I have to draw upon my knowledge of logos every time I visit a pet store with my daughters. Standing there in front of the adorable dogs and cats who are waiting for homes, I almost feel powerless to pathos. I have to summon logic to help me say “no” when my girls are hitting me with imploring eyes and begging tones. I have to use logos when my own emotions are telling me to pick out a name and sign the paperwork. Logos gives me a better picture of the scenario, and keeps my house from becoming a zoo.
Ethos, logos, and pathos are three terms that get kicked around a lot in the world of public speaking. You might have heard them called the pillars of persuasion or Aristotle’s 3 proofs. Basically, Aristotle said we have 3 main ways to persuade an audience: by appealing to the audience’s logic (logos), by appealing to the audience’s emotions (pathos), or by convincing the audience we are credible and using our character to gain trust (ethos).
Because these three concepts are so foundational for our field, we are taking this week to cover them in more detail. If you missed our Monday blog on ethos, check it out now. Today, we’ll talk about logos which is Greek for “word.” In order to build a presentation with strong logos, you’ll need to focus on explanations, proof, and argument construction.
For a presentation to be logical, it has to be clear. The audience has to reach understanding before they ever move to acceptance. Persuasion doesn’t happen in confusion, it happens in clarity. So make sure to define all terms that might be unfamiliar. In addition, use analogies to help the audience understand things that might be new to them. Here’s a quick video from speaker and author Carmine Gallo that explains the power of analogies and how they help clear things up.
It’s one thing to make a claim. It’s another to back that claim up with solid research and evidence. When you stand up in a presentation and make a claim, you are the soloist. But when you stand up and make a claim and support it with other sources, you become the soloist who is backed up by an amazing choir of backup singers.
But be warned—building a strong logical case doesn’t mean you should assault the audience with a barrage of charts and statistics. Present your evidence in creative and varied formats. Make use of well-designed graphics to help communicate visually what is hard to communicate verbally. Multiple studies have found that “information is recalled the most effectively when it is presented visually.”
To create a speech with strong logos, you’ll need to a solid structure for your argument. Three of the most common ways to organize an argument are below.
Toulmin’s Model of Argument: The simplified version of Stephen Toulmin’s model involves a claim, a warrant, and a background. The claim is the thesis or main thing you hope to relay or accomplish. The grounds is the foundation of evidence on which you build your claim. The warrant, then, is the connection between the evidence and the conclusion. Dr. Jarrod Atchison says, “focus your attention on the warrant – because it is the connection between the grounds and the claim that is often the most vulnerable part of an argument.”
Deductive Argument: Deductive reasoning moves from large, general principles to smaller, specific cases. Deduction is what I call a “funnel” argument. If we can get the audience to agree to a widely accepted principle, we have entered the funnel. We can then continue to narrow the argument, following patterns of observation, until we’ve reached our conclusion.
Inductive Argument: Inductive reasoning does the opposite of deductive reasoning. It starts with a very specific case or story or study. It zooms in first, allowing the audience to study just a small piece of puzzle, before zooming out to get a wider view of the issue.
Probably the most important thing to remember about logos, ethos, and pathos is that you have to work hard to keep them balanced. A presentation that is largely logos-based will bore your audience. One that has too much pathos will leave them feeling manipulated emotionally. Seek to vary your presentation with different types of appeals throughout.
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