Presentation Power:
Four Ways to Persuade


Aristotle said that all speaking is persuasive speaking.

I agree. After all, who am I to argue with Aristotle?!?

Regardless of the venue (10 people or 1,000 people, a conference, a sales call, or a feedback session), we, as speakers, are always trying to sell our credibility and value – not to mention our ideas. Hence, all speaking is persuasive.

Unfortunately, all too often presenters think they are “just giving information.” “Information” is often better delivered in written form, giving the audience time to digest and think about the material.

Just think for a minute how much time would be saved if people read the material in advance, and the group time was spent answering questions.

That being said, presenting information in a way that shows passion and enthusiasm not only makes the material more interesting, but the speaker more memorable and inspirational – even persuasive.

All speaking is persuasive.

So, what makes a presentation and presenter persuasive?

There are 4 critical factors. I’ll start with three that Aristotle himself mentioned, and then add one of my own.

1. Logos

Translated from Greek, it means logic. Information must make sense – it needs to be organized logically so people can follow along. Not only is organization important, but so are the facts and figures that make your case. Information that hits the “head” falls into the logos category. Logic alone, however, isn’t enough to spur people to action — it’s critical to justify the movement. That’s why Aristotle said that along with logos, you also need pathos.

2. Pathos

Pathos = emotions. We are moved by our emotions – hitting the heart and the gut. Not everyone is moved by the same things, however. Some people are motivated by money; others by prestige or power. The better you know the people that you want to persuade (their demographics, job levels, reasons for being there, etc.), the better you can use examples that will move them. Overall, a speaker’s goal is to create a need – driven by the positives that the people will achieve by doing what the presenter suggests or the pain they will experience by not doing it.

Want to learn more?
Explore these concepts more in the Six Minutes series — Ethos, Pathos, Logos: 3 Pillars of Public Speaking

3. Ethos

Your ethos is your credibility. If people believe and trust you as a speaker, you will have a much easier time getting them to believe what you have to say. If they don’t like or trust you, it would be rare for them to buy into your ideas. There would always be an undercurrent of skepticism. This “unearned” credibility can come from the bio audience members read before attending your presentation, or in the words of an introducer reading your prepared introduction.

4. Passion

No matter what the message, a speaker must deliver it with passion. Use vocal variation that makes the message convincing. I have frequently been called a motivational speaker, but I see myself as a high content speaker who is passionate about my message. Not only is vocal passion critical, but it must be congruent with your visual body language. I have had people say to me, “I can’t be passionate, my topic is boring …” or, “I am an accountant, scientist,” etc. My answer to them is …

There are no boring topics. Boring is an attitude. There are boring speakers.

If your message can help audience members, and you believe in its content, it is up to you to deliver it enthusiastically so that people get excited.

There are no boring topics. Boring is an attitude. There are boring speakers.

Persuasive speaking can be used for the greater good or for negative purposes. Each listener should be aware of the ultimate purpose of the person presenting the message. It is easy to be swayed when the speaker is using logic, emotion, unearned credibility and passion. Use these persuasive speaking tools well.

Persuasive Speaking: A Look at Logos, or Logic

There are many ways to organize your information in a presentation, to be more persuasive. Three techniques include:

A. Motivated sequence

Attention, need, satisfaction, visualization, and appeal to action.

  1. The attention step is designed to gain the audience’s attention, and create goodwill and respect between the presenter and audience.
  2. The need element is developing a general problem and relating it to audience members’ desires. Remember, the needs are theirs and not yours.
  3. Satisfaction is showing how your service or product solves the problem. It points out the features of your product/service and benefits to audience members.
  4. Visualization is to intensify the desire of audience members to move ahead with the solution you proposed. You describe how things will be after the proposal is adopted, and further explain the benefits.
  5. Lastly, the action step is when you urge audience members to take action – with the objective to close your presentation with a sense of completeness, spurring people to act.

B. Reflective

Present a problem; give several alternatives; evaluate them; select the best. If you already have the solution, you want to ensure that your information supports that solution. Here are 8 steps a presenter follows when using this speech organization method:

  1. Introduction
  2. Problem (establishing criteria for evaluating the options)
  3. Possible solution (evaluate using the criteria; start with the positives and end with the negatives – making sure that the negatives outweigh the positives)
  4. Repeat step 3 again
  5. Your choice
  6. Possible solution (reverse your approach by mentioning the negatives first, and end with the positives – making sure that the benefits outweigh the negatives)
  7. Review (problem, criteria, and optimum solution)
  8. Call to action/memorable statement

C. Proposition to proof

In your introduction, present your proposition; then prove it throughout the body of your speech. Conclude with an appeal to accept or act upon your proposition. Here are the 5 steps a speaker uses when using this method to organize a presentation:

  1. Introduction
  2. State your proposition (what you want them to believe or do)
  3. Proof (give reasons – logical and emotional – that support the proposition)
  4. Review
  5. Call to action/Memorable statement

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Comments icon6 Comments

  1. Jim Harvey says:

    Marjorie,

    Once again an excellent article. Broad, concise and readable. I’ll heartily recommend it to my clients as ‘Persuasion in a nutshell’. Regards

    Jim Harvey

  2. I’m one of those people who doesn’t agree that all speaking is persuasive. In the educational field, trying to persuade is propaganda. Yes, we should try to persuade the audience that our topic is important, but that takes about a minute. Then we inform and encourage people to draw their own opinions. The same applies to training presentations. But, that said, for persuasive presentations, I think it’s a great post, with valuable advice for people who are doing persuasive presentations. Many people ignore the organization of the content, so a discussion of this topic is important.

  3. Well said. I believe that sincerity and passion are the most important factors. Your audience wants to see that you believe in your facts, figures and ideas.

  4. tony cole says:

    First time visitor. Really like this. Solid info on the importance of everything you do sends a message

  5. Marcie says:

    “There are no boring topics. Boring is an attitude. There are boring speakers.”
    This was one of my fears until I realized that, with loads of practice, I can be engaging while sharing my message. Thus, I am on a mission to be persuasive in all my presentations. Thanks for this.

  6. Ally F. says:

    Dear Ms. Brody,
    Thank you for your helpful article.
    Perhaps you could add links to demo Motivated Sequence, Reflective & Proposition to Proof speeches in action! That would be the cherries on top of a great ice cream article. Thanks! Ally

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