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Canons of Rhetoric: Applying Invention to Presentations

Every presenter aims to craft a powerful speech that leaves the audience with lasting impact.

The ancient Greeks and Romans were at the forefront of developing such effective speeches. Today, we’ve picked one canon of classical rhetoric to discuss how it can become the backbone of your presentation.

Going Back to History

Although the Ancient Egyptians were renowned orators, the Greeks were the first civilization to codify public speaking into what is now known as Rhetoric. It was the great philosopher, Aristotle, who introduced the basics of rhetorical knowledge. Speakers from Rome further developed the idea with further studies, which gave rise for the Five Canons of Rhetoric.

These phases were: invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery, these canons serve as principal outlines for designing a persuasive speech.

Let’s focus on the rhetoric of invention.

What about Invention?

Roman scholars Cicero and Quintilian described invention as the process of developing and refining your argument. In the twentieth century, researchers reinvented it, considering it the most crucial process since it sets your message’s direction.

Does science come to mind when you see the word “invention”? This canon is one such presentation science that you can use for smoother speeches.

Invention controls the whole idea of your main discussion. It lets you classify your key points so you can deliver the right spin required for each idea.

Doing a lot of research streamlines your thoughts automatically.

How to Apply Invention

When planning your persuasive piece, the invention phase is the start of your main idea.

It’s like devising a new gadget where you need to collate facts and perform research collectively.

We’ve listed a few of Aristotle’s rhetorical topics to help you form your arguments:


Comparison comes after you’ve identified a specific issue to discuss. This is the stage where you can use playful language. Get the message across by using figures of speech like metaphors, similes, and even analogy.

Cause and Effect

The cause and effect relationship has been around for decades. Use this to establish a strong stand for your arguments, while also persuading your listeners to accept the whole idea.


The great thing about circumstance is that lets your audience determine what’s possible and impossible. Complement your argument with a realistic appeal by drawing facts and testimonies from reliable sources.


The rhetorical canon of invention offers a great framework for organizing your thoughts.

If applied correctly, you’ll have fewer worries about delivering your speech with a more persuasive and effective lens.

Start your presentations right by mastering invention using the rhetorical way.



Cicero’s Classical Canons of Rhetoric: Their Relevance and Importance to the Corporate Workplace.” April 23, 2008. Accessed April 29, 2015.
How to Organize Your Ideas with a Presentation Storyboard.” SlideGenius, Inc. September 1, 2014. Accessed April 29, 2015.
Improve Your Presentations with the Power of the Metaphor.” SlideGenius, Inc. November 17, 2014. Accessed April 29, 2015.
Newbold, Curtis. “How the 5 Rhetorical Canons (Invention, Arrangement, Style, Memory, and Delivery) Will Make You More Persuasive.” The Visual Communication Guy. April 6, 2015. Accessed April 29, 2015.
McKay, Brett & Kate. “Classical Rhetoric 101: The Five Canons of Rhetoric – Invention.” The Art of Manliness. January 26, 2011. Accessed April 29, 2015.


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About Rick Enrico

Rick Enrico is the CEO & Founder of SlideGenius, Inc., a graphic design agency servicing over 1,000 global customers. Rick currently oversees an experienced team of talented graphic designers, software engineers and support staff that specialize in creating high-end custom presentations and marketing collateral for business executives and corporations.Mr. Enrico and our team of PowerPoint design experts contribute to this blog frequently. If you have any questions or just want to drop us a line please forward them to admin (@)

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