Aristotle’s five rhetorical devices for great presentations

Note: This was originally published in Our Favorite Management Tips from 2019 on Harvard Business Review. Clipped it here because I thought it was really useful.

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When you need to sell an idea at work or in a presentation, how do you do it? Five rhetorical devices can help — Aristotle identified them 2,000 years ago, and masters of persuasion still use them today:

1. Ethos. Start your talk by establishing your credibility and character. Show your audience that you are committed to the welfare of others, and you will gain their trust.

2. Logos. Use data, evidence, and facts to support your pitch.

3. Pathos. People are moved to action by how a speaker makes them feel. Wrap your big idea in a story that will elicit an emotional reaction.

4. Metaphor. Compare your idea to something that is familiar to your audience. It will help you clarify your argument by making the abstract concrete.

5. Brevity. Explain your idea in as few words as possible. People have a limited attention span, so talk about your strongest points first.