What can speakers learn from the art of rhetoric?
Over 2000 years ago in ancient Greece, Aristotle identified the key principles of rhetoric which are still used by good Public Speakers today and the first of these is the fact that a charismatic voice is as important as a well constructed speech. Here are some of the tricks of the trade:
1) Use contrast/comparison of opposites.
This is a very good way of getting spontaneous applause and politicians do it all the time. You may remember President Jack Kennedy’s famous use of this device:
“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
2) Groups of three.
If your speech is persuasive this gives emphasis through repetition. It seems to work because repeating twice could be coincidence but four times seems too much. Think of all the examples of this which have been memorable:
“Education, education, education”- Tony Blair
“You will be visited by the ghost of Christmas past, present and future”- Dickens (A Christmas Carol)
“She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah”- the Beatles
“Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!” Kenneth Williams in Carry on Cleo.
Studies have shown that lists of three are especially effective in advertising:
“Stop, look and listen”- Road safety campaign
“A mars a day helps you work, rest and play”
You will probably be able to think of quite a few more.
3) Emphatic gesture
Good speakers conduct their audience like an orchestra. You can calm an audience with the palms down gesture and use dramatic movement to encourage a applause on key phrases, but of course this needs to look natural so won’t appeal to everyone.
Well, as I’ve given you three examples, that is probably the ideal number for you to retain so I shall stop now and just wish you happy Public Speaking.
Oh, and while we’re at it, we mustn’t forget that very popular way of beginning or ending a speech
The rhetorical question
Well, what did you expect!?
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