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December 9, 2010

Tell a story


Aristotelean persuasion has three pillars: ethos, pathos, logos. Telling stories is your key to an effective pathos… and presentation / speaking greatness.

Aristotelean persuasion has three pillars

Ethos is your credibility.

You get it by building your brand, talking about your past experience (or, better, having others talk about them), demonstrating your knowledge of the subject, citing experts, and demonstrating your commitment. It is self-reinforcing: the more you have, the more you get.

Logos is your logic.

That’s all the work you’re doing with your logic trees, analysis, and Minto pyramids to diagnose your problem and identify solutions. Dry facts. Cold hard maths. This is good, in fact it is necessary. But it’s not sufficient.

Irrespective of how good you are with ethos and logos, you haven’t achieved presentation greatness—or sold your solution—until you nail pathos.

Pathos is the emotions.

You need to understand your audience’s motivations and generate the emotions that will sway them your way. So how do you do that?

Telling stories is your way to generating emotions

You tell stories. I’m not saying that, Howard Garner is.

“A key —perhaps the key—to leadership is the effective communication of a story.”

Howard Gardner – Leading Minds: An Anatomy of Leadership

If you’re not convinced, go find out which of the TedTalks you like the most and analyze why; chances are it is because they were given by great storytellers.

If you’re still not convinced, listen to William Ury; he is one of the authors of Getting to Yes, a reference for negotiation. In the video below, he explains that the reason why we feel so connected to the conflict in the Middle East and not so much to other conflicts worldwide isn’t because there are more casualties; there aren’t. Rather, it is because of a story that we all heard.

Similarly, people analyze Malcolm Gladwell’s public speaking and agree that what is so compelling is his ability to delivery great stories.

So tell a story to your audience!

Learn more: Check out Presentation Development Skills on Slideshare for a good description of what ethos, pathos and logos mean when applied to public speaking.