The 3-Point Structure Of Persuasion (And Great Presentations)

Irina was terribly frustrated.

“My director told me to standardise global processes. 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.”

An important element of presentation skills is being able to persuade people to take on your ideas or solutions. I cover this in both presentation skills training and influencing skills training with the use of three basic principles used to persuade people; Ethos, Logos and Pathos.

Aristotle first grouped Ethos, Logos and Pathos together as the three vital components of rhetoric, also known as ‘persuasive speaking’.  It’s the combination of these elements that drive a message home to enable change.

These components don’t have to be used in one hit: they may be used over time, in presentations or one-to-one discussions. In fact, any TED speech will have all three of these components. So read on if you’re serious about upgrading your influencing skills.

How to use three basic principles to persuade people in a presentation


Ethos refers to credibility and will include what others know of your achievements, your job title and experience. Your non-verbal language – such as gesture and voice, aside from the words you use – add to credibility.

Using suitable vocabulary and grammar also sway Ethos. For example, describing the new AI innovation in eye testing as ‘well sick’, may not boost your credibility among some corporate audiences.

How to use Ethos to persuade in a presentation

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.  In addition, the examples that Irina uses in her rationale will further highlight her experience and trustworthiness.

If you don’t want your audience to question the reliability of your content, then it’s vital to establish Ethos early on by being able to tell others what you do in a succinct, compelling way.


This refers to influence 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:

Logos may include a rationale for action or a decision explaining the reasons for an initiative and any facts or data that can project an outcome.

Let’s say Femi is proposing a new project to his team leaders and they ask, “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 they are personal, and some of your listeners will not be bought by emotion alone. They want the cold, hard facts, the evidence to back it up.  Here’s one structure that’s not only quick to deliver, but includes a strong Logos component.

How to use Logos to persuade in a presentation

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

One such way might be to pull out data on how the process saves time.


This is the quality that provokes emotions and stories.  These help the audience to feel the pain and gain.

It’s worth noting that we make decisions based on fact, but act based on emotion.  If you need proof, here’s the science: framed in the story of Eliot.

Pathos is an influence skill that incites the emotions of your listeners.  It could be a question that elicits listeners to recall a personal experience. Let’s say you’re selling some laptop camera gizmo that shoots steam into the eyes of your listeners as soon as their email pops up (don’t get ideas!).

Instead of going into ‘Logos’, describing features, you prod the pain of your audience: “On video calls, have you ever wondered if people are really listening to you or reading their email?”

The response you receive will trigger recognition. Anyone that’s done any influence skills training knows that showing an understanding of the pain your listeners experience, sparks a motivation to act upon it. In addition, you’re establishing an empathy with others, rather than barging in with an order to change.

How to use pathos to persuade in a presentation

If Irina initially sympathises with the plight of those she’s trying to persuade, she’d find it easier to win them round, rather than adopting a defensive position from the outset. Appealing to feelings can be underlined with emotional benefits. For example, Irena might state how the change could be quick and easy to implement, and as a result, make their lives easier.

Other ways to persuade people in a presentation

Influence skills aren’t only about what you say, but also how you say it and any influence skills training needs to include these non-verbal aspects.

Your vocal tone and body language needs to demonstrate sincerity.  If your non-verbal expression is flat, you’ll sound unconvincing. There’s a host of research that backs this up, with one such study from 2011 by Kellogg School in association with Stanford was striking. It revealsed that posture in speakers has more impact than hierarchy in determining how people view the status of another. In short, how you move will affect the way in which people view you and your message.

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

In summary

Here’s a quickfire example of Ethos, Logos and Pathos approaches to the same situation:

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

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

Pathos: Two 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 three months later, I am part of the Olympic Decathlon team. With the help of this app, I’ve been running marathons: sprinting along with my mate Bob on my back, whilst 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

  • Identify the next time you need to persuade someone;
  • Here’s a note of the tools you have for Ethos, Logos and Pathos.

how to be persuasive when speaking

  • Use at least one of those tools in your next conversation to heighten your influence skills or presentation skills.

Are you looking to give a kick to your communication skills?  Or are you wondering whether it’s just others that need a kick to theirs? Whether ‘it’s me, not you’ or vice versa, check out my communications and influencing skills courses and I’ll help you break through blocks.

This article was originally published in October 2020 and was completely updated in February 2024.


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