence our audiences more than ever before.

But with great power comes great responsibility the opportunity for everything to fail.

I’d even go as far as to say (anecdotally) that at least 1 in 5 presentations experiences some kind of technical hiccup.

If we as speakers are to ensure that our message is not terminated by technology, then we need to be prepared for everything to fail.

Our preparation and rehearsal should always account for the ‘what ifs?’ and ensure we have solutions to even the greatest public speaking catastrophes.

(If you have a view on what the greatest public speaking catastrophe is, please send it in!)

Because if you can keep your head when all of the technology around you is breaking down, then you’ll be a man my son the memorable speaker, my son.

Here’s my checklist of catastrophes to account for when planning a speech – I’d love to hear your suggestions too:

  • Backup power supply for laptop
  • Spare bulb for projector
  • Handheld clicker to avoid any embarrassing ‘oops wrong slide’ gaffs
  • Printout of slides in case I have to deliver the talk without any slideshow behind me
  • A well written talk that makes sense without slides
  • Batteries (for microphones and clickers!)

Update (05/02/14)

Some more suggestions from social media guru @alukeonlife on Twitter:

  • Soluble aspirin and throat lozenges
  • HDMI, VGA cables and any relevant chargers
  • A safe version of slides: no transitions, fonts, clever stuff just images for each slide

Opening lines..It’s not what you say…

Your first impression is more than just your speech

This blog is not about what we say in the opening line of our speech or presentation.

It’s about how we say it.

Thousands of blog posts have been written on the strength of a well-written opening line. But even the best works of Shakespeare will fall flat to our audience if we don’t deliver them properly.

And so, let this post be our warning, that simply writing that killer line is not enough.

We need it perfectly executed too.

Arms closed, no intonation, no smile, no warmth means we will lose our audience before we’ve even begun. The next time they’ll feel positively towards us will likely be when we let them go at the conclusion of our speech.

So, next time we write the perfect opening line, let us not write the second until we’ve made notes on exactly how that line should be delivered, lest we lose our audience at ‘Hello’!

Smile lines – smiling when speaking

Smile imageSometimes we need to smile when speaking, and we don’t want to.
Bad mood, nerves, our natural demeanour. They may all contribute to a unsmiley speech.
Need a solution?
Print your script, and mark out key phrases (generally evenly phased throughout the speech) that you will know as your ‘smile lines’.
Spend a good thirty mins (and a few extra mins over the coming days) practicing the speech and delivering those specific lines with a big smile and open body language. (Practice with the script to begin with so that you don’t forget them!)
You will find that at these key points, with your rehearsed smile, you add extra intonation, warmth and life to your speech.
If you dot ‘smile lines’ throughout your speech as milestones, it doesn’t matter if adrenaline overcomes you and that smile/energy begins to fade, because it will be replenished/returned/recharged when you hit your next smile point!
Rehearsal is the key here, as when the adrenaline is pumping you need your body to associate those phrases you have designated ‘smile lines’ with a change in your expression!

Repetition Repetition in speeches – the so-so speaker

You may know  a ‘so-so’ speaker. I knew one at university. This fellow student was known as ‘so-so’ because whenever he had to give a presentation, it always included the word ‘so’ at least 50 times. Once we realised this, sweepstakes were run on presentation days as to how many times the word ‘so’ would be used!

We all have our favourite words and ways of saying things.

In general conversation this is fine, but when we’re standing up for 20 minutes giving a presentation, repeating the same words or phrases regularly can make us appear unoriginal, disorganised and detract from the impact of our message.

It’s tough to think of original words when we’re on stage with the adrenaline pumping, so the best way to address repetition in our speech is during rehearsal.

As soon as you notice any words or phrases that you use regularly, grab the theasaurus and make a list of synonyms that can be used instead.

Stick this list wherever you spend the most time during the day – as a post-it note attached to your computer screen, your phone wallpaper or even on the ceiling above your bed.

Read the synonyms and then re-read them until they’re inside your mind.

When rehearsing you’ll quickly notice that these words spring to mind, as they’ve already been set there before the adrenaline has kicked in. Sorted!

