Do you want to improve your communication skills and positively affect others’ actions? What if you could engage an audience the way Aristotle did?
In Amplify Your Influence, René Rodriguez covers the basics of persuasion including how to use four of Aristotle’s rhetorical appeals to connect with any audience. You’ll also learn how to apply the author’s three essential steps for effective communication.
Read below for a brief Amplify Your Influence book overview.
Amplify Your Influence by René Rodriguez
Do you want to become a more persuasive presenter? If so, you may benefit from the communication strategies René Rodriguez offers in the Amplify Your Influence book. Rodriguez explores numerous ways you can connect with people, help them reach their goals, and help them change their behavior for the better. He argues that we’re all capable of guiding and shaping others, as long as we have the right tools.
Rodriguez is a keynote speaker, leadership advisor, and sales expert with years of experience teaching business and leadership skills. He applies insights from behavioral neuroscience to his approach, creating communication techniques that are meant to work in harmony with the brain’s natural patterns. He’s also an entrepreneur, the CEO of several companies, and the creator of the AMPLIFII™ course, which offers strategies for becoming a better leader and communicator.
The Basics of Persuasion
Rodriguez argues that successful communicators engage and inspire their audience (whoever they’re attempting to guide or persuade). As a communicator, your goal should be to convince your audience to change their behavior or take positive action.
In this section, we’ll discuss four rhetorical appeals and how you can employ them to make your communication more effective, whether you’re conversing with loved ones, making sales pitches, or speaking in front of large audiences.
Four Rhetorical Appeals
According to Rodriguez, you can engage and guide an audience successfully using four of the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle’s rhetorical appeals (qualities of an argument that make it persuasive). For thousands of years, people have used these appeals to sway their audiences. Understanding and applying all four can help you build trust, interest, and rapport with an audience.
Appeal #1: Pathos
Pathos is the appeal to emotion, and it allows you to connect with your audience on a personal level. When you successfully engage your audience using pathos, they can empathize with and relate to you. Additionally, Rodriguez argues, pathos is necessary when trying to persuade people to take action or change their behavior—people typically make decisions based on emotions, not logic.
For example, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals uses pathos to secure donations through TV commercials. They combine sad music and images of scared, abused animals to appeal to your empathy, making it more likely you’ll take action and offer money to help the animals.
You can use pathos and appeal to your audience’s empathy through storytelling. When people are engaged in a story, they feel the emotions of the narrative as if they’re experiencing the events themselves.
Appeal #2: Ethos
Your ethos represents your credibility—it’s whatever allows you to speak with authority about a given topic and have people trust what you’re saying. Rodriguez argues that ethos includes whatever associations and brand people attach to you. The greater your ethos, the more people will listen to you. You can increase your ethos in many different ways—for example, publishing books and articles can build your credibility in your chosen topic or field.
Appeal #3: Logos
Rodriguez defines logos as the appeal of logic and reason. If pathos and ethos tell your audience why they should buy into your message, then logos represents what they’re buying into. Without logical reasoning, the audience may be unable to truly understand your main idea, leaving them unable to act on it. Your logos appeal might include data, numbers, statistics, and so on—anything that’s based on facts and reason.
For example, say you’re trying to sell a washing machine to a customer. Your logos appeal might center around data that show how much longer the washing machine lasts than other models or the great deal you offer that beats other stores’ prices.
Appeal #4: Kairos
Rodriguez states that kairos isn’t as well-known as the first three rhetorical appeals, but it’s just as important. It represents the relevance your ideas have to your specific audience. The same information can mean different things to different people, so you have to deliver your argument at the right time, in the right place, and in the right way for the people you’re trying to reach. If you don’t, then it doesn’t matter how interesting, qualified, or proficient you are—you’ll lose the audience’s interest.
For example, let’s return to the washing machine scenario. Say you’re selling to a young, single professional. If you base your sales pitch on the idea that the washing machine is large and efficient enough to fulfill the laundry needs of a big family, your customer will likely lose interest, as that specific benefit isn’t relevant to their needs. Instead, focus on how convenient the quick-wash setting is for people with limited time or how the energy efficiency of the washing machine will save them money. This would be more relevant information for a busy young professional with limited funds and, therefore, it’s more likely to persuade the customer to purchase the washing machine.
Three Essential Steps to Effectively Communicate a Main Idea
Rodriguez asserts that once you’ve learned these rhetorical appeals, you must learn how to communicate a main idea. In this section, we’ll first define a “main idea.” Then, we’ll examine how you can use this three-step progression to communicate successfully: contextualizing the main idea, delivering the main idea, and demonstrating the value of the main idea to the audience.
What Is a Main Idea?
Rodriguez notes that your main idea is the central lesson or information you’re trying to communicate to your audience, the idea you want your audience to remember.
For example, in the professional realm, you might give a presentation to your employees in which your main idea is how changes in leadership will help the company. In a personal conversation with your significant other, your main idea might be a way to solve a conflict about household chores.
Step #1: Contextualize Your Main Idea
Rodriguez states that before you present your main idea, you must contextualize it. This ensures your audience views your main idea the way you want them to, rather than through their personal contexts. We all typically view information through our personal context, which is based on our experiences, memories, and preconceptions, along with our present physical and emotional states. This context determines how receptive we are to new ideas, how likely we are to act on these ideas, and how we’ll react to them emotionally.
