The Secret Sauce Of Great Speeches

Ethos, Pathos & Logos

Here is to rhetoric and the Ethos Pathos Logos trilogy. A three ingredient recipe for rousing communication.

Just listen to Sam Leith speak and tell me what you think for yourself…

You can be an expert in software development, mechanical engineering, biochemistry, financial markets… really anything. And these skills alone will ensure you well. After all, these are skills the world needs, and offers demand for. But do these singular expertise alone write you success?

NO – certainly not.

‘Show me the incentive and I’ll show you the outcome’ - Charlie Munger (goat of pithy quotes)

I want to grow this newsletter and I want to grow this podcast. Typically, fellow creators in my position will offer you (my dear reader/listener) some reward whereby, if you refer x amount of people I will send you y reward.

For every 5 people you bring to the newsletter, I’d send you custom merch (or something along these lines)

Now, as you know, I work full time at Quartr which means after a long days work, I am booking, researching, recording, editing and publishing a podcast plus (everything on this newsletter), and therefore only left with a few minutes for everything else that makes up a life.

And as such, setting up some type of rewards program hasn’t eventuated. BUT with that being said, I would nonetheless try to do something to incentivise you to share the show.

For the sake of transparency - about 5000 people follow the podcast across both Spotify & Apple, and several hundred subscribe to this newsletter. Not everyone listens to every episode, but so far in a 4 year lifetime I’m extremely chuffed with every new person - and I notice every. single. new. person

To get to the point where things are monetised I’d say tripling both of those metrics is necessary.

But for now, all I can offer is camaraderie - if you are reading this now you are, and will remain the most important viewership I will ever get… and this is because you are the early adopters. So all I can do is ask… if you enjoy this and if you know anyone who think might enjoy it as well - share it with them one at a time and share it on your socials to the masses. Follow the podcast wherever you listen to it and subscribe to this newsletter and bare with me, not everything will be directly interesting to you, but I endeavour that some of it definitely will be.

So pump your juice, send this to all your mates - and one day you’ll be able to say you were onto all this ‘Curious Worldview’ stuff from day 1.

BACK TO THE POST ⬇️

These skills can only realise your potential if they are practised alongside sophisticated, smart and effective communication. Delivery can be just as important as the message.

Aristotle, one of the Greeks, thought the same.

He laid out a framework for effective oration that is so Lindy it has stood tall through the iterations of time. A simple framework for establishing your authority as a speaker, emotionally connecting with your audience and then logically persuading them in tow.

It is Ethos, Pathos Logos.

What Does Ethos, Pathos, Logos Mean?

In the words of Aristotle himself…

“Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker ; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind ; the third on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself . Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible.”

Aristotle

There you have it! The three-tier system of great communication. Now let’s dig in a little bit deeper.

Ethos

An appeal to credibility and authority. Who are you to be making this point? If I am to speak about politics must I not first come from a point of authority? Ethos is established through justifying authority, and in other words, whatever credentials litter your resume.

Are economic messages better received from those informed or those uninformed?

Who are you to be making this point? Your audience must believe you have a sense of credibility and authority if they are to take your message seriously.

Identity politics has recently brought Ethos to the point of absurd. All of a sudden if you start your message with… “as an Asian man” or “as a woman” then you are actually appealing to the Socratic Ethos he spoke about thousands of years ago. You are establishing credibility and authority with your audience that what you are about to say is coming from a voice of authority.

A credible Ethos is one of authenticity separated from some cheap form of signalling.

A classic example of Ethos might be… “If my years as a Marine taught me anything, it's that caution is the best policy in this sort of situation”

His credentials and everything else assumed by his experience as a marine creates an immense authority with his audience for what is to follow.

Pathos

This is (in my opinion) the most important part of the message.

Your emotional appeal.

What personal anecdote can you draw upon to support the morale of your message? What story is there available that is going to allow your audience to relate best? If I am making an appeal to justify Covid-19 lockdown, then it would support my case to mention the nice and relatable family whose eldest son died from the disease because the gas station attendant wasn’t wearing a mask. If only we had all followed the rules and remained in lockdown.

… you see? This is a theme classic to history. Emotions blow facts out of the water. One tough emotional appeal will wipe away all rational, systematic responses that you might have made before.

These are the questions Pathos works to solve. The Pathos does not need necessarily tug at the heartstrings. Pathos can be humour, it can be shocking, it can be scary. Pathos is the emotional drawcard of the speech.

You start with Ethos to establish your authority, then you follow with Pathos to make your audience care about what you are saying… and then.

Logos

Logos is where facts enter the equation.

By this stage of the speech you have already established your authority and connected with the audience on an emotional level. They are ready to listen to what you are going to say. So now you double down on your point by hammering home the facts supporting your claim.

Logos is the facts and figures. If I am to draw upon the Covid-19 example I made in Pathos. I might end the speech by saying that there is a 60% decrease in infection if you wear a mask than if you don’t. I could say that lockdowns are going to save thousands of people. The Logos kicks in right at the end.

You are already convinced of what I am saying (assuming ethos and pathos were done right), so what I achieve with Logos is essentially the speeches staying power. The emotional appeal and then the facts supporting the appeal are what people remember.

Aristotle had a tip for the logicians here…

The most effective use of Logos is to encourage your audience to reach the conclusion to your argument on their own, just moments before your big reveal. They will relish the fact that they were clever enough to figure it out, and the reveal will be that much more satisfying.

This point was recently made to me by master rhetorician Sam Leith. Trump actually achieves this same ‘reaching the conclusion on your own…’ but in a bastardisation of Logos. For instance, he will being to make a point (irrespective of the facts) and then sidle into a ‘…you know what I mean’ letting the audience think they’ve reached the same conclusion and therefore feel like they are right there alongside with him. Trump’s Ethos and Pathos are almost always on point, therefore, once he gets to the Logos, this ‘finish it yourself’ move has proven to an extremely effective tool in Trump’s rhetoric.

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