Rhetoric

"The ancient Greeks..." is a common and somewhat jokey introduction to many speeches. We consider it a fitting, relevant and good opening.

In Athens, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle judged different speakers, their techniques, specialities and results. Some were better than others, and some of them won the day more frequently than others.

Aristotle wanted to chart the characteristics of the different people, and the skills that mattered the most. He found that rhetoric is based on certain cornerstones. In the modern age, this has been refined into seven aspects.

In brief, the following seven elements provide the foundation for rhetoric, and little has changed from Aristotle's time to our own.

  1. Intellectio. Here we analyse the situation. Where do we stand with the target group; who are we addressing; what are the needs, desires, dreams, problems, threats, etc. of those we will be talking to? This is also where we formulate our message (thesis).
  2. Inventio. We now develop and refine the arguments and use a combination of logos, ethos and pathos arguments. Logos refers to rationality. We use ethos to build credibility in and around ourselves, and then use pathos to engage the listener's emotions.
  3. Dispositio. We must organise the information, so that the listener understands what it is we want to communicate. The presentation must be easy to follow, and it is important that the different elements support each other.
  4. Elocutio. We want what we are saying to be remembered, maybe even unforgettable, if we word it well. We will now adorn the presentation itself. That is quite a different matter to adorning ourselves with difficult words and expressions.
  5. Memoria. These days we are not required to remember everything by heart, as was the case in Athens and Rome almost 2,500 years ago. However, we still need to own the presentation. Practice makes perfect, and practising the presentation a couple of times before delivering it can be very effective. This makes us more confident, as well as more credible and persuasive – all desirable qualities.
  6. Actio. How we deliver the presentation itself is important. The signals our body and voice send must echo the content and message of the presentation itself. We must also make conscious choices about the tools we use, and a little practice before the actual delivery is always good.
  7. Conclusio. The presentation is over, but we still have much to learn from it. Did you get your message across? What lessons can we learn for next time? Ask a colleague to give you feedback.

This structure works as well today as it did almost 2,500 years ago. The communication between two people is the same, we have the same emotions, and we generally build relations in the same way.

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions!