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Presentation Ideas from Ancient Greece: Explaining Ethos

May 8, 2015 / Blog Aristotle, ethos, improving presentation skills, On Rhetoric, public speaking

Whether it’s due to democracy, free speech, or delicious Mediterranean dishes, Ancient Greece was the center of human culture and thinking.

It’s no surprise that most models of interpersonal communication improve upon that era’s important building blocks.

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The Building Blocks

In his book, On Rhetoric, famed Greek philosopher Aristotle laid down the three pillars of rhetoric: logos, pathos, and ethos.

Logos is persuading by means of reasoning. It’s an appeal to the audience’s logical side. Pathos is persuading by means of passion, appealing to the audience’s emotions.

Ethos is convincing by means of character, projecting an impression that you’re someone worth listening to. It’s regarded as the most important element of rhetoric.

What is Ethos?

Because it’s considered the most valuable pillar, let’s focus on Ethos for now. Andrew Dlugan of Six Minutes shares that audiences base a presenter’s trustworthiness based on their ethos.

The way they carry themselves and speak in front of a crowd reflects their credibility and truthfulness. While a person’s ethos can’t be measured, it’s very effective in terms of persuading people to listen to your points.

Just think of it as how much your audience feels that they should listen to you. This affects how much patience they’ll have as listeners, and how well you can get your message across.

However, don’t let people’s first impressions dictate your performance. Increase your perceived credibility by focusing on ethos’ important aspects.

Enhance Your Ethos

Stay Composed

Audiences are less engaged if you’re nervous or anxious.

People can easily detect obvious symptoms of anxiety such as stammering, unnecessary interjections (uh’s, um’s and er’s), fidgeting, shaking, and shuffling speech notes.

These signs of an unprepared or unqualified speaker distract your audience.


Extroverted speakers—friendly, likable, and outgoing—hold more credibility. They command more attention and influence while listeners tend to be more skeptical of people who seem timid, less animated, and less talkative.

Engage your audience by looking warm, friendly, and approachable when taking the stage.

Look Good

The status generalization theory, which has been confirmed by scholars such as Linda Jackson, John Hunter, and Carole Hodge, suggests that more attractive people possess a higher level of competence.

This doesn’t mean that only beautiful people are believable. Anyone can be physically attractive, given the right strategy.

Improve your personal appearance with appropriate grooming, proper hygiene, and flattering wardrobe choices.

The Ancient Greeks didn’t have access to the important visual aids that we have now, but they honed their public speaking skills to freely express themselves and properly govern their city-states and colonies.

Build on their knowledge to get presentation ideas and improve general communication skills.

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Avoid These Filler Words When Writing for Your Presentation.” SlideGenius, Inc. July 02, 2015. 
Jackson, Linda A., John E. Hunter, and Carole N. Hodge. “Physical Attractiveness and Intellectual Competence: A Meta-Analytic Review.”Social Psychology Quarterly 58, no. 2 (June 1995): 108-22.
Rapp, Christof. “Aristotle’s Rhetoric.” Stanford University. May 02, 2002. Accessed May 8, 2015.
What Is Ethos and Why Is It Critical for Speakers?Six Minutes. Accessed May 8, 2015
Presentation Ideas from Ancient Greece: Pitching With Pathos.” SlideGenius, Inc. September 4, 2015.