I’ve used this tip myself, for the word ‘obviously’ which used to pop up every 30 seconds in my speeches, even when things weren’t obvious!

7 ways to make your point stick when presenting

It’s Friday, you’re the last speaker on a long day, the room is hot and stuffy and your audience can almost smell the freedom of the weekend.

There’s no tougher scenario in which to give a memorable presentation.

So how do you make your points stick?

Here’s seven great ways to make your point when public speaking.

1. Pause

Taking a nice long pause after you make that killer point is a sure-fire way to let it sink in with your audience. It might feel uncomfortable at first, but a short silence highlights to your audience the importance of the previous point, and gives them time to contemplate and absorb it before you start sending more information their way.

2.Repetition

Have you ever noticed how politicians usually make their points three times? Sometimes they repeat things three times just to give them emphasis. It’s not just Obama and Cameron that can use this technique – you can too – using simple repetition (eg. never, never, never press the red button!) to make your point stand out.

3. Hand jiveHand Jive image

Ok, so don’t literally hand jive, but your hands can help you to deliver your point. Imagine you are stating a very important list of three things that your audience must remember. Use your hands to signal ‘1’, ‘2’ and ‘3’ to your audience so that they can clearly see which point we’re on. If their minds are wandering off, the movement of your hands will help bring the focus back to you!

4. Use a startling fact

Nothing grabs our attention like a startling fact. It can put a bland point into blunt context. We all also like a great stat to share with our friends! Want to make a point about the usefulness of good bacteria? Did you know, 10% of human dry weight comes from bacteria!

5. Use an incredible image

powerful-photos-30

In theory, the very best slides are those that help to deliver our message and don’t detract from us as speakers. However, I truly believe that it is ok to be upstaged by your slide if it makes your point and provides a jaw dropping moment of realisation for your audience. Like this image, to make the point that our world has immense powers of destruction. Could you have said it any better?!

6. Question your audience

It’s easy for our audience to switch off when we’re talking. After all, we’re the speaker and they see their role as just the listener. Ask a rhetorical question, not only to remind the audience that they are an active participant in your speech or presentation, but also to get them thinking. For maximum effect combine the question with a pause of a good enough length to let your audience process an answer.

7. Tell a story

Finally, the most effective way to make a point is to tell a story. Stories have been used as a method of passing messages and lessons to audiences since the days when we lived in caves. A well told story allows us to connect with what is important, make sense of our world and grasp realities or ideas that might currently be alien to us – all necessities for making our points stick!

‘How to’ Friday – Ten tips for no nerves public speaking

Google ‘dealing with nerves when public speaking’ and you’ll find hundreds of articles on the topic.DSC_6204smaller

If you’re looking for 10 honest, different ways to overcome public speaking nerves that I’ve learnt from experience, then check out the list below.

(It includes input from Beyonce and is sponsored by Wrigley’s gum).

1. Know your audience

We’re all comfortable talking to groups of friends, but ask us to talk to a group of strangers and the shakes set in. Before you speak, take time to meet your audience beforehand, have a chat with attendees and seek out their smiling faces when you first stand up on stage.

Caffeine

2. Avoid caffeine

So many of us turn to caffeine or energy drinks before we speak, to give us the ‘edge’ – that extra energy to beat our fears. The bad news is that the majority of these drinks increase your heart rate – quickly fooling the rest of your body into thinking it’s in panic mode. Before you know it, those deadly nerves have then arrived!

3. Look the part

It’s tough to feel confident in front of a crowd if you’re doubting your own appearance. Make sure to wear your best clothes – those killer heels* that you feel a million dollars in, or that expensive suit you have. It’s your public speaking suit of armour – use it!

4. Breathe

If you don’t breathe you die. If you don’t breathe enough, your brain starts to slow down.

Oxygen helps brain function and when we’re speaking, we need all the brain function we can get to give our best performance. Don’t be afraid to take big pauses for breathing – it’ll help the nerves, and your performance too.

5. Open with confidence

Know your first line inside out, so that you can deliver on autopilot. It’s the most important line to learn, as if you can deliver it without thinking when you’re nervous, you’ll be into your speech proper before you know it, and succeeding!

