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Dynamism of Ethos: Audience Perception in Presentations

As we’ve discussed previously, Ethos is an important pillar of classical rhetoric that focuses on an audience’s perception of a speaker.

Just like presentations, it can be described as dynamic in nature or a perceived phenomenon. A crowd’s perception is subject to change, even within the confines of one discussion.

Let’s talk about these stages in the chronological order of your credibility’s perception.

Initial Credibility

Your listeners will always have their own idea of who you are based on what they see of you– even before you begin your speech.

Without much to base their opinion on, they’ll use your reputation and credentials as a foundation to judge your speaking competence. They may be in the dark about your personal details and qualifications, but they can still form initial impressions on your credibility.

This can be affected by how you are introduced, how you dress up, how you carry yourself, and how you make use of body language techniques.

An introduction that plays up your achievements and credentials can give a boost to your Ethos.

Similarly, how you dress up and take the stage shows how well-versed you are in social norms and communication practices. If ever you blunder through your start, don’t worry. You still have the next part to get back into your groove.

Transactional Credibility

As you get into the meat of your speech, your audience molds their ideas of you based on how you do as a speaker.

Even subconsciously, they can continuously form additional assessments or modifications of their initial impressions. This can give you a second chance, in case you had fumbled your initial impression.

If you started with a high level of credibility, you’ll lose a lot of it if you come ill-prepared. In turn, a disappointed crowd may feel misled and promptly tune themselves out.

If you had started with a low level of credibility, then this is your opportunity to make up for it with a well-planned and executed presentation.

Being aware of verbal and non-verbal ways give you an edge when changing or improving your listeners’ perception. Staying composed will let you use these techniques when it matters most.

Terminal Credibility

How your audience views your aptitude and mastery as a speaker is the terminal credibility.

Have you experienced being pleasantly surprised at how much you enjoyed a conversation with someone you had previously doubted?

This is how it feels when your opinion of that person zooms from the extreme lows to the extreme highs. Your presentation’s beginning is useless if you don’t end it on a high note. A strong ending makes your message more reliable and improves your initial credibility for your next speaking opportunity.

If you keep this going, you’ll build a reputation to keep audiences hanging on to every word you say.


Knowing the dynamism of Ethos ensures that you can maintain a natural course of improvement towards being a better speaker– whether in the short term or in the long term.

Need a presentation deck to match your speech? Check out our portfolio for inspiration, or contact our slide design experts for a consultation with a free quote.



Speaker Credibility.” Changing Minds. Accessed July 10, 2015.
Presentation Ideas from Ancient Greece: Explaining Ethos.” SlideGenius, Inc. 2015. Accessed July 10, 2015.


Featured Image: “Man Speaking Into Microphones” by www.audio-luci-store.it on flickr.com

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