"You measure the impact of your words, not on the beauty or the emotion of the moment, but on whether you change the way people not only think but the way they feel."
Rhetoric is the art of using language as a means to persuade. Popularized in ancient Greece circa 600 B.C. by a school of philosophers and teachers known as Sophists, rhetoric evolved as an important skill for aspiring orators. Although the formal study of rhetoric has waxed and waned over the centuries, this classic art offers many powerful techniques which we can use to enhance the impact of our speech. (Thanks to my colleague, Halelly Azulay, at TalentGrow, for passing along this BBC article on The Art of Oratory).
One of the foundational areas in the study of rhetoric is the rhetorical device, a technique used to evoke an emotional response in the audience.
Here are a few of the rhetorical devices that you can easily incorporate into your presentations. Click on the speaker's name to go to both a printed and an audio version of the speech.
Repetition of the same sound through the use of initial consonant letters in two or more different words across different sentences or phrases.
- "And our nation itself is testimony to the love our veterans have had for it and for us. All for which America stands is safe today because brave men and women have been ready to face the fire at freedom's front." Ronald Reagan, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Address
The repetition of a word or words at the end of two or more successive clauses or sentences.
Where the words in one phrase or clause are repeated, exactly or closely, for emphasis, in reverse grammatical order in the next phrase or clause.
- "And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address
Although the names of these devices may sound a bit esoteric, the flexibility they give you to capitalize on the impact of words and sentence construction is a powerful tool for your presentation toolkit.
Next time, we'll look at some more rhetorical devices to help you change how your audiences think and feel.
(Here is Part I of The Power of Language)