Wrigleys Gum6. Chew gum

When our body goes into panic, it stops all unnecessary functions – including producing saliva. A dry mouth tells us that we’re nervous and then our other functions begin to respond and go into nervous mode too. To avoid the dry mouth (and the ensuing panic) chew gum, which makes you produce lots of saliva!

7. Don’t expect perfection

Winston Churchill didn’t come out of the womb as a great public speaker, and neither did Obama. It takes time and practice to become a good speaker. If you beat yourself up because you weren’t perfect, you’ll feel worse next time. It’s good to have something to improve upon – otherwise life would be pretty dull!

8. Use evidence

Many of us are nervous because we think our audience are going to ‘find us out’, undermine our points, or worst of all, heckle (but seriously, how many business presentations each year get heckled? More people are probably killed by Sparrows).

If you back up every point you make with evidence, (stories, statistics and research) then your audience will question the quality of your resources, not you, which is a much more comfortable discussion!

9. Know your stuff!

There’s no substitute for rehearsal, sorry.

Practice does indeed make perfect, and if you know your speech, you’ll feel much more in control and therefore less nervous.

Don’t be afraid to take notes with you on stage. You’ll feel more confident and your audience would much rather see a good speech with notes than only half of a great speech that was forgotten because you had no notes!

Beyonce Sasha Fierce10. Do a Beyonce

Beyonce has an alter ego (Sasha Fierce) that she ‘becomes’ on stage, someone sexy, someone confident, someone fearless. There’s nothing to say you can’t too!

Imagine what that alter ego is like when on stage, what they do, what they say, how they react.

Then, become that person and practice switching their behaviour on and off – unleash the actor within you!

 

*This advice is not suitable for men, generally, unless you’re Tom Cruise.

The Core Thought Check

Core thoughtWhen we’re sat alone in a room writing a speech or presentation, it’s sometimes tough to tell if we’re getting our point across.

The quickest and easiest test to find out if you’re on track is to run the ‘core thought check’.

Take the core thought of your speech (the single message, idea or concept you want your audience to remember) and chec k it against what you’ve written, answering these three questions.

Is your core thought in there?

Is it clearly visible (or audible!) for your audience?

Does everything in your speech or presentation add to this message? If it doesn’t cull it!

Sometimes the simplest theories are the best!

Opening a speech: Step-by-step

This is it, the moment you’ve spent weeks writing, rehearsing and refining your speech for.

The audience falls silent, every pair of eyes in the room turn expectantly to you.

5,4,3,2,1.

Now what?

Opening a speech isn’t rocket science, but it is similar to a rocket launch in that if don’t get it right, the rest of your speech won’t get off of the ground.

So what should the perfect opening of a speech include?

– 3 seconds to speech launch:

Take a deep breath and look around the whole of the room

Why do this?

Apart from keeping us alive (a vital part of speech giving), getting more oxygen into our body produces a physiological response. It encourages the brain to produce neurohormones, which negate the stress-causing hormones that we’re all inclined to produce when under pressure.

Looking around the room makes your audience instantly aware that you are talking to all of them. It also helps to promote an image of confidence. If you also happen to make eye contact with a few friendly faces and get some smiles too, you’ll instantly feel a lot better about the speech that you are about to give.

– 1 seconds to speech launch:

Take another look around the room and smile

Why do this?

Firstly, no one wants to see a grumpy speaker. Secondly, and much more importantly, smiling whilst you are talking gives your voice a much greater level of intonation. This increased intonation gives your voice a much friendlier and natural feel, giving you a more positive presenting style.

-0.1 seconds to speech launch:

Open your arms to the audience

Why do this?

If you’re nervous at this point your hands will either be:

Held tightly together in front of you

Clutching frantically at a desk or lectern

Hidden completely behind your back

None of the above are examples of positive body language and none of them present an engaging manner to your audience. To avoid instantly appearing as the grumpy, nervous speaker simply open your hands and your arms (as widely as you feel comfortable, you don’t have to become an albatross on stage) as you begin to deliver your open line.

