Aristotle defined rhetoric as “the art of persuasion.” He identified the three main elements of persuasion: character, emotion, and logic. His wisdom still holds true today.
An audience’s judgment of a speaker’s character will determine whether they accept the messenger and therefore the message. What does it take to make an audience comfortable enough to trust you and believe in the validity of your message, in your “character?” In short, credibility and rapport.
Credibility comes from the audience’s belief that you are qualified to address your subject, whether through expertise or experience. For example, my credibility on the subject of speaking comes from the fact that I’ve given over 2,200 paid presentations over a span of 25 years. Your introduction can establish your credibility or you may subtly allude to your credentials in way that does not seem boastful or arrogant.
Rapport is based on a connection, a feeling that you and your audience are on the same “wavelength,” that you have something in common. We tend to accept and like people we believe are like us. So it’s important to establish common ground with your audience. And the one thing you can always have in common with your audience is their best interest. You can quickly establish rapport with an audience when they feel that you are interested in providing something of value to them, that the message is more important than the messenger. Communicate sincerely to your audience that you are there to be of service to them. If they sense that you are there to meet your own needs, rather than theirs, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for you to establish rapport with them.
The next component of persuasion is emotion. Most decisions are based, at least in part, on emotion. Once we make an emotional decision, we then sort out the logical reasons that support it. To be a breakthrough speaker, you must connect with people emotionally. Don’t confuse emotional connection with maudlin manipulation. Effective ways to evoke emotion in an audience include stories, parables, metaphors, and examples that demonstrate the human element and emotion of your message. You can also use amplification, that is, to amplify the “pain” of the problems that you address and then magnify the “relief” of the solutions you provide.
People are capable of experiencing a wide range of emotions. What emotions do you try to invoke through your speaking? Since listeners want to feel good about what you have to say, design your message in a way that results in positive emotions.
Finally, you must use logic to persuade. If your message is not logical, then your credibility, rapport, and emotional appeal will be lost. When listeners feel good about what they are hearing, they will consciously or unconsciously check to see that the message is also logical, that it makes sense and rings true. Logic validates emotion.
Cicero, the great Roman orator, insisted that speakers must know their subjects inside and out. You should be able to support your argument with facts, data, or anecdotes that prove your point. Accuracy is important, too. If you misquote a source or use statistics incorrectly, some listeners will catch your mistake and wonder about the validity of your entire speech. In short, know your stuff and use the stuff you know to make your point, logically.
To keep your message on a persuasive track, just remember that listeners are always asking these three questions on a subconscious level:
1) Why should I listen to this speaker? Character (Credibility and Rapport)
2) Why do I care? Emotion
3) Why should I believe or do what this speaker says? Logic
If you are just jumping in on this series click the links for Part 1 and Part 2.
What’s your biggest challenge as a speaker? Please feel free to share your thoughts with me on Facebook and Twitter as well as in the comment box below