Understanding Rhetoric

understanding public speakingRhetoric, which is the art of public speaking and persuasion, provides both esthetic enjoyment and practical utility. We can enjoy appearing before an audience, influencing and exciting it, while we can use public speaking to teach, to promote and to influence. It is important to understand that the emotional and the practical sides of rhetoric cannot be separated – a boring politician is less persuasive, and a monotonous teacher cannot educate.

Therefore, rhetoric – both as an art and as a science – is measured on three scales: Content, Context and Style. Mastering all of them is essential because without one the other two lose their value. In order to become a better speaker we need to pay close attention to our abilities in each of these dimensions, and strive to improve each.

Content – What we say

This is the overall name for the message we are trying to convey. The elements of content are arguments and structure. Arguments are the essence of the content, and represent the facts and the logic we use to get the audience to agree with us. Structure is the way those arguments are arranged so that the audience could follow them and understand them.

Style – How we say it

Style refers to the way we present our message. There are many elements to style, and it is convenient to divide them into three main groups:

Verbal style includes our choice of words and our use of language. The non-verbal style deals with the visual aspects of public speaking, such as body language and personal appearance. The semi-verbal style refers to our use of voice in terms of volume, speed, intonation and pronunciation (including accent).

Context – Where we speak

This refers to the situation in which we speak, and how we adjust ourselves to it. There are several aspects here such as time, place, the composition of the audience, our persona and the physical and technological settings.
In order to master the use of context it is imperative to understand the situations in which we will be speaking adjust the content and the style to accommodate it.


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