Voila! Positive body language and a confident gesture before you’ve even opened your mouth!

0 seconds to speech launch:

Deliver that killer first line

Why do this?

“Your first line should pique the curiosity of your audience, engage them and make them want to hear more. It should be said loudly, proudly and for everyone in the room to hear. This is the line on which the audience’s initial judgement about you as a speaker will be made.”

If you are a nervous speaker, the paragraph above has probably not helped you too much. We know the first line of any speech is the most important, but when you’re nervous it’s also the most difficult. How do we overcome this?

Rehearsal is the key. For every one time that you rehearse your full speech, you should look to rehearse your opening line (including associated gestures, smiles and intonation) at least ten times.

The result will be an opening line that you can deliver on autopilot. The delivery of your opening line will not be able to be affected by nerves, because you’ll have delivered it before your brain even has time to compute!

And once you’re through that opening line and into your speech, we’re off! It’s not going to get any more difficult or nerve wracking from here on in!

5 seconds after speech launch:

Pause and let that killer line sink in.

Why do this?

A well timed pause adds emphasis to the point you have just made. You put your opening line at the very top of your speech for a reason-to give your audience time to consider exactly why that might be…

10 seconds after speech launch:

Tell ’em exactly what it is that you’re going to tell ’em

Why do this?

Your audience will want to understand how you plan to deliver your speech. Don’t forget that the majority of speeches or presentations are delivered to inform or persuade. An unstructured argument is unlikely to be persuasive and a muddled set of information will leave your audience more confused than when you started talking!

Your signposting doesn’t have to tell your audience exactly what to expect blow-for-blow, but it does need to set an expectation of what is to come. A signpost within a speech can be as simple as:

“Today I am going to talk to you about why dinosaurs should be bred in only in captivity using three examples from recent history.”

Where next?

Well by now your speech has well and truly launched. You’ve engaged your audience, explained what you’re going to talk about and overcome the most nerve-wracking part of any speech, the start.

From here on in it’s a case of keeping that smile beaming, your hands open and your voice strong as you inspire, persuade, inform and entertain your audience with the rest of your speech. The hardest part -those first words-are now done!

Public Speaking In A Second Language

Second language image

Delivering a speech in a second language is a challenge that many of us never dream of taking-up, but if you do challenge yourself in this way, how can you deliver a performance that is convincing and engaging for a native audience?

I recently discovered a few tips whilst on a trip to Bruges, on a brewery tour of all places!

The tour guide was Belgian and spoke Dutch as a first language. The tour itself was delivered in English (her second language) and was one of the most enjoyable and engaging I have ever been on. Why?

Yes, the tour guide was an expert, her content was interesting, delivered in a structured and easy-to-absorb way. The fundamentals of good public speaking were covered. It was the ‘extras’ within the speech that really made this multilingual tour guide stand out.

Throughout the tour ‘Englishisms’ were used. Our tour guide referred to ‘hop-on hop-off buses’, ‘munchies’ and ‘knocked-up’ people and consistently used language and terms that usually only a native English speaker could know. This made us as an audience feel more at home and it was clear that everyone in the room appreciated the lengths that our tour guide had gone to, to get to grips with the English language.

On top of this, our tour guide managed to incorporate humour into the tour. Every room that we left, and as a result, every stage of the tour that concluded, was ended with a joke or some humour. This helped to keep everyone smiling and meant that we left every room with a positive memory of what we had just experienced. By the time we had climbed another flight of stairs (the brewery was a large building), we were entering the next stage of the tour in a good mood ready to absorb more information!

So, what did I learn?

When speaking in a second language, the fundamentals of public speaking still count, but it’s the extra embellishments – the colloquialisms and the humour, that make all the difference!

Writing a speech in a crisis – Bush and Obama

Barack Obama

When a crisis occurs, there is often pressure on leaders to set an example, respond in an appropriate manner and inspire others into positive action. For those who lead large numbers of people, the quickest way to do this is by addressing their team through a speech or presentation.

This post gives guidance on three things to consider that will allow you to quickly put together a speech to respond to a crisis. We will look at structure as well as how to inspire and persuade your audience. We will do this through the study of two famous ‘crisis’ speeches from George Bush and Barrack Obama.

