Giving a public speech is not all fun and games. Behind giving a good public speech is an entire science field named rhetorics, which mainly focuses on how to persuade an audience. Knowing rhetorical theories will allow you to deliberately implement changes and effects that will help you convince your audience of your arguments, all while giving a memorable performance! Additionally, having a good foundation in these theories allows you to have more flexibility if you need to improvise or respond fast to unexpected situations. This article therefore will help you get familiar with the most important theories of rhetoric to lay a good foundation for your (TEIMUN) talk!

The Three Pillars of Rhetorics: Ethos, Pathos, Logos

While delivering your speech, it is essential to create credibility or authority for your argumentation and have the audience connect with you and your chosen subject. This can be done through the concepts of ethos, pathos and logos, created by Greek philosopher Aristotle (384 BCE- 322 BCE). In essence, ethos is about establishing your authority on the subject, pathos is about emotionally influencing your audience and logos is about the logical foundation for your argument. 

But how do these three concepts work in practice?

As a public speaker, you need to establish your credibility to talk about your chosen subject. The audience needs to know you are qualified to talk about the topic. This can be done through showing your expertise on the subject, but also through showing you are a ‘good’ or ‘genuine’ person. In other words, the audience needs to believe you have authority to talk about this subject. You need to be trustworthy and have genuine intentions all while making sure your audience will notice these qualities!

You can use ethos in several ways. First, through adding personal aspects in your talk. You can apply this by demonstrating your expertise on a particular subject, talking about your own experiences or setting down good qualities of your character. For example, if you are talking about research in a certain field, try applying sentences such as: ‘we are one of the leading countries in the research on this topic’.

However, you do not want to overdo it. Overdoing it will only create a reverse ethos where the audience will think negatively of you. If you feel hesitant about the way you applied ethos in your speech, make sure to ask feedback from others or watch other speeches online. While looking at videos, ask yourself questions such as: ‘how do they accomplish ethos in their speech’ and ‘what can I learn from that?‘ Secondly, ethos can also come from how you present yourself. Think of clothing, expressions, gesturing etc. 

most public talks, it is recommended to establish ethos at the beginning of the speech, allowing the audience to connect with you right from the start! This does not mean you can forget about ethos as soon as your introduction is done. Ethos is applicable through the whole speech; use little anecdotes or sources throughout your entire speech.

Your main goal as a speaker is to convince the audience of your argument(s). While this will be mostly done through logical arguments, you also need to emotionally appeal to the audience. This can be done through any sort of emotion. You can invoke emotions such as love, familiarity, sadness and even anger. For extra help, make sure to look at the articles on ‘Voice’ to know more about how you can evoke certain feelings using your voice.

To create pathos in your speech, you need to think of your argumentation and what emotions are needed to further strengthen this. It is important to keep in mind what the values of your audience are. For example, delivering an angry toned speech about a topic the audience is sensitive about will only drive your audience away.

While an entire speech generally will not be completely reliant on pathos, using pathos is a very powerful tool to be used in your speeches, so make sure to think about your emotions in the speech!

Lastly, as a speaker you need to have logic behind your argument; you need to bring information or proof to support your arguments. This can be done by using facts, figures, data etc. Logos can also be reached by telling your arguments in logical order. If you, for example, talk about how to build a house, you have to start talking about the materials you will be using. If you start with talking about the last steps of building a house, your arguments will not be as clear as you want them to be. It will probably make your audience confused.

It is important to be aware that ethos, pathos and logos are all connected. For example, applying logos will strengthen your ethos by showing your expertise or knowledge. Applying all of them in your speech will strengthen your argument and persuasive goal!

Knowing your Audience

Educating yourself about your audience is one of the most essential aspects when you are preparing your talk. You can make use of ethos, pathos and logos based on your knowledge of your audience. For clarification, here is an example of how to apply your knowledge of your audience in your speech.

Imagine that you have to give a speech about political choices in front of politicians. You will be able to use technical terms in your speech, since your audience members are experts. You also might figure out how to logically order your arguments, simply based on your audience. If you research how politicians mostly build their arguments, you can take smart advantage of that by using their techniques in your own talk. This way, the audience members will feel at ease, while you can more easily convince them of your views. Even the educational the background of your audience might come on hand, because then you know how difficult your use of words can be.

Apart from using tricks like these, it is also useful to know the nationalities of your audience. Every culture has different norms and values, and it is necessary to keep these in mind. This can be shown in your language, argumentation and even your body movements

Rhetorical Phases of a Speech

Preparing your talk is obviously essential. You can not deliver a speech well if you have not prepared properly. To make sure you effectively prepare your talk, follow these five rhetorical phases:

This phase is about doing research. First you need to decide what the topic of the speech will be. After deciding the subject matter, focus on finding reliable sources which will support your arguments. In this phase, you mainly need to think about your argumentation and what this is based on.

This phase is about the composition of your speech. You need to decide in what order you will let your argumentation play out. Your speech should have a logical order of argumentation, in order to persuade the audience to think about your arguments.

This phase is considered as the most challenging by many; making linguistic choices. You have to decide what words, examples or phrases you will use to support your arguments. If you are feeling lost in this part, try once again looking at videos online to see how public speakers use linguistics to persuade their Audience. Here are some examples of useful videos: 

http://rhetoric.byu.edu/  – Style – Figures of Speech – Groupings Index

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vP4iY1TtS3s  Martin Luther King – I Have a Dream (most prominent: anaphora, alliteration)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkTw3_PmKtc  Winston Churchill – We Shall Fight on the Beaches (most prominent: anaphora, alliteration)

This phase is about memorization. You have to practice your speech many times in order to tell the speech exactly the way you want it to be. 

This is the most fun part of all of the phases! Now you have come to the phase where your speech is prepared, practised and ready to be given. In this phase there is more freedom; you feel confident and can start slightly improvising. You can start experimenting and really make the talk your own! Learning how to deal with these five steps even helps with riffing on the spot: an important skill to know for an MUN. 

Structuring your Speech

When you give a public speech, you need to use a structure on which your text is based upon. Giving structure to your speech can be done in endless ways, but it is important to keep in mind the base: introduction, main body and conclusion.

This is where you set the tone for the talk. Three aspects have to be part of your introduction: credibility (ethos), introducing the chosen topic and grabbing the attention of the audience. Make sure to be creative in this part. Try to blend these three aspects together to create a powerful introduction that will keep your audience on the edge of their seat!



This part of the speech is where the argumentation is central. You make your chosen arguments known, explain what they are based on and what they can bring to the table. To emphasise your arguments, use examples, sources and make smart use of your body language and voice 

The conclusion might be the most difficult part to prepare, because it should summarise the entire speech and convey a message to the audience. In this part, your job is to make sure the audience will remember the most important aspect of your talk. To do this properly, make sure to repeat your main arguments and tell your audience how to move forward. Keep in mind, you do not want to introduce new arguments! Only repeat arguments that were already given earlier, in order to avoid confusion.