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Rhetoric 101: Enhancing Executive Presence and Influence

Master the art of rhetoric to enhance executive presence and influence as a business leader. Elevate your communication skills and make a lasting impact.

Rhetoric appeared around the same time political life started to become of importance to wider society in ancient Greece and continues to be of significant importance today. Although the definition of "rhetoric" itself can be complex, having a strong grasp on persuasive language is paramount in running a successful company.

Understanding the power of words is essential to running an effective business. Whether you're verbally talking in a speech, writing an article or email, or even having one on one internal discussions, being aware of your words will have a significant impact on those around you.

This could have knock-on effects on work proficiency, the atmosphere of the workplace or even impact a potential sale, given the circumstance. But to understand how to do this, we must first identify the features of effective persuasion.

While the world around us frequently changes, remaining confident in your business is the best way to keep progressing. But how do we show this confidence to others? How do we get people to believe in our vision the same way we do? How do we effectively persuade them to trust in us, or even to invest in us? Read on to find out.

What is rhetoric?

The word "rhetoric" is difficult to define simply. With a long history that starts back in ancient Greece, the word is loosely understood to refer to the act of speaking or writing effectively. The origin of this Greek word stems from a way to refer to persuasive speech and is often attributed to the rise of democracy in ancient Greece, to describe the particular way political leaders spoke.

However, while the historical context of the term is key to understanding its impact, the word rhetoric appears slightly differently in today's context. "Rhetoric" now not only refers to a verbal expression or way of communicating and instead can be referred to all sorts of persuasion, spoken, written or other.

Throughout this article, we will refer to the word "rhetoric" as any type of persuasion technique. This can be persuasive speech, written or verbal, as well as visual means, such as imagery or films.

Other terms also often associated with the idea of the word "rhetoric" includes "rhetorical appeals". This is Greek philosopher Aristotle's definition of the three primary modes of argument - ethos, pathos and logos. Ethos refers to the act of building a reputable, credible reputation, pathos refers to connecting with the opposing side by evoking emotion, while logos refers to backing up your argument with statistics and facts.

All of these elements lead to what Aristotle calls rhetorical appeals—essentially a balanced, convincing argument. And this is important in business, you might be wondering?

Well, having strong means of persuasion as a business owner is essential in winning deals, creating good client/customer relationships and having a strong influence over your business. Read on to find out how to strengthen your discourse and persuasion in a way that will benefit your business.

Executive presence for business leaders

So what is rhetoric good for? Executive presence - this is where the rhetorical principles come in handy. Executive presence is a recent concept that is more important in the modern world today, than perhaps ever before.

There are a few different leadership styles for you to choose from, but an imperative leadership trait universally is executive presence - a true must-have for anyone hoping to run a successful business in this ever-changing world.

Broadly speaking, "executive presence" refers to a leader's ability to inspire confidence and be a persuasive, convincing leader that those in subordinate positions can trust and that those in higher positions can rely on.

High amounts of executive presence create a solid foundation for colleagues and employees alike, motivating them to work hard for a reliable business, as well as furthering the chances for opportunity when dealing with those not in your everyday team or any scary decision-makers.

Key components of executive presence

There are a few tactics you can employ to better your executive presence. To start with, you should focus on how you present yourself at the workplace. Feeling confident is always the first step to success, so you should wear whatever your work attire may be with pride.

Understand the dynamics of your workplace culture—is it a more casual environment or is formal wear more appropriate? Match the dynamic accordingly, you don't want your appearance to be too distracting, but ultimately ensure you wear clothes that will make you feel confident so you can put the best version of yourself forward.

Confidence is the ultimate tool here. Whether it's confidence in yourself, in your team, or your vision as a company, the way you persuade the world around you starts with a belief in yourself. You want to ensure that your word is trusted throughout the workplace, without your colleagues or employees second-guessing your knowledge or reasoning on any particular matter.

Staying prepared and keeping on top of your workload is perhaps the easiest way to build your confidence. Although it might not come overnight, confidence and holding gravitas are skills that every leader should always be working on.

Communication skills are another key stepping stone to enhancing your executive presence. This does not refer directly to your specific way of speaking, but instead to how you actively communicate.

Are you an active listener? Do you digest what the other person is saying to ensure you give a useful response? Do you speak with conviction and confidence, in a way that boosts the team and gets them excited to work?

Whatever the case may be, it is always important to invest time in building your communication skills and receive feedback from your peers on ways you could improve.

Remember to stay authentic. Remain true to the brand and the vision that you had, regardless of the role you are in, staying aware of the office politics without getting too strung up on them. Keep focused, stay determined and be resolute in your decisions.

The role of rhetoric in enhancing executive presence

Harnessing persuasive language and communication techniques can be done by using classical rhetoric techniques. Whether you trust in Aristotle's rhetoric or not, working on enhancing your persuasive language and communication styles has an extremely positive effect on your business, on advancing in the company or in creating new opportunities for yourself.

Rhetorical language is also useful in crafting compelling narratives that can capture the attention of audiences. Creating these narratives is important when trying to communicate your brand's story, an idea for progression or presenting any forward-thinking ideas that may change any current systems in place. Generating a rhetorical situation can help your prospective audience to engage and envision your ideas easier.

Use rhetorical devices to engage and influence audiences

Regardless of whether your particular audience is a boardroom, a colleague or a group of potential clients when used correctly, rhetorical devices can be used to captivate and convince.

