November 4, 2012 fm

What Is Your Ethos Building Story?

“When is the first time you touched a computer?” – “I don’t know.”

“When is the first time you served people food and drinks?” – “I don’t know.”

“When did you fall in love with numbers?” – “I don’t know.”

ETHOS means credibility and is one of the three pillars of rhetoric. The key ethos question is: Why should your audience believe YOU as a speaker? What makes YOU the right character to talk about a certain topic? Why YOU?

Whether you are an IT manager, an assistant hotel director or a controller, always answer the ethos question before you get on stage and give a public talk. In today’s powerpointed business presentations it’s the About me slide, which makes no effort at all to transmit your passion for your topic.

Should you delegate your ethos answer to a Powerpoint slide in the first place? Do you think all your titles, PHDs, prestigious positions in Fortune 500 corporations and other CV highlights will ever really connect with your audience? Wouldn’t it be better to tell personal stories around the key question – why you?

In my seminars I randomly grill participants. When I ask them, “Why do you do what you do?”,  the standard answer is, “I don’t know.” Fair enough, but I dig deeper and deeper and deeper until the root of their professional passion comes to light.

In the end, the IT manager would tell me something like,

“I remember the day well. It was christmas eve. I was eight years old. My dad passed me this huge box wrapped in green gift wrap paper with golden ornaments. I teared it open. A series of letters and numbers looked at me – AMIGA 500! – For the last 24 years my fingers have been glued to the keyboard. IT is my great passion in life.”

The assistant hotel director would say:

“My uncle Wolfgang had a restaurant in a suburb of Hamburg. During my teenage years I would help out in the summer holidays. I poured beer, cleared tables, took orders. Back then I already loved the direct contact with people. I learned that better service with a smile translates into higher tips and happier clients. Ever since I wanted to start my career in the world of gastronomy. And I did.”

The controller would come up with a different story:

“Whether it was playing cards with my football friends, the budget for our school trip or planning my pocket money, I always loved to do calculations. As long as I can remember I always loved numbers. Today I work with numbers for a living. The tasks have changed, my passion stays the same.”

These are ethos building stories you will add to your speeches and presentations in the future. Throw your About me slide over board and show the full screen image of an Amiga 500 PC instead. It’s not your PHD, which connects with your audience. It’s not your position as the CTO of a Fortune 500 corporation. It’s that green gift wrap paper with christmas ornaments when you were eight years old.

What is your ethos building story?

Send it to me and I will give you positive and constructive feedback!

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