Ethos Pathos Logos | The Secret Sauce Of Great Speeches

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How To Be: Compelling, Structure A Great Speech & Deliver A Memorable Message.

Here is to rhetoric and the Ethos Pathos Logos trilogy.

It might be true that communication is the most important transferable skill one can endow themselves with.

You can be an expert in software development, mechanical engineering, biochemistry, financial markets… really anything. And these skills alone will ensure you well. These are skills the world needs, and you have worked hard to acquire. But do these singular expertise alone write you success?

NO – certainly not.

These skills can only realise your potential if they are practised alongside sophisticated, smart and effective communication. Delivery can be just as important as the message.

Aristotle, one of the old Greeks, he thought the same.

He laid out a framework for effective oration that is so Lindy it has stood tall through the iterations of time. A simple framework for establishing your authority as a speaker, emotionally connecting with your audience and then logically persuading them in tow.

It is Ethos, Pathos Logos.

But, on the subject of good speech. I am trying to address this every week on my podcast, A Curious Worldview, which interviews the most interesting people in the world.

What Does Ethos, Pathos, Logos Mean?

In the words of Aristotle himself…

“Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker ; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind ; the third on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself . Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible.”


There you have it! The three-tier system of a great speech. Now let’s dig in a little bit deeper.


An appeal to credibility and authority. Who are you to be making this point? If I am to speak about politics must I not first come from a point of authority? Ethos is established through justifying authority, and in other words, whatever credentials are littered throughout your resume.

Are economic messages better received from those informed or those uninformed?

Who are you to be making this point? Your audience must believe you have a sense of credibility and authority if they are to take your message seriously.

Identity politics has recently brought Ethos to the point of absurd. All of a sudden if you start your message with… “as an Asian man” or “as a woman” then you are actually appealing to the Socratic Ethos he spoke about thousands of years ago. You are establishing credibility and authority with your audience that what you are about to say is coming from a voice of authority.

A credible Ethos is one of authenticity separated from some cheap form of signaling.


This is (in my opinion) the most important part of the message.

Your emotional appeal.

What personal anecdote can you draw upon to support the morale of your message? What story is there available that is going to allow your audience to relate best? If I am making an appeal to justify Covid-19 lockdown, then it would support my case to mention the nice and relatable family whose eldest son died from the disease because the gas station attendant wasn’t wearing a mask. If only we had all followed the rules and remained in lockdown.

… you see? This is a theme classic to history. Emotions blow facts out of the water. One tough emotional appeal will wipe away all rational, systematic responses that you might have made before.

These are the questions Pathos works to solve. The Pathos does not need necessarily tug at the heartstrings. Pathos can be humour, it can be shocking, it can be scary. Pathos is the emotional drawcard of the speech.

You start with Ethos to establish your authority, then you follow with Pathos to make your audience care about what you are saying… and then.


Logos is where facts enter the equation.

By this stage of the speech you have already established your authority and connected with the audience on an emotional level. They are ready to listen to what you are going to say. So now you double down on your point by hammering home the facts supporting your claim.

Logos is the facts and figures. If I am to draw upon the Covid-19 example I made in Pathos. I might end the speech by saying that there is a 60% decrease in infection if you wear a mask than if you don’t. I could say that lockdowns are going to save thousands of people. The Logos kicks in right at the end.

You are already convinced of what I am saying (assuming ethos and pathos were done right), so what I achieve with Logos is essentially the speeches staying power. The emotional appeal and then the facts supporting the appeal are what people remember.

Aristotle had a tip for the logicians here…

The most effective use of Logos is to encourage your audience to reach the conclusion to your argument on their own, just moments before your big reveal. They will relish the fact that they were clever enough to figure it out, and the reveal will be that much more satisfying.

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