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by Kathy Reiffenstein

Standing in front of any audience, your goal is to persuade them

• that you know what you’re talking about
• that your approach/suggestion/proposal is worth considering
• that they should do what you’re asking them to do

Over two thousand years ago, the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, suggested that there are three available means of persuasion: ethos, logos and pathos. As valid today as they were then, these methods can make your presentations more compelling to your audience.


Ethos, Greek for character, relies on the authority, credibility or expertise of the speaker to persuade. A medical doctor as the spokesperson in a TV commercial for a new cold remedy persuades through ethos.

In the business presentation, a subject matter expert exudes ethos. Would you be likely to believe Bill Gates’ view of the digital revolution or Sir Richard Branson’s forecast of what airplane travel will look like in fifty years? Probably. However, speakers sometimes rely too heavily on this persuasion technique. Don’t let speaker credentials, title or rank substitute for crafting a truly persuasive argument. Ultimately it will be the audience who determines ethos.

Logos, Greek for word, uses logic, reason, statistics, polls and facts to persuade. It is harder to take the opposite point of view to an argument which uses logos because the data seems so well supported and incontrovertible. The marketing presentation using consumer research data to show the viability of introducing a new product is logos. The case for global warming uses logos persuasion by employing scientific evidence.

Pathos, Greek for experience or suffering, persuades by appealing to emotion and imagination. This is probably the least used approach in business presentations because we’ve been taught to be factual and concrete. But there is power in connecting with an audience through the heart. Pathos is using stories, vivid language and passionate delivery to make your message more personal and compelling, moving the audience to identify with your point of view.


The best presentations will incorporate more than one method of persuasion. Logos can enhance ethos by adding facts, substance and proof to the credentials. Pathos can enhance logos by taking dry statistics and making them more alive and relevant.

In analyzing your audience and the objectives of your presentation, incorporate these persuasion methods as a more powerful way to move your audience to embrace your message.