3 Rhetorical Devices In Speeches: How To Level Up Your Next Speech
Using rhetorical devices in speeches is a skill that engages your audience and takes your public speaking to new heights. You can use specific rhetorical strategies to form an atmosphere for your audience to lean into.
The more you use a choice of word or phrase to enrich your content, the easier it will be for your viewers to ingest your message. When you employ common rhetorical strategies in your speeches, you use language as a communication tool and an art form.
You likely studied different speeches as a student and learned how a few paragraphs or pages impact our world today. However, what you may not have considered is the why behind this impact.
Chances are, every one of these speeches used a rhetorical device to accentuate the meaning behind the words spoken. So why is it essential to focus on what you say and the devices used when speaking?
Why They Matter: Famous Speeches With Rhetorical Devices
Some of the best ways to learn are by studying the speeches of those who went before us. Countless famous speeches used devices and drove their points home. Here is a list of a few, and while the list is not exhaustive by any means, it is a starting point for your study:
- The Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln
- I Have A Dream, Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Speech at the March on Washington, Josephine Baker
Simple strategies, such as repetition of a word, connect with audiences and helps boost engagement. These ways of speaking matter because, used effectively, they changed history. If you are a public speaker or considering pursuing this form of communication, it’s essential to understand the effects of writing speeches in this way.
Effects Of Rhetorical Devices In Speeches
One form of effective communication is public speaking skills. You can pursue your dreams to unimaginable levels when you embody good communication skills.
Whether we realize it or not, our current occupation, job, partner, etc., is likely a product of some form of a good speech. For example, when you sat down for your dream job interview and the interviewer asked why you were the right fit for the job, maybe you said something similar to:
“I worked in marketing at a large company for over five years. I’ve seen the power of effective marketing. Good marketing changes lives. Trust me; good marketing changes lives.”
You just used a diacope to enforce your point—the echo effect allows the interviewer to hear your point twice without you coming across as redundant. This device is a powerful technique, and you can use it in various ways.
3 Devices You Can Use Today
When you are aware of the impact of a repeated word, speaking in front of an audience takes on an entirely new meaning. There are many rhetorical devices to research and layer into your future speeches, but for now, let’s focus on three you can implement today.
Once you understand these three and feel confident to incorporate them into your speech, you will likely be surprised at how much your speeches improve. Take your time to digest the following information, then when you’re ready, try using one or two the next time you communicate with someone.
Alliteration is simply repeating the same sound in the first syllable of a list of words. For example, The fierce fighters followed their leader. Another example of alliteration is: Sometimes, somedays, someone just needs you to listen.
This type of rhetorical device helps your audience easily pick up on the word or words you want them to hold onto after your speech. Knowing that alliteration will enable your audience to remember what you said quickly and can help with the fear of public speaking.
Diacope is another device used as a type of mirror for your words. You can define it as a device that focuses on the repetition of a few words, separated by a few words. The term originates from the Greek language word that means “cutting in two.”
The number of words between the repeated words of a diacope can vary, but it should be few enough to produce a rhetorical effect. For example, let’s say you’re a passionate Star Wars fan and talking about your love for the episodes.
To use a diacope to articulate your point, you might say, “Is Star Wars the greatest series, or is Star Wars the greatest series?” One more example of a fan might be: “Darth Vader…there’s no villain like Darth Vader.”
A metaphor should not be confused with a simile: While a simile uses “like” or “as” to describe something, a metaphor compares two things more directly. A few examples of a metaphor are:
- All the world’s a stage.
- The rain fell in curtains.
- Your life is a fantasy.
You can use metaphors to make your speech relatable. If you speak on complex topics, you can use metaphors to compare your topic to your audience. For example, let’s say someone asked you to speak on concierge medicine. You choose to make it relatable by using metaphor to compare it with something familiar to most of your audience.
The Rhetorical Triangle And Impact of Your Audience
A key aspect of rhetorical devices is called The Rhetorical Triangle. Ethos, pathos, and logos create this triangle and work together to impact your audience.
People often demonstrate the equality of each device by using an equilateral triangle as its representation. Every side of the triangle is equal, just as each of the three devices is equal in importance.
The Greek philosopher and rhetorician Aristotle taught that audience appeal in these three areas determines whether a speaker can effectively persuade. You can use these three distinctions in writing, public speaking, and various other forms of communication.
Used well, you can successfully communicate your message to your audience, but be careful not to use these devices to manipulate your listeners. People know when they are being used, and rhetorical devices are intended to aid in effective communication, not enable unhealthy communication patterns.
With this in mind, let’s start with ethos, using credibility and character to appeal to your listeners, audience, or viewers.
Ethos is a powerful way to inform your audience about who you are and why you bring specific credibility to the stage. Ethos is also a meaningful way to gain trust with your listeners. If you communicate why you are credible, they are much more likely to trust you.
Because of this, an individual often introduces the speaker before the speaker comes onstage. This introduction establishes ethos before the speech starts. Make sure to include a certain amount of ethos, depending on the need for credibility with your audience.
Pathos is an appeal to emotion, so use it with caution. Your audience will feel manipulated if you layer on pathos too thickly. However, if you ignore pathos, your audience is unlikely to feel personally invested in your subject matter.
Use pathos in small doses, with intention, and channel it for a purpose. For example, let’s say you are working toward starting a nonprofit that helps create jobs for new mothers who need the opportunity to work from home since they can’t afford childcare. Share why you are invested in this. Intentional vulnerability is an excellent start to using pathos.
When using emotion, it’s also essential to incorporate logos—or the appeal to logic. You never know which of these three devices will resonate with your audience. Some may be particularly attuned to their emotions, while others need hard facts to take you seriously.
Appeal to logos when speaking, but just as we must be careful not to overuse pathos, use logos with discretion. Too many facts will bore your audience, but not enough logic, and you may come across as misinformed. Finding the right balance is the key when you use The Rhetorical Triangle.
Use Two Aspects Of The Rhetorical Triangle The Next Time You Give A Speech
There is a unique way to combine the mentioned concepts to level up your speech and increase your credibility. Decide which aspect of The Rhetorical Triangle will most resonate with your audience, and then pair it with one of the following:
When you combine two powerful attributes, your speech reaches new heights. Not only do you appeal to your credibility, logic, or emotion, but you do so in a way that uses the English language to reiterate it.
For example, try appealing to pathos and pairing it with diacope: “She was six years old when she started providing for the family, just six years old.”
Use logos and alliteration when explaining your credentials: “I studied to gain my undergraduate degree in Physics, Psychology, and Philosophy.” With three majors, your credentials should speak for themselves, but explaining them with alliteration will help your audience remember the specifics of your credibility.
Layering rhetorical devices into your next speech will take it up a level, impact your audience deeper, and make your core message stick with your listeners. So now that you’re familiar with different options, choose one device or pair two together, and test it out next time you take the stage!