Your audience might have aversions or fears about your main idea that form part of their personal context. This can hinder their ability to receive your ideas and thus, your ability to change their behavior. When people feel unsure and unsafe, their hypothalamus (the part of the brain responsible for automatic functions such as digestion and breathing) activates, shutting down their ability to process new information.
Instead of letting this restrict you as a speaker, guide audience members’ perception of your main idea by creating context at the beginning of your communication. Specifically, addressing your audience members’ fears and concerns primes them to be open and receptive. For example, contextualize your main idea using pathos by telling a story that helps your audience members empathize with you.
Step #2: Deliver Your Main Idea
After you contextualize your main idea, it’s time to deliver it. This is the main part of your communication, where you state and explain your central points. Rodriguez states that the delivery of your main idea, including any actions you want your audience to take, should be clear and thorough. The audience shouldn’t have to speculate about your meaning or fill in knowledge gaps themselves. When in doubt, explain more thoroughly than you think you need to.
If you fail to deliver your main idea clearly and thoroughly, you could create misunderstandings and your audience might make assumptions that lead to further problems. For example, in business, poor communication can cause mistakes, hampered efficiency, and financial losses.
Rodriguez also recommends considering the best format for delivering your main idea. Carefully decide whether you should communicate something over the phone, in person, through email, and so on, as the wrong format can make it hard for people to hear, understand, and appreciate your main idea. For example, face-to-face communication is probably better for addressing a sensitive issue than email.
Step #3: Explain Why Your Main Idea Is Important to the Audience
According to Rodriguez, the final step for ensuring people understand and remember your main idea is tying it back to their specific needs and interests. How will your idea help them reach their specific aspirations? How will it benefit them to know and act on this information?
Connecting your main idea to your audience’s distinct interests ensures that it stands out among the countless other pieces of information they encounter every day. The human brain is constantly exposed to stimuli in the form of emails, text messages, television, colors, sounds, smells, and so on, so it has to quickly determine what’s important enough to be retained.
To effectively state your idea’s value, understanding your audience is key—listen to their wants and concerns and ask questions that help you get to know them and their interests. In this part of your communication, also clearly express what you want your audience to do with the information you’ve given them.
How to Present Successfully
In the previous section, we discussed Rodriguez’s three steps for effective communication. Now, we’ll dive deeper into a specific kind of communication: presenting in front of a group of people. We’ll examine Rodriguez’s tips for things you should do before and during your presentation.
Tip #1: Study Recordings of Yourself Presenting
Rodriguez argues that preparing for presentations should be an ongoing process of improvement. Therefore, take a video of yourself any time you’re presenting and review it before your next presentation. Pay attention to the points you discussed and how you delivered them. Which parts seemed to work for the audience, and which didn’t?
Watching recordings also reveals unhelpful quirks in your body language that you may not otherwise realize you have. Your body language has a significant effect on how your ideas will be received by your audience, so it’s important to understand how you look when presenting. If your body language contradicts the main idea you’re attempting to communicate, your audience may lose interest and trust.
For example, if you’re a motivational speaker, and you shift back and forth on your feet whenever you present, your audience likely won’t look to you as a source of motivation or inspiration. Shifting your feet suggests discomfort and nervousness, not the confidence and groundedness better suited to the purpose of your presentation.
Tip #2: Get Outside Feedback
Rodriguez also suggests getting external feedback on your presentations. Hearing other people’s honest responses and comments is an important part of growth—we often overestimate our own skills, so outside feedback can be a valuable reality check.
Tip #3: Take Steps to Minimize Your Anxiety
According to Rodriguez, to be successful, you must proactively manage any anxiety and stress you have about your presentation. If you’re unable to do this, none of his other strategies will offer much benefit.
Rodriguez explains that stress makes it impossible for you to execute cognitively demanding tasks—including presentations—at your best. When you’re stressed, your autonomic nervous system (the part of your nervous system responsible for automatic body processes like breathing, digestion, and your heartbeat) activates. Its job is to protect you from danger, so when it perceives something as a threat (like a presentation), it sends you into the fight-or-flight response.
To prepare your body to face or flee the perceived danger, this response shuts down higher-level thinking, making it difficult to present effectively. Therefore, you must use techniques that help you calm the stress response.
Tip #4: Maintain the Audience’s Attention Using Variety
Rodriguez states that once you have your audience’s attention, you need to maintain it throughout your presentation. If your presentation is unengaging, then your audience will lose interest, and they won’t hear your main idea. You can keep them engaged by employing various stimuli to introduce variation and creativity into your presentation.
Variation is important to include in a presentation because of how our brains work. Our cerebral cortex—the part of our brain that’s responsible for learning and creativity—thrives off of stimulation from new ideas and innovation. When we’re first introduced to a new stimulus, it captures the attention of our cerebral cortex. However, if the stimulus stays the same, after a while, our brain will lose interest.
For example, if you create a PowerPoint presentation to present information using simple text on the same background for every slide, your audience is likely to quickly lose interest. If you create slides that incorporate visuals and break up the presentation with stories and videos, you’ll be able to maintain your audience’s attention much more easily.
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Here's what you'll find in our full Amplify Your Influence summary:
- How you can help others reach their goals and improve their behavior
- How to use Aristotle's four rhetoric appeals to connect with an audience
- Tips on what to do before, during, and after a presentation