I’ve spent the last few weeks writing a report and preparing a presentation on the progress of my PhD. Like most PhD students, I have a horrible inclination to procrastinate and to google things such as “how to be persuasive” instead of working on the content of the presentation itself. I nevertheless learned something very interesting – Aristotle’s “art of persuasion”

In a nutshell, Aristotle explained that persuasive appeals can take three forms, and that depending on the position you are trying to promote you should employ these approaches in different ways. The three forms of persuasive appeal are:

1-      ETHOS: Appeals based on the character and credibility of the writer

Perhaps the most important factor in making a message persuasive is the credibility of the person or organisation transmitting it. The most perfectly crafted message is rendered useless in the mouth of someone the audience does not perceive as reliable or believable. What credibility means varies widely from context to context and (from a marketing perspective) for different products/services, but it is always the lens through which the rest of the persuasive appeal is judged.

2-      LOGOS: Appeals to reason

Logos is about constructing chains of reason that connect ideas together and carry the reader along with the persuader towards his/her desired conclusion. From shared premises or commonplaces the persuader attempts to demonstrate that one particular course of action or perception is the best – or the most truthful based on common sense, reason and rationality.

3-      PATHOS: Appeals to the emotions

 The third type of persuasive appeal is that based on eliciting an emotional response from one’s audience. Making people feel your argument as well as understand it at a rational level can be the most effective way of bringing people round to your way of seeing things.

Has this helped my presentation? Yes, I realized I should stop procrastinating and get the logos right.


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