The Art Of Rhetoric In Public Speaking

The previous lesson on public speaking made known to us the various models of communication in public speaking. Thus, where the various procedures communication passes to be seen as a cyclical act. The sender also known as the encoder sends the message or information through a medium or channel and a receiver or decoder who is the destination of the message sent also reacts by giving feedback; that is the cyclical nature of communication and as a public speaker, it is deemed wise and appropriate to know all these. This would be the art of rhetoric in public speaking.

This lesson is about the art of rhetoric in public speaking. Don’t be confused because this is one of the essential topics in public speaking that will aid you on your public speaking journey. The art of rhetoric is an ancient book written by the legendary philosopher, Aristotle. He wrote this book to show public speaking learners the art of persuasion. As a public speaker, one of the major aims to achieve is the ability to persuade your listeners and this why is why the art of rhetoric has come to help you. The Oxford Learners Dictionary explains rhetoric as “the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the exploitation of figures of speech and other compositional techniques.” Aristotle being a great public speaker, developed these methods of persuasion to aid all public speakers.

The art of rhetoric in public speaking
The art of rhetoric in public speaking by

Aristotle was a philosopher as stated earlier and he developed the linear model of mass communication about 2300 years ago he is always remembered as a legendary public speaker with his contributions as well. (Do not forget that public speaking is all about communicating to the public and that’s why mass communication is frequently used). He referred to communication to persuade as the rhetoric of communication. The art of rhetoric therefore simply means persuasive communication. The Philosopher defined rhetoric as the faculty of finding the available means of communication. Faculty here means inherent mental power and this indicates that public speaking requires the power of a sound mind.

Other scholars also developed their views of rhetoric. Let’s see some of these views and the developers;

Plato sees rhetoric as the art of winning the soul through discourse.

Quintilian also saw rhetoric as simply the art of speaking well.

Cicero also in his view stated that rhetoric is “a type of dramatic performance in which judgment is made possible by the character roles assumed by speaker and audience.”

There are a lot of them yet we consider the above major three scholars. The views of the scholars all center on public speaking and doing it well. We can therefore conclude that Rhetoric is the study and art of effective speaking.


Aristotle’s Model of Communication

Aristotle developed his models of communication which included 5 important elements. He explained that an encoder or speaker develops a message for heterogeneous audiences on events that differ with different effects as well; such a speaker is said to have engaged in public speaking according to Aristotle’s model of communication.

According to his model, the speaker or encoder is the most important person in the communication or public speaking process. He supported this argument with some reasons;

The speaker is in charge of communication because he or she is the initiator who develops the content of the information being shared.

The encoder is responsible to persuade the listeners through his or her interaction.

The art of rhetoric in public speaking
The art of rhetoric in public speaking by

The information or message should always include the thoughts and ideas of the speaker. As a public speaker, you must let your audience know the kind of expertise and knowledge you possess to deliver such information to them. That is why your thoughts and ideas should be seriously taken into consideration as a public speaker.

Aristotle developed the model not only for the speakers or encoders but for the audiences or listeners as well. To achieve this as a public speaker, there is always the need to understand the different listeners to develop a message in line with the occasion or event. You can’t go to a naming ceremony and give a toast, it is normally done at romantic gatherings such as weddings. It is therefore advisable as a public speaker to know your audience before you prepare your message.

The art of rhetoric in public speaking
The art of rhetoric in public speaking by

The message to be delivered should also dictate the channel. An instance when a president wants to reach out to every single member of his country to deliver a message; it is impossible to do that and so the only possible way to achieve that is through the mass media. With this, there would be a broadcast of the president’s message nationwide. If it were to be anything else other than a message to the people, there wouldn’t have been the need to use the mass media. This is why sometimes the message can dictate the channel.


The Aristotle model of communication entails five essential elements thus the speaker, the message, the occasion, the audience, and finally the effect. He entrusted all public speakers through his book the art of rhetoric to develop persuasive ability. The next lesson would be about the persuasive appeals of the great philosopher Aristotle. How he developed them and why it is advisable to apply them in public speaking.

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