Did you know that oratory was once an Olympic event? That’s how seriously the ancient Greeks took the art of public speaking. That makes sense, since they literally wrote the rules for how to persuade people by talking to them. Think of the “Five Canons of Rhetoric” as being like the Ten Commandments of how to make your point.
While the Latin names for these points are credited to the Romans, they originated in Athens. Here are the five things necessary to make a compelling case:
Invention: You need to have an idea and be able to clearly state it, identifying objections and bolstering the positive points
Arrangement: You must organize your presentation in a way that makes sense to your audience. It may have taken you a long, winding road to reach your conclusion but your audience doesn’t have that kind of time or patience. You need to hook them early and keep their attention.
Style: Does your presentation keep their attention? Is it appropriate to the audience? Are you memorable?
Memory: Can you memorize your key points, speak in a confident manner that makes you sound like you’re in control of your facts and your demeanor, or does it seem like you’re reading and relying on notes? Moreover, will your audience remember your key points and take-aways? This might not matter to the content of your presentation, but it greatly impacts how credible you seem to the audience and their faith in your talk
Delivery: This is made up of the physical, vocal and verbal tools you use in presenting to the audience. Is the brilliance of your data undermined by a lot of “umms” and “uhhhhhs”? Does your nervous fidgeting belie the confidence you feel in your suggested action? Great delivery can overcome lapses in logic, poor delivery dims the most luminous argument.
The fact is that brilliant research badly presented can be disastrous to your project, your job and even your career. Great presentation skills that demonstrate a lack of organization skills or an inability to relate to your audience can cripple a sale.
Being right is no guarantee of success when trying to sway others. You need to be clear, organized, appealing, in control and deliver in ways that bolster your credibility. Whether it’s the Olympics or just trying to get your project funded, all of these tools must be aligned to guarantee success.