Links of the Week: 2013.04


This week has been incredibly busy with work, with my husband’s broken hand, with advising three days (and long nights) of sorority recruitment at Rollins College, and with my stress-induced sickness.  Luckily, I still found plenty of time to read some amazing articles about public speaking and presentation that I’d like to share in the fourth installment of “Links of the Week” in 2013.


In “6 Ways to Enhance Your Credibility,” Geoffrey James advises us how to be more authentic and natural so that we can connect with others.  These tips work well in business, advertising, marketing, and public speaking.  James suggests that we communicate our genuine selves with others; that we know our own value and what we can provide others; and that we develop insights based on research and analysis (Source).  My favorite tip, which is also a Duarte must-do, is to be a catalyst as opposed to a hero (Source).  Read James’ article in its entirety here.

“How To Be A Super-Achiever” explains ten qualities that a leader must possess.  From dedication and persistence to good storytelling, Jenna Goudreau references the book The Art of Doing: How Super Achievers Do What They Do and How They Do It So Well by Sweeney and Gosfield.  I definitely added the book to my must-read list after reading Goudreau’s article and watching the book trailer:


What great articles did you read this week? 


Ethos and The Case of Jonah Lehrer


This month, I began reading Jonah Lehrer’s Imagine, and I was so excited to finally get my hands on the book after such a long wait.  Now that I’m halfway through the book, I learned today that Lehrer was doing a lot of imagining; he made up some of the Bob Dylan quotes from an early chapter in the book, and he lied about it.  He lied a lot.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, “Writer Jonah Lehrer resigned from the New Yorker on Monday after admitting that he had fabricated quotes from Bob Dylan in his nonfiction book Imagine: How Creativity Works. The book has been recalled by publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt” (Source).

I stopped reading the book and plan to return it to the library tomorrow.

Ethos is an important concept in my public speaking and presentation class.  It’s about a speaker’s credibility and character; his or her trustworthiness and reputation.  Without ethos, a speaker doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

It’s the same way with the author of a book.  Consider, for example, A Million Little Pieces by James Frey.  In this particular case, Lehrer purposefully manipulated information as means to his own personal gain.  He lied in the book by making up false Dylan quotes.  Then, when people began investigating the origin of the quotes, Lehrer lied to cover up his lies.

Andrew Dlugan’s article on ethos is a great place to begin examining why an author’s character and credibility are so important.  In “What is Ethos?,” Dlugan says we can use four characteristics or traits to examine a person’s ethos: trustworthiness; similarity; authority; and reputation or expertise (Source).  Let’s examine the Jonah Lehrer case using these four traits.

First, Lehrer has proven time and time again that he’s untrustworthy.  Can we really read a book and accept the contents of Imagine knowing the author is unethical?  Can we just skip over part of the text, the part with the lies, and still take something from the rest of the text?  I think not.  Once a person has established that he or she can’t be trusted, we call that person’s character and motives into question.  If Lehrer is willing to misrepresent Bob Dylan quotes, what else is he lying about that we haven’t yet discovered?  Why would he lie?  Does he want to manipulate us, his readers?  We can’t take his words as true because he’s proven he can’t be trusted.  Can he regain his trustworthiness?  Can he repair his reputation and be seen as someone with good moral character?

Dlugan writes, “If you are similar to your audience, then your audience will be more receptive to your ideas in the same way that you are more likely to open a door at night if you recognize the voice of the person on the other side” (Source).  The second trait Dlugan defines is similarity.  We certainly don’t feel similarity with Lehrer at this stage because he’s a proven liar, manipulator, and unethical person.  He’s proven that he lacks character and that he’s false and fake.  Since we all consider ourselves “authentic” and “real” people, it’s hard to identify or find similarity with Lehrer.

Third, Lehrer lost all previous authority on writing or being a writer since this incident.  Do you think a person can regain his or her authority after such a grave misstep?  How could Lehrer regain his authority?  Fourth, and finally, Lehrer’s reputation is ruined.  Any accolades he had and any recognition from Imagine will be forgotten.  Instead, people will only associate “liar” with Lehrer’s name.

Would you read Imagine knowing what we now know about Jonah Lehrer?


Ethos in Advertising: From AAA to the US Army


In December, my students examined television commercials and print advertisements for ethos, pathos, and logos.  The result?  They understood the three modes of persuasion extremely well… and they felt manipulated.

Ethos done right is the opposite of manipulation.  In fact, if the audience feels manipulated, there is no ethos.  There is a big difference between using ethos to exploit consumers and embodying ethos.

