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The Art of Persuasion

Persuasive speaking involves urging a person or group to change its attitude and/or belief about something. This is perhaps getting tougher to do in this day and age when everyone has an opinion, including journalists who seem to have forgotten they are supposed to be objective. Nonetheless, persuasion is still vitally important in every aspect of business.

When you speak to persuade, you are acting as an advocate. Generally, you want people to change their minds, agree with you, and then act on that belief.

Persuasive speaking is different than informative speaking, even though information is an important aspect of persuasive speaking. Persuasive speaking is more complex and ambitious and audience analysis is more important.

The idea of persuasion is thousands of years old. It was the Greek philosopher Aristotle who broke down this art into three basic techniques – ethos, pathos, and logos.

Ethos looks at the credibility of the speaker and whether the audience wants to believe him or her. Establishing credibility is the first major step to being persuasive. How you look is just as important here as what you say. This is where strong body language, good eye contact, appropriate dress and appearance, and general confidence are most important. You might be an expert in your field, but if your demeanor and appearance are lacking, gaining the trust of your audience is going to take a little longer.

Pathos is an appeal to the audience’s emotions. Personal stories and anecdotes appeal to an audience’s senses. This is the technique that helps bring a daydreaming audience back to you and are the parts of a presentation that are most often remembered.

Logos is an appeal based on logic and rational argument. Make sure your fact based arguments are logical and based on rational thought. Random statements and disorganized appeals may be accurate, but they are tough to follow and are less likely to win the audience over.

Now some may argue that one of these appeals is more important than the others. But to be successful, equal weight should be given to all three.

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