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Every cake needs its decoration, every car its chrome and colour, every pitch its flowers of rhetoric. When it comes to understanding what makes a pitch, a speech persuasive we have much to thank the Greeks for, not least their willingness to analyse and name elements that made their speeches particularly beautiful and compelling. If we are aiming to persuade our audience bear in mind phrases that rhyme are shown to have greater weight attributed to them.

“Put your ideas in verse if you can; they will be more likely to be taken as truth”. (1)

In his brilliant book The Elements of Eloquence, Mark Forsyth humorously takes us through a list of 39 rhetorical devices the Greeks used. I frequently use a handful of these devices in my speeches.

I call the rhetorical devices beautiful because they remind me of when I am faced with a marvellous scene, for example a beautiful house. As I am not an architect I am blissfully unaware of what techniques have been employed to make such a beautiful structure and the same is true when you hear a beautiful speech, you recognise it when you hear it but you do not know what makes it so.

As you become a more accomplished speaker you can look to add these devices into your speech but I would caution against using them too much or else the audience will sense something is afoot and you will appear over eager and, needy.



Beautiful house – beautiful pitch


This is the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words, for example, ‘curiosity killed the cat’ or ‘throwing out the baby with the bath water’. Neither phrase means a lot but ‘any phrase, so long as it alliterates, is memorable and will be believed even if it is a bunch of nonsense’.(2)

I will often use alliteration with titles and introductions.


“Make it rhyme to make it climb”


This is where we start a sentence with an obvious statement and start the second half of the sentence in the same way only to add a twist at the end.

For example ‘The speaker is there to persuade the audience, the audience are there to be difficult’. We might have rightfully expected the ending of the sentence to be ‘the audience are there to be persuaded’ but this unpredictable ending tells the audience that not all can be predicted, the speech is new and therefore worth giving attention to.

I will use antithesis when I have the audience’s full attention and I am looking to transition from one part of a speech to another, introducing a new point at the end of the sentence.


Could curiosity really kill this cat?


The repetition of the last word of one clause as the first word of the next gives both lines its power.

As Yoda says in the film The Phantom Menace: “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” I apply it in this book as: Attention leads to an audience. An audience leads to memories. Memories lead to movements. I will use Anadiplosis in a conclusion, rounding off my message in this way gives an increased sense of gravity and power.

(1) Page 63 Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman

(2) Page 11 The Elements of Eloquence, Mark Forsyth