An example of a company who embodies ethos is AAA, and on New Year’s Eve, AAA showed their character, credibility, and reputation.  I saw Tweets and read articles about AAA’s “Tipsy Tow” policy for NYE.  From 6 PM to 6 AM on New Year’s Eve, AAA offered to take both you and your car home for free, and you didn’t even have to be a member.  Now that’s ethos.

My December class analyzed this commercial with strong ethos:


Does the United States Army as seen in the commercial above use ethos or embody ethos?  How do you know?

Chiara Ojeda on Ethos


Our in-depth analysis of ethos continues with this awesome video created by Chiara Ojeda of Tweak Your Slides.


Modes of Persuasion: Introduction to Ethos can be found here.  The second part of our ethos series is called Ethos in Pop Culture: Dexter.  Read it here.  Next, we’ll cover ethos in commercials and advertising.

Ethos in Pop Culture: Dexter


It’s often difficult to teach and to explain ethos.  I find it the hardest of the three appeals to explain to my students because it is so complex.  If “ethos” is a new term for you, please first read Modes of Persuasion: Introduction to Ethos.  I’ve found that students better understand the concept of ethos once it is connected to something they understand: pop culture.

Dexter Morgan is the lead character in Showtime’s Dexter.  Let’s examine Dexter Morgan in light of Andrew Dlugan’s four characteristics that comprise ethos.

First, Dexter is trustworthy.  This is difficult to juggle because, if you’ve seen the show, you know that Dexter Morgan is a serial killer.  Dexter’s identity as a murderer must remain a secret from most of the show’s cast because, obviously, there would be no show if he got the death penalty for murdering hundreds of people.  Even though he lies to his family, co-workers, and friends about his serial killing tendencies, Dexter is always 100% honest to the viewer.  Audiences understand his thoughts and motivations because of the internal monologue, the voiceover, streaming throughout each episode.  Since we know his thoughts, we know he can be trusted to act in accordance with those thoughts.

The audience also trusts Dexter because of the moral code Harry Morgan taught his son.  Dexter only kills other serial killers, and he must find proof of a crime or multiple crimes before he murders.  The audience knows that Dexter will only murder people who “deserve” to die.  We have faith that Dexter won’t break or bend that code of ethics.  When he is tempted into murdering just for fun and not in accordance with Harry’s Code, Dexter can be trusted to shake off those temporary desires.  When Dexter does kill outside of Harry’s Code, he does so for credible reasons; for example, he kills a pedophile who is stalking his step-daughter, Astor.  On all fronts, Dexter is a “good” person.  Even though he is a killer, he only murders “bad” people who “deserve” death.

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The voiceover approach also leads us to the second characteristic of ethos: similarity.  Minus the murdering, Dexter is a totally normal, middle-class guy with a job, a family, and a whole lot of confusion about human nature and about other people.  He is often socially awkward and finds himself at a loss for what to say and how to behave.  To other characters on the show, he is good-natured, smart, down-to-earth, and friendly.  Dexter is “just like us,” except with one dissimilarity: his Dark Passenger.

Using the voiceover, Dexter explains his Dark Passenger as the dark, murderous tendencies within him.  Since the Dark Passenger has a name, intentions, and desires, the audience often feels like it is a distant, separate part of Dexter.  Still, the Dark Passenger exists… How does an audience create similarity with someone carrying such a darkness inside of them?

Dexter is constantly evolving and growing into a more human character.  The Dexter in season six has become much more human than the character in season one.  The journey to becoming more human is a long one.  The audience has seen Dexter realize he is capable of love.  We’ve seen him become a husband, a stepfather, and then a biological father.  He has transformed from a feelingless character to someone who is much more in line with our human values and ideals.

Dexter possesses authority over the audience, the third characteristic of ethos.  He is an authority at his job as a forensic blood spatter analyst at the Miami Metro Police Department.  Other characters in the show look up to him, ask him questions, and constantly praise his ability to do his work well (such as, most recently, Detective Mike Anderson and intern Louis).

More importantly, Dexter is an authority on being a serial killer – an ability only the audience and Dexter know about.  Dexter is methodical, smart, and quick.  He has never been caught.  Because of his skills as a serial killer, he is an authority on the subject.  He explains his techniques and motivations to the audience, so we understand his expertise.  We also know the procedure – Dexter first stalks his victims to find proof that they have murdered others.  After finding proof, he injects a serial killer with a tranquilizer and moves the unconscious body to a “kill room” that has been perfectly set up so as to leave behind no forensic evidence.  When the serial killer wakes up, Dexter explains the reason behind the abduction – often by using photographs of the serial killer’s victims to prove the death is a deserved one.  Lastly, Dexter stabs the killer in the heart, cuts up the body, and dumps it in the Gulf Stream to be carried into the ocean.

