Ethos, Pathos, Logos: 3 Pillars of Public Speaking

The concepts of ethos, pathos and logos were enumerated first by Aristotle in his work “The Art of Rhetoric” in the 4th century BC. These are regarded as the 3 foundation stones of public speaking. These will make you a persuasive public speaker if you are aware of the secret of using them effectively. The time-honored treatise of Aristotle has everything to do in the 21st century when public speakers try and motivate their audiences with Aristotelian principles.

Ethos refers to the character or credibility of the speaker

Pathos their emotional contact with the audience, and

Logos, the aspect of logical argument

These are the 3 unique persuasive appeals – essential attributes the presentation or speech should have to make the audiences accept your message.

Origin of Ethos, Pathos and Logos in Public Speaking

Aristotle put down his thoughts on the art of rhetoric by classifying them into 3 basic persuasive appeals. Masters of public speaking regard Aristotle’s work as a seminal achievement in the field of making public presentations. Editors of the work believe it to be the most significant work ever to be written on persuasion. This is tough to contradict as most of the advice in modern books can be traced back to Aristotelian roots.

Ethos: This segment of the work believes that if you are to sound persuasive, you need to appear credible before the audience. You can build credibility in public speaking in various ways:

The audience should respect you

They should believe that you have a good character

They must have faith in you

They should believe that you have authority over your topic

However, it is not merely enough to know that you are a credible source of information, as public speaking has nothing to do directly with you confidence levels, expertise or experience. The groundwork for credibility is laid by ethos as your audience perceives it.

Pathos: Pathos is the attribute of making a presentation persuasive as it appeals to the emotions that your audiences have. You must ensure that your speech evokes feelings of fear, love or sympathy. The visuals that you present in public speaking should reflect envy or compassion. Finally, the characterization of the competition should generate feelings of contempt or hate.

Create emotional credibility through various ways, one of the most notable of which is through storytelling. The aim of making use of a simile, metaphor, story, analogy or anecdote is to relate the primary message with a stimulated emotional response from the audience.

Logos: Logos in simple terms refers to logical arguments. What you as the public speaker need to address is whether your message makes sense, if it is based on statistics, facts or evidence and whether your call to action leads to the desired outcome that you have promised. Hence, it can be said that logos is critical to the success of public speaking so that you can construct a reasoned and logical argument.

Analyzing the Importance of Ethos, Pathos and Logos

If you have two speakers offering speeches regarding a new strategy in corporate restructuring, the speech of the first speaker, a high school student, is one that has flawless pitching that is logically accurate and at the same time stirs emotions; the second speech is by a Fortune 500 CEO that is boring in terms of their speech pitching.

It would be hard to tell which one is more persuasive in public speaking. Some would choose the CEO since he has more ethos or credibility.

According to a few people, pathos is critical of all others. Some scholars are of the opinion that some people build on pathos or emotion and justify with logos or the facts.

In the opinion of Aristotle however, logos or fact should be most importantly considered among all the persuasive appeals. As a mastermind of philosophy and logical reasoning, he regarded logos as the most important of the rest as it required persuasive appeal. Hence, if you demonstrate logos, you do not need ethos and pathos.

While Aristotle may have regarded logos as paramount, he also mentioned that ‘logos’ is not merely enough. Logos should not be individually regarded, but its importance cannot be undermined by the other two pillars. Therefore, all of the 3 components are equally important.

The reputation and character of the speaker plays an important role in making a point in public speaking. If you are to motivate the audience into action by appealing to their audiences, you should consider their pathos. Impeccable ‘logos’ is equally important as the argument should be based on evidence. Successful individuals are comfortable standing before a crowd and orate impromptu because they have confidence in themselves and can channel the motivation of the audience towards a particular direction which is positive for themselves and for society.