Metaphors and analogies

The use of metaphors and analogies within professional discourse is only effective when used sparsely and thoughtfully. Littering your presentations with too many metaphors can be distracting for your audience, but when used correctly, metaphors can have a real impact in inciting imagination. Some common metaphors often used within business discourse relate to flowers, nature or growth. This often has an emphasis on:

  1. Seeds being sown (an initial idea)
  2. Roots being formed (the work that goes into bringing the idea to fruition)
  3. The flowering or budding of the plant (result)

Many find that a diagram or strong imagery can help to reproduce these metaphors.

By using metaphors, you can engage your audience by helping to enrich and illustrate a clear vision of whatever particular subject you are presenting, decreasing the chance of them getting distracted or losing focus. Metaphors or analogies can be a strong way to open a meeting—a powerful rhetorical device that can cause intrigue and engagement, as well as have a strong effect on persuasion.

Repetition and parallelism

This is an important element of strong communication. However, there is a certain amount of caution to bear in mind when using repetition. Too much repetition can come across as patronizing, so ensure that all the repetition you are using is for a defined purpose. Ensure that the only point you repeat or emphasize is the main takeaway you want your audience to remember.

While repetition also helps individuals to retain a specific message, it can also provide clarity and help your audience's understanding of the idea you are trying to present. This is especially poignant during internal communication, in which the team will leave the meeting with a clear vision of the next steps and what the end goal is.

Keep the phrase you choose to repeat stripped back and preferably only a few words long so that it sticks out to your audience, whether you are presenting it oratory or written. Keep the message simple to ensure its effectiveness.

Rhetorical questions

A common way to communicate the importance of a particular subject is through rhetorical questions. Designed to plant the seeds of a concept into your audience's head, rhetorical questions are essentially a statement, concealed behind the guise of a question.

This linguistic device can be useful during a speech or written communication, providing you with the ability to quickly and efficiently portray a point. Therefore, this device can be effectively used when trying to persuade or effectively communicate throughout the team as it drives a point home in a simple, plain way.

Enhancing influence through rhetoric

The power of words cannot be understated. Language is a complex thing, oftentimes the vessel for progress and learning in this ever-changing, modern world. Understanding how to use the idea of rhetorical language can greatly impact your influence and impression on the world.

Whether you're using the three rhetorical appeals, rhetorical devices or just increasing your awareness of the philosophical idea of rhetoric, then you are on the right track to heightening your executive presence and influence over your business, team or company.

Building credibility through effective rhetoric

A main goal of yours, when addressing colleagues or anyone outside the company, should be to show them how reliable you are. Being a person that everyone trusts and believes in is essential to being a good leader. You may want to consider using a mixture of statistics and facts to help boost this impression (this combines Aristotle's steps, ethos and logos).

Establishing a strong personal brand

You should have a clear idea of the vision of your business, where it is now and how you will get there. This includes but is not exclusive to your brand's tone, style and purpose. This not only emphasizes your credibility, but also helps those around you to understand the end goal, so the team is working as one and outsiders have a clear idea of your future aspirations.

Influencing stakeholders and decision-makers

A strong grasp on the power of rhetoric is also extremely important when dealing with stakeholders or people of similar notoriety to your business. Paired with other useful tactics like thought leadership and mirroring, the rhetorical principles can help your persuasion techniques, ultimately resulting in securing deals.

Inspiring and motivating teams

The language you use when addressing the team is essential in how they then consequently take action. An upbeat, lively tone, oozing with positivity is much more likely to have an effect than a downtrodden, dreary speech—the words you pick should be thought over carefully.

Words such as "you" can be a useful tool in inspiring and motivating your team into taking action. Although you may be writing an email that goes out to several recipients, or addressing a boardroom full of people, simply addressing the audience by saying "you" immediately creates a feeling of personal responsibility to the audience.

Practical strategies for developing rhetorical skills

Rhetorical skills cover several admirable features that are all extremely useful in leadership roles. Expecting to master them all in a short period is unrealistic, instead it will take practice and time. Making yourself aware of the different ways to strengthen your rhetoric is a step in the right direction.

Developing public speaking skills

This is a skill that may come more naturally to others, but don't let this dishearten you. Public speaking takes time, practice and patience, but once that fear is conquered, it can be very rewarding.

Although rhetorical language comes in handy not just with verbal speech, but also in writing, public speaking is a good way to master the art of persuasion, even if it is arguably the most challenging. To make yourself feel better, do practice sessions internally in smaller groups before expanding to people outside of the company.

Practicing persuasive writing techniques

In your spare time, practice some persuasive writing, getting a colleague or trusted person to read through it and identify any strengths and weaknesses. Think about the techniques outlined throughout this article, such as repetition and metaphors, and try to seamlessly weave them in.

Studying and analyzing effective communicators

Another great way to learn is by watching other effective communicators. You can access clips of persuasive speeches on social media platforms, you could attend other conferences, make notes on what they did well or collaborate with other effective communicators you know personally. What are they doing well? How effective are their methods? Picking up on these things with other communicators will help to hone your skills.

Seek feedback and continuous improvement

Integrating rhetorical devices into your business life helps in so many ways. Not only does it make you a trusted figure for your team to believe in, but it can also help in closing sales or dealing with tricky conversations from stakeholders.

Learn more key strategies in building trust, solving customers' problems and closing more deals with Mailchimp—the one-stop-shop for ways to elevate your business. Access a wide variety of tools, tips and tricks to help strengthen your bond with your customers, drive sales and improve your business overall.

Whether you're looking for advice on marketing automation, digital content or website building, here at Mailchimp we have it all with our comprehensive list of resources and services that make building your business that little bit easier.

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