Before reading any further, I recommend that you view the two embedded videos below. The first is George Bush’s address to the nation on the day of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The second is a speech from Barack Obama in the day that followed the ‘Batman shootings’ in 2012.

What we can learn about formatting an inspirational speech in a crisis:

In both speeches there is a clear format that emerges, designed to engage and inform the listener.
You will notice that both speeches open with a review of the current state of affairs – what has happened. This is informational.

They then proceed to describe to the audience how they, the listener, are feeling. How they should feel, and how they will feel. This is emotional.

What follows is then a clear course of action. This tells the audience what will follow, including what the leader will do, as well as what the listener should do. This is informational.

Both speeches then finish with a clear ‘call to arms’, which is usually emotional. Bush finishes with: “We go forward to defend freedom and all that is right and just in our world”. A wonderful mission statement for the people of America and one that has now lasted nearly a decade.

These case studies demonstrate a strong format for a speech in a crisis. The balance of emotional and informational aspects both informs and persuades the audience. This is a good structure for you to start writing your own speech from, as it provides the bare bones for you to flesh out:

– Review current situation
– Describe how audience is feeling and how they should feel
– Inform the audience about the next steps to resolve this issue
– Finish with a clear line that inspires your audience; a mission statement for their actions.

What we can learn about inspiring others in a crisis:

What makes the two speeches above inspiring? What is it that helps the audience to relate to them, and motivates the audience to move on to bigger and better things?

It’s the language that is used throughout these speeches that really adds emotion to them, draws the audience together, and makes them feel as though they are part of a positive, united community and movement.

Both speakers speak of America as a family. Obama even states ‘we the American family’. Both speakers describe ‘our pain’ and ‘our sorrow’ and the joint feeling of these being ‘darkest days’. This language is much more emotive and personal. Compare ‘darkest days’ to ‘a bad day’ – which inspires more emotion?

The key learning here is that when inspiring others in a crisis, it’s not always what you say, it’s how you say it. Review the language in your crisis speech – does it make the matter personal, or is it very impersonal? If you’re struggling to get the right tone, crack the thesaurus open!

What we can learn about persuading others in a crisis:

The basis of a persuasive speech is communicating a shared understanding or feeling. Both Obama and Bush do this in their speeches by relating to the audience just how similar the victims of the atrocities are to them.

Both Bush and Obama bore down to the fact that the victims are humans; secretaries, military personnel, parents and lovers. Obama even goes as far as to describe that as a parent, he too is directly like the victims and families of the shooting. This all combines to demonstrate to the audience that there is a shared understanding and feeling between the speaker and all of the listeners. We are all alike.

Once this shared understanding has been formed, it is much easier to deliver a proposed action going forward. The audience are open to pushing a solution forward because they now feel that they are part of a group that has a shared vision, shared responsibility and shared direction. It makes the task seem less daunting and much easier to achieve.

The learning here is to review your own crisis speech and make the issue or problem as relevant to your audience as possible. This can be done by relating the issue or problem, as well as the action, to examples that your audience can relate to and understand.

Conclusions:

Just by reviewing two speeches that have been written by leaders to respond to a crisis we can already see a clear format emerging, as well as key items that should be reviewed to increase the effectiveness of the speech: language and the use of relevant examples.

I am sure that if we were to review more speeches of this nature other key points to consider would emerge. However, the key to many crisis speeches is the speed at which they are written and then delivered to the audience. As such, the findings above are a great way to start and structure the writing process to rapidly produce a crisis speech.

As always, I welcome thoughts and feedback on the topic.

Tips on concluding a speech

Finish line

Have you ever sat through a presentation or speech that you have enjoyed, found interesting or intriguing throughout, but been left feeling a bit empty when it finished?

So many speeches are carefully crafted throughout by the orator, but appear to be missing an ending. The speechwriter seems to have laboured for hours over the body, but tacked ona damp squib of an ending, either in haste or through lack of care.

The conclusion of your speech is your opportunity to leave one clear thought or call to action in the mind of your audience. It’s the lasting impression that you will leave, and it is at the very least, a large cue to your audience to start applauding!