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In addition to being an authority, Dexter has a strong reputation built over six seasons.  Reputation is the fourth and final characteristic of ethos, and it goes hand-in-hand with authority.  Dexter’s methodical murdering process ensures the elimination of serial killers without leaving behind evidence.  Because the audience has seen the process so many times, we believe in his ability to select victims who deserve to die, and we allow him control over the killing process.  Dexter is the ultimate authority over serial killing because of his reputation: he has done it for so long without getting caught.  His experience as a serial killer is lifelong.  We know from the time he was a boy, he had murderous tendencies.  We know his father developed a code of ethics that he has a 30-something history of following.  For six seasons, Dexter has demonstrated time and time again his ability to kill serial killers in a swift, organized, efficient fashion.

What other television, film, or literary characters display ethos?  Since Dexter has been on TV for six seasons, his ethos has had time to develop.  Do you think it takes a long time for a character to establish strong ethos?  Can you think of any characters who have instant ethos?

Modes of Persuasion: Introduction to Ethos


Aristotle defined the three modes of persuasion: ethos, pathos, and logos.  In order for your message or your content to persuade others, your idea must appeal to the emotions and logic of your audience, and you must express your character and credibility to that audience.  From Ancient Greece to Orlando, Florida in 2012, these three modes of persuasion ring true for any and every presentation.

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Ethos is a Greek word meaning “character.”  In public speaking and presentation, ethos is the character and credibility of the presenter.  In his influential text, On Rhetoric, Aristotle defines ethos and explains the importance of this appeal.  Aristotle says ethos is comprised of three categories: 1) phronesis – skills and practical wisdom; 2) arete – virtue; and 3) eunoia – kindness and goodwill toward the audience (Source).  Nancy Duarte explains ethos in her book resonate.  Duarte says the point of ethos, the ethical appeal, is to “garner respect through credibility and character” (Source).  This means that ethos lies in the minds of the audience, so the presenter must remember to analyze what the audience needs in order for that presenter’s ethos to be successful.

Andrew Dlugan of Six Minutes considers ethos, pathos, and logos “the three pillars of public speaking.” He explains ethos perfectly in “What is Ethos? Why is it Critical for Speakers?”  Dlugan says an audience will measure ethos in four categories: trustworthiness, similarity (to the audience), authority, and reputation/expertise (Source).

We can also think of ethos as proof of your ability to lead your audience.  Leadership is best defined in John C. Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You.  Maxwell’s book includes laws such as the Law of Influence; the Law of Navigation; the Law of Respect; and the Law of Magnetism among 17 others.  Pick up your copy of Maxwell’s amazing leadership text here to develop your ethos.

Now that you know what ethos is, prepare yourself for an in-depth analysis of the first mode of persuasion.  This week, we will examine ethos in many mediums: pop culture, television advertising, print advertising, and, most importantly, public speaking.  We will dissect ethos in all three legs of the presentation stool: speech content, delivery, and visual presentation.

What do you most hope to learn about ethos this week?  What questions do you have so far about the first mode of persuasion?

Ethos in Advertising: TOMS Shoes


In class on Monday, my students examined the ethos, pathos, and logos of commercials and print advertisements.  Knowing the difference between the three modes of persuasion can really help pinpoint what an ad is trying to do, and this analysis can lead to smarter (and, hopefully, less) purchasing.

Today, I thought of the perfect example of ethos in advertising: TOMS Shoes.  The TOMS website explains, “In 2006, American traveler Blake Mycoskie befriended children in Argentina and found they had no shoes to protect their feet. Wanting to help, he created TOMS Shoes, a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need. One for One. Blake returned to Argentina with a group of family, friends and staff later that year with 10,000 pairs of shoes made possible by TOMS customers” (Source).

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When I first saw a pair of TOMS, I thought they were hideous.  When I first heard the story of TOMS, I was so inspired that I immediately purchased my first pair of red shoes.  They are super comfortable, but even more than that, I see beauty now when I look at a pair of TOMS on someone’s feet.

The company is trustworthy.  We know they honor their commitment to “One for One” because of Blake Mycoskie’s story and track record.  On their website, TOMS keeps track of their mission: “And thanks to our amazing customers, as of September 2010, TOMS has given over one million pairs of new shoes to children in need around the world” (Source).  TOMS has a strong, honorable reputation and a proven commitment to helping others.  Consumers can identify with TOMS because of these examples of the company’s ethos.  For more proof of TOMS’ ethos, check out this video:


Do you own a pair of TOMS?