Using ethos to persuade your audience
The success of a speaker’s efforts to sway his or her audience will depend, ultimately, on credibility. In persuasive communication, we call this “ethos.” It comes from the Greek word “character” and it’s how you appeal to your audience through trust and credibility.
We are all likely to be persuaded by people whom we trust, and those with whom we can relate to. So how can we create that strong, credible reputation as leaders, especially with an audience that doesn’t really know us?
Trust can be created superficially
If you are delivering a speech or presentation to people who don’t know us, how is it possible to create a sense of trust? There are several ways this can be achieved:
- How you are introduced in a written bio and presented by an MC
- How you carry yourself
- How you control the moment
- How you are dressed
All of these affect the audience’s prejudgment of you as a speaker.
Why do you think that marketers use people wearing white lab coats to advertise which toothpaste is best and which skincare has been ‘researched’ through science to make our skin radiant? Because we are more willing to believe something if it’s presented to us by someone who looks authoritative – in this case, someone wearing a lab coat. So you see how trust and credibility can be created instantly, yet superficially before we have even started speaking?
Having a credible argument
First impressions matter, but second impressions go even deeper, and this is where having a credible argument will help build trust even further.
Understanding your audience and what matters to them is the first step to creating a credible argument. To show your listeners that you care about their needs and interests, find common ground with the audience, appeal to shared beliefs and goals, and entertain potential objections.
Pay attention to your non-verbal cues
Mehrabian’s 7-38-55 Communication model suggests that only 7% of communication takes place through the words we use, while 38% takes place through tone and voice and the remaining 55% of communication takes place through the body language we use.
In other words, our bodies speak louder than our words!
- Dress to impress. Wear something that mirrors your audience that isn’t too far from you, but something that they will immediately look up to.
- Make eye contact. Establishing eye contact will make you appear open and trustworthy.
- Speak loudly, clearly, and confidently. If you have confidence in yourself, the audience will too.
Don’t forget we all have a digital footprint, and as leaders, we need to make sure those are consistent with our physical presence and that which we present to our audience. For example, posts you make on social media, content you publish on your blog or website, and your digital biographies all need to have the same One Big Message that you want to be known for within your industry.
In my online course, “The Art of Persuasive Speaking in Global Business” I dedicate a whole chapter on how to build ethos into your communication skills so that you can earn trust and credibility from your audience.