Ethos and pathos help you get your point across, but logos is the actual point you want to make. It is the verbal content of your speech. What information do you want to convey to your audience? What conclusion do you want to reach? And most importantly, how are you going to shape it so that the audience understands it and agrees with it?
There are speakers who have a great charisma and fantastic presentation skills (i.e. ethos and pathos), but what they are actually saying (logos) makes little sense. Sadly, this sometimes seems to be the case with politicians. In order to be considered trustworthy, what you are actually saying has to add up. Do your conclusions follow from what you had stated? What facts do you have to back up your statements? Can you explain your point in a clear and memorable way?
Putting the logic into logos
The usual ways of achieving a credible (or a credible sounding) logos, are referring to scientific studies, specialist literature, experts and statistics. The more precise you name your source, the more credible your message sounds:
- According to a study carried out in 2016, every one in four Europeans tends to…
- I have recently read in the American Journal of Medicine that it may not be healthy to…
- Dr. Horst Seider, an anthropology professor at the University of Vienna recently wrote that humans…
However, logos is more than a set of ready made phrases. It also refers to the way you explain ideas and concepts. If your job is to explain a phenomenon, a process or a concept, especially if it’s an abstract one, you need to do it in a logical and creative way in order for it to be understood well and linger on in the minds of your audience:
There is a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex. “One of the most important things it does – it’s an experience simulator. Pilots practice in flight-simulators, so that they don’t make real mistakes in planes, human beings have this marvellous adaptation that they can actually have experiences in their heads before they try them out in real life.” -Daniel Gilbert, Harvard University, a TED talk
Comparisons may be one of the most powerful ways of explaining things. Comparisons let us understand new ideas in the terms we are already familiar with. They allow us to use mechanisms we already understand to understand new ones, thus helping the new knowledge integrate better in our already existing basis of knowledge. In addition, they give a face to unknown concepts and arouse our sympathy and curiosity for them.
Another important step in explaining a concept is giving an example:
“Ben & Jerry’s doesn’t have a liver and onion ice cream and it’s not because they whipped some up, tried it and went ‘yuck!’ It’s because, without leaving your own chair, you can simulate that flavour and say ‘yuck!’ before you make it.” -Daniel Gilbert, same speech
Examples are similar to comparisons, but more detailed. They work on the same principle, but they take it one step further, putting the concept in a specific situation. However, when constructing a comparison or an example, you have to take into consideration the given setting and your audience. On the grounds of his knowledge of TED’s audiences, Daniel Gilbert assumed that his audience knew what a flight simulator is as well as that Ben & Jerry’s is an ice cream company. So make sure you think about your audience, their interests and knowledge and use it as a basis of your example.
Do I have a say in the speech?
Being credible doesn’t mean that you’re not supposed to express your opinion in your speech. As a matter of fact, in most types of speeches it is desirable that you do. However, it is highly recommended to make it clear that this is your opinion and elaborate on it. Why do you have this opinion? What are your arguments? How did you form this opinion? What data support your opinion? Expressing yourself this way is going to let audience know that you are aware there are people with more expertise than you, but it puts you into the picture as well. Who knows, maybe someone from the audience will quote you in one of their speeches!
Aside from that, it is also desirable to express your personal perspective if you wish to persuade your audience into doing something or forming an opinion. For instance, if you are talking about waste separation, you could first state all the advantages of it and then say why you do it:
For me personally, separating waste can be a lot of work, but I decided to do it nonetheless. I know there are still a lot of people who don’t do it, but I thought to myself, if I start doing it today, maybe one of you will start doing it tomorrow. And then maybe someone else will start doing it the day after. And after a certain time, almost everyone will be doing it. This shows us that we can make a change – one person at a time.
Logos is the rational dimension of your speech. It is based on logic and reasoning. It is the very core that you build your speech around. Nevertheless, we’ve all had professors who were experts in their field and knew what they were talking about, but were just a pain to listen to. This is why we need all three means of persuasion: ethos, pathos and logos.
Shout-out to Aristotle!