Rule the Stage Like Aristotle





It might sound like I’m about to make a reference to The Three Musketeers, but this week’s knowledge nugget actually comes to us all the way from Ancient Greece.

Logos, pathos and ethos are the three primary devices that 5th Century BC philosopher Aristotle determined could be used by a speaker to persuade an audience and influence their decisions.

While a lot has changed since old Ari founded the Lyceum, human nature has remained fairly constant, making this piece of ancient wisdom as relevant now as it ever was.

In fact, Aristotle’s big triple can be seen at work in London’s successful 2012 Olympic bid.

Let’s take a look at each device and then examine how it was used to bring the world’s biggest sporting event to England’s capital.


Logos has a few different meanings, but in this context, it refers to using logic or reason to appeal to an audience.

Using logos in your communications adds clarity to your proposition and what you can offer. Examples of how this device can be used include: 

  •       Logical appeal
  •       Reason
  •       Facts and figures
  •       Data
  •       Research
  •       Statistics
  •       Expert opinion
  •       Examples


In Greek, pathos means both “suffering” and “experience”. This device is all about connecting with people on an emotional level to persuade them to action.

It is frequently used in the theatre to draw pity from an audience.

Take the following into consideration when you want to appeal to your audience’s emotions to drive action:

  •       How do they feel about you and your ideas?
  •       Your relationship and how you will work together
  •       Stories and metaphors
  •       Vision
  •       Use of a simple claim that a matter is unjust

 Tip: Pathos is most effective when the presentation connects with an underlying value of the client.


This term denotes ethical appeal. In speaking, this translates as convincing an audience of your good character by encouraging them to consider:

  •       Experience
  •       Authority
  •       Reputation
  •       Empathy
  •       Credibility

The 2012 Olympic Bid

Prior to the announcement of the winning 2012 Olympic bid, most of the world’s media had focused their attention on Paris. The French capital, with its great sporting facilities, seemed the obvious choice to host the games.

But at the last minute, London won through. How? They were presentation perfect!

Here is how the UK challengers used Aristotle’s three devices to persuade the Olympic committee:

  1. Ticked all the logical boxes – stadium, transport links, funding, etc. (Logos)
  1. Demonstrated that the UK is the home of sport, the birthplace of football, rugby, cricket, golf, tennis, etc. (Ethos)
  1. Showed that London is one of the most important historical, multicultural cities in the world.  (Ethos)
  1. Promised the committee the opportunity to dine at Buckingham Palace. (Ethos)
  1. Completed the presentation with a story about a young African boy who was inspired by the Olympics to take up running. Put forward an overall message that the 2012 London games would influence children around the world to take part in sport.  (Pathos.)

Incorporate these three devices into your presentations, pitches, and workshops, and you’ll take home the gold every time.