Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The E's, L's and P's of Public Speaking

It is feeling and force of imagination that make us eloquent.

Marcus Valerius (Martial)
One summer I conducted a series of seminars on public speaking. They were in New York City and people came from all over the country to attend. They were three day seminars. On the first day I asked the participants to prepare and deliver a three minute speech on any topic. They were all certain they couldn't possibly come up with anything to say for three minutes. By the end of the third day I could hardly shut them up.

There is a lot to teach and explain about public speaking to those who aren't accustomed to doing it. I told them that if I just lectured I would talk for a day and a half but that, since the point was to get them speaking, they would have to hear things from me on the last day they wish they had heard on the first. Nevertheless, I got them up and speaking while the rest of the class critiqued and only lectured them for an hour or two in the morning.

On the last day my lecture was about roots, stems and blossoms, or, in other words, preparation, practice, presentation: a useful triangle. Although they are useful illustrations, I don't generally like to confine things to the idea of three parts, a triangle of parts, because usually one aspect of something will ooze over into another aspect, like colors in a rainbow.

But in my own research I came across a dynamic concept from an ancient Greek philosopher and teacher of rhetoric (which had a much more respectable meaning back then than it does now) named Aristotle. And his idea is as applicable today as it was then to teach, convince, inform, sell, campaign or just chat. Aristotle's triangle consisted of the three Greek words ethos, logos and pathos.

Ethos is basically you're right to speak on whatever topic it is. If you know a lot about a subject (nobody knows it all) then you have the ability to speak on it and anyone who is interested in it had better listen to you. One of my clients was a man who sold specifically men's suits. He gave a talk on how good men's suits were constructed. It was fascinating because those of us who wore men's suits took a lot for granted and didn't know there was so much to the making of them. The speaker really knew his business. He had the ethos.

Logos is much of the same, although it has more to do with the subject matter, the depth of information, the facts and figures, the examples and illustrations. Logos is the substance of your talk. It is where the words are important, where they must convey the right meaning, clearly and in an interesting manner. One of my clients was an engineer who explained how to make a one inch piston fit into a one inch socket since there had to be an adjustment to one or the other or else they wouldn't fit. He managed to explain some complicated engineering design concepts with words that were clear enough so the rest of us could understand them. He had the right logos.

Pathos is perhaps the most important of the three, at least it is if the other two are firmly in place. Pathos refers to your own personal involvement in the subject you are discussing. Pathos gives energy, focus and purpose to all that you say, it's the fire underneath your words, it illustrates and proves your right to be there. One of my clients, on the last day, sat at the table in front, folded her hands together and spoke without any notes about the charitable organization she volunteered for. By the time she finished it was important to everyone in the room. She had the ethos, the logos and she loved her subject so much that she enthused everyone.

DB - Vagabond Journeys
Never give up.

Summer is moving along, people.

It's a long, hot, sticky summer, so here's a hot, sticky question for you.

Same sex marriage. Should it be legal or not? If so, why? If not, why not?

19 answers so far.

You have until the last day of summer, but don't dally.
I eagerly await your answer.


1 comment:

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

I am a roots kind of guy.