Aristotle and Presentation Skills in 21st Century

Ok, what does a Greek philosopher born in 384 BC have to do with corporate presentation skills in the 21st century?

Well, I didn’t know until someone asked me a perplexing question during one of my presentation skills workshop.

“Raj, why do some people with pathetic presentation skills still manage to hold the crowds in whereas we are supposed to hone our skills using techniques and methods?”

Good question!

I looked back at some speakers that I really admired and thought that this gentleman was right in asking this question, there are a lot of presenters whom I admire and yet they have horrendous presentation skills. So, if these people are still effective, what’s the point in teaching people these skills?

The other question that pops out of this is far more important: What makes these people such great presenters that they can hold me riveted without even the essential skills.

The answer to this question came from highly unlikely quarters.

Aristotle the Greek philosopher in his rhetoric says that there are three ways in which you can persuade people to your way of thinking.

The first one is Logos, which signifies logic.
This means that you can persuade people if you appeal to them logically. Which means that if you add enough factual data to appeal to the logical side of people in your presentation you can make a really strong point.

The second way is Pathos, which signifies emotion.
This means that you can persuade people if you appeal to them emotionally. As a presenter, how do you appear? The basic question is are you emotionally likable as a presenter?

The third way is Ethos, which signifies credibility.
This talks about your credibility as a presenter. How much does your audience believe in you as a person? Do they feel that you walk the talk?
Aristotle considered this the highest form of persuasion.

And there I found my answer to the question asked by my participant.

There are some people who are so high on ethos that they don’t need to depend on presentation skills. The people I listened to without caring about their presentation skills were the ones who held the highest credibility in my eyes.

So there may come a time when you move beyond the realm of presentation skills and garner attention and respect irrespective. Till then, lets hone our skills.