So what is a good conclusion? What does it look like? Here are my thoughts – next time you write a speech, see how many of these boxes your conclusion ticks:

– A good conclusion gives the audience something to do or think about – a call to action

– A good conclusion should be introduced at the beginning of your speech – tell your audience that it’s coming at the end: eg: “and I am going to finish by telling you…”

– A good conclusion tells your audience what you have already told them – it reiterates and reinforces your point

– A good conclusion is memorable

– A good conclusion is concise

– A good conclusion finishes with a pause, and eye contact
with your audience

Have I missed anything? What are your tips for a strong speech conclusion? Let me know in the comments below and I’d be delighted to hear them.

Using facts and figures to win hearts and minds

Facts figures

Two speakers.

Both equally credible, both equally charming, both suitably polished in the delivery of their presentation.
One supports his argument with anecdotal evidence, the opinions of friends and a lot of cheesy jokes.
The second presents facts, figures and examples from history, information from a variety of sources and from both sides of the argument to support his case.

Who wins the pitch?

As a speaker, relying on your ability and charm only is a quick way to fail. You will ultimately only ever be as strong as the evidence that you support your argument with. Remember Ethos, Pathos and Logos described by Aristotle? Sometimes you can survive without Ethos or Pathos, but if you don’t have Logos, you have no evidence and you don’t have the ability to make a point.

Without a point, public speaking is…pointless?

Writing a persuasive speech – Aristotle style

Ancient Greece Ruins

Ancient Greece Ruins

I had to have a long and painful call with a call centre operator to persuade them to restore my Internet connection in my new home so that I could start blogging again. As a result, I thought I would make my first post back all about the very beginnings of persuasion in public speaking and how they can help us as speakers today.

In 350bc Aristotle wrote the ‘Art of Rhetoric’ – the first (known) book on the topic of public speaking. In it he formed a theory of persuasive public speaking that holds true to this day.

The best thing about Aristotle’s theory is that he formed it simply by observing others speak. No science, no men in white coats, just simply watching the opinion and thought leaders of the time. And by opinion leaders we don’t just mean the emperors and the generals, but those who captured hearts and minds preaching in their local tavern, employment or marketplace too – the everyday man.

So what is this theory and how can it be applied to our speeches today?

Aristotle’s theory of persuasive speaking states that a persuasive argument is formed by three core elements – ethos, pathos and logos.

Ethos – is the persuading of our audience that we are a nice, well-informed person with their best interests at heart.

Pathos – is an emotional appeal to our audience about why they should share our opinion or come around to our way of thinking.

Logos – is cold, hard evidence – the facts, about why our audience should adopt our point of view.

Aristotle wrote that all successful persuasive speakers used these three elements in their speeches to change the opinions of their audience. I can see the logic behind this theory, but when I first came across it I struggled to believe that a modern, cynical audience might be able to be ‘talked around’ using such simple tactics.

So then I started looking for the three pillars that Aristotle had identified in every persuasive speech that I heard. Guess what? They are always there. They may appear different as they are always dressed in the speaker’s natural presentation style, but they are there.

So how can you use Aristotle’s theory in your impromptu or prepared speech?

Of course it depends on your speech objectives and your delivery style, but ethos, pathos and logos can be used to form an easy-to-use structure for your persuasive speech. Check out the example below if you are struggling for inspiration or a point to start from with your own persuasive speech, it should give you the framework that you need to build your speech around.

Introduction (ethos) – introduce yourself and why you are qualified to speak on this subject (it might be your occupation, your passion or simply something that you have researched thoroughly).

Why this is important (pathos) – explain why the issue is important to you and why it should be important to your audience. If you are an advanced speaker or writer you may present arguments here that produce a persuasive emotion in your audience, such as guilt, anger or fear.

Who else says this is important (logos) – provide evidence of someone equally as qualified as you (or more qualified) agreeing with your point of view. This might take the form of research findings, statistics or a great quote.

Conclude – in the usual way – leave your audience thinking and with a strong call to action about what you want them to do next!