Ethos, Pathos, Logos

Saying It Well by Charles Swindoll

Near the very end of Saying It Well, Chuck Swindoll shares a piece of wise advice that summarizes the preceding pages…deliver it broken. In a moment of personal crisis for the Swindoll family, pastor Chuck considers how to put on his game face and step into the pulpit to deliver his message. Mrs. Swindoll leans in suggests that he not be anything but who he is at that moment and trust that God will use it to hone the edges of His Word to a razor point.

Pray that we should all deliver the Word from our brokenness.

Swindoll’s latest book is for those of us who speak to the public, whether in church or in a secular setting. Rather than a primer on how to craft a three-point message or rousing speech, Saying It Well emphasizes that who we are as people lies behind the most powerful messages. Without the use of the terms, Aristotle’s three conditions for persuasion (Ethos, Pathos, and Logos) are infused on every page.

The structure of the book mystifies the reader at first as it it largely biographical. What might this have to do with public speaking, one wonders, and then it dawns on you. Who you are so colors the delivery of a message that we are drawn to consider our own biography. The credibility (ethos) of your words is measured by the life that you lead. Your words will ring hollow if the listeners know you to be a man lacking integrity in your personal life while you talk about the importance of honest dealings. If you have no bond (pathos) with the people you are addressing, many will wonder why they should listen to you. You will be left with only the logic (logos) of your arguments to make your point. Many speakers bank on this aspect of their message but are disappointed to find little change in the listener afterword.

Swindoll does include a good deal of practical material in the book but none of it hits like a text book. In his homey way, Pastor Chuck suggests that this is his method for building a message, but that the reader should adapt rather than copy the process to their own workflow. We may be tempted to copy given the enormous success of Swindoll’s ministry but then remember that this success comes from who he is and not just the words themselves. Excellent advice for all of us to apply.

Grace and peace to you…

I am grateful to Hachette Book Group and Faith Words who provided this book for review.

Confessions of a Public Speaker

imageI scrambled for excuses—I’m too busy (lie), I’m tired (lie), my feet hurt from the road test (bad lie)—but before anything good came to mind, he said these invaluable words: “The clutch is your friend.”

How could the clutch be my friend?

How indeed? For Scott Berkun this datum came out of the dark at just the right moment. It distilled a lot of information into a single memorable idea that was needed to be successful at a crucial task (learning to drive his brother’s beloved ‘84 Honda Prelude.) These memorable points, important as they are, are often buried or missing from the lectures, sermons, and talks that we hear (endure?). Should this come as a revelation? As people who communicate for a living it becomes all too easy for preachers, teachers, and speakers to forget the foundation of public speaking: conveying information of value to an audience whose lives will be enriched by receiving it. Everything we think about in terms of speechifying should swirl around this single ideal. To the rescue comes a new reminder in Berkun’s Confessions of a Public Speaker. 

Confessions is not a how-to book as in make three points and start with a humorous story. Instead, the reader gets the benefit of Berkun’s hard earned knowledge of what it’s like to stand up in front 5 or 5000 people and convey something in a meaningful fashion. He talks about the highs and lows with plenty of reality based examples that can aid any speaker willing to invest the time in improving their public speaking skills. There is much about the business of speaking in these pages but the most valuable paragraphs are those in which Berkun is willing to share the failures and their causes. Here is where we learn to improve.

If you are involved in any type of speaking, whether it is in front a church or classroom or simply presenting the TPS reports at a staff meeting, you need to ask yourself how much you have invested in improving yourself in this critical area. We tend to invest our time in learning the information we want to present but simply let the end product, the communication, just happen. The pages of Scott’s invaluable book remind us of the reality; unless we can effectively communicate that information to an audience all of our other efforts are for naught. Make the commitment to improve. Read Confessions and then spend the time necessary to think about the process of speaking. Practice, practice, practice. Then go out and make some noise of your own.