Jan 13th - Due Feb 3rd


 Introduction to Presentation Rhetoric and Rhetorical Analysis. What is Rhetoric? According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary the definition of Rhetoric is:

1. The art of speaking or writing effectively as

      a : the study of principles and rules of composition formulated by critics of ancient times

      b: the study of writing or speaking as a means of communication or persuasion.

 2. a: Skill in the effective use of speech

     b: a type or mode of languages or speech; also insincere or grandiloquent language

3. verbal communication : Discourse


Why study rhetoric now? Because whether it be in considering rhetoric in analysis of other presentations or in authoring your own document, in considering rhetoric it clearly can be used as a tool to aid in determining the overall effectiveness of what is being communicated. Greek philosopher Aristotle stated that rhetoric is "the ability in each particular case to see the available means of persuasion". Aristotle theorized and described three main forms of rhetoric: Ethos, Logos, and Pathos.  Presentations can be an effective way to communicate to large numbers of people at the same time and often times without use of the spoken word at all, so the "art of speaking or writing effectively" becomes a vital skill to be utilized in presenting. In analyzing our own rhetoric in presentations consider Aristotle's three forms:

Ethos is the appeal based on the character of the presentation author/owner. Context for ethos is based upon the reputation of the author/owner of the presentation. The content can also be based either on the author's characteristics or on the sources the author chooses to use for support. The context and content is generally dependant on the style, background, history, and reputations of the owner/author. Questions to ask regarding a presentation use of ethos would be items such as "is the topic presented responsibly", "does it draw upon opinion and trust" and "