The orator Cicero on what makes a great speaker
“So what makes a good speech? It must be forceful in argument, memorable in style, resonant in its references. It must also, before anything else, connect its speaker to its audience. This is what Aristotle, the first Western authority on rhetoric, called ethos – the basic movement in any effective speech that transforms the ‘me’ of the speaker and the ‘you’ of the audience into ‘we.’: “Friends, Romans, countrymen . . .”
This a quotation from Sam Leith’s article entitled, What was the greatest speech? The Economist, Intelligent Life, July/August 2103. Here is the link: http://moreintelligentlife.com/content/ideas/anonymous/martin-luther-king
The above quotation underscores the importance of first understanding your audience – their mind, the mood, what they’re proud of, fearful of, whose opinion do they respect etc. – when preparing a presentation.
Leith elaborates further . . .
“Ethos is established by, quite literally speaking the audience’s language: shared jokes, common reference points, recognizable situations. As rhetorical theorist Kenneth Burke has said: “You persuade a man only in so far as you can talk his language by speech, gesture, tonality, order, image, attitude, idea, identifying your ways with his.”
In reference to the ‘recognizable situations’ mentioned above, one way this can be done in practice is to use the phrasings such as,‘’Picture this; Imagine this situation; Cast your mind back to . . .’ followed by something in common betwen you and the audience.
Other memorable points from the article include:
“Barack Obama, one of the most technically gifted orators of modern day, consciously appropriates the language of Lincoln and Dr. King (who himself referred to Lincoln). ”
“The turns of language that technicians call figures (as in ‘figures of speech’) capture myriad ways of making language dance: . . . anaphora with which, by repeating a word or phrase over and over again, you build an irresistible gathering rhythm.”
“Soundbites, though much bemoaned, are not a recent innovation. Cicero was fond of them.”