The 3-point structure of persuasion (and great presentations)

Irina was terribly frustrated, “How do I make people change their minds?!”

“Tell me about the issue, Irina.” said I.

“My director told me to standardise global process. All I get is pushback, like when people say, ‘But we always do it this way and it works.’ Then nothing changes. So I tell them it’s good for the company and still, they don’t do anything.”

In this scenario, there are three principles of persuasion that Irina may do well to adopt.

These were first grouped by Aristotle into the three areas of Ethos, Logos and Pathos and it’s the combination of these elements that can drive a message home and create change, whether in 121 interactions or if you’re presenting to groups.

In fact, any TED speech will have all three of these components.  So read on if you want to upgrade your influencing skills.



Ethos includes credibility; achievements, title and experience.  Using language that sounds fair and unbiased adds to ethos in that different sides of an argument are presented and examples back up statements.

Using suitable vocabulary and grammar also sway Ethos.  Describing the new AI innovation in eye testing as ‘well sick’, won’t be likely to increase uptake.

In Irina’s case, the fact that her change was a directive from above is not persuasive. She’d do better to use words that benefit the user rather than imply that this is a senior management initiative to which an eyeball roll may be the only reaction.

If you don’t want your audience to question the reliability of your content, then it’s vital to establish Ethos early on. Here’s how.



This refers to techniques that appeal to logic such as data, facts, graphs and statistics.

Here’s a quick guide on how to use visuals with these types of facts, so they really strike home:

Give a rationale to your content. You need causes and related effects that have evidence to back them up.

The audience may enquire, “How do you know this will work, Femi?”

When Femi replies, “I just feel it. Y’know, in my water,” this doesn’t count as a logical response. ‘Gut feelings’ may be strong but some of your listeners will not be brought by emotion alone. They want the facts, the evidence to back it up.

In Irina’s case, using evidence to show where standardisation works will be an advantage in convincing people to change.



This is the quality that provokes emotions and stories, identifying with audience experience.

This could be a question as simple as “On video calls, have you ever wondered if people are really listening to you or reading their email?” You’ll get a knowing response as you’ve prodded the pain of your audience. Then they’re ready to hear about that your laptop camera gizmo that shoots steam into their eyes as soon as Gmail’s up.

If Irina sympathised firstly with the plight of those she’s trying to persuade, she’d find it easier than trying to defend her actions. Showing them how the change can be both easy and to their benefit appeals to their feelings.

You may have a story about how your HR process were complex and time-consuming until you invested in software to mitigate the issue. The story resonates with the pain of all those in charge of recruiting and onboarding.

Pictures, memes and gifs all illustrate emotional responses to familiar circumstances.

Your vocal tone and body language needs to demonstrate your sincerity: the concern that’s followed by the relief at having a solution.  If your non-verbal expression is flat, it sounds bored – or psychopathic – neither of which draw others in.

Emotion makes the logic float. The author, Wilkie Collins stated, “Make ’em laugh, make ’em cry, make ’em wait.” This goes for presenting as well.


How to use anticipation…but not yet

There are three ways you can make your audience wait: it stops them clicking off – especially on webinars – and holds their attention and this is where you’ll find it.


In summary

Here’s an example of Ethos, Logos and Pathos

Ethos: Buy this personal trainer  (PT) app because I’m the Editor of Spry Living.

Logos: Buy this personal trainer app because research has shown that cardiovascular fitness can increase by 30% in a month.

Pathos: 2 years ago, as a lifelong smoker and committed couch potato, I was rushed to hospital with arteries so clogged up, the surgeon thought I’d been eating hairballs. My life was about to end. Fast forward to post-surgery and convalescence. I realised that I had to make some serious changes if I wanted to live a full life. I bought the PT app and only 3 months later, I am part of the Olympic Decathlon team. With the help of this app, I’ve been running marathons with my mate Bob on my back and pole vaulting over The Shard. My doctor has not only given me a clean bill of health, but also informed that I’m the healthiest woman. Ever. So buy this app.

If you want to improve your storytelling, go here:


Your Action

  1. Identify the next time you need to persuade someone;
  2. Make a note of what tools you have for Ethos, Logos and Pathos.
  3. Use at least one of those tools in your next conversation.
  4. Practise another one for another interaction. Then again for a further one. That way you’re not overstretching yourself and it’ll all come together naturally.

Before you go!

Looking to give a kick to your communication skills?  Wondering whether it’s just others that need a kick to theirs?  Whether ‘it’s me, not you’ or vice versa, go here and I’ll help you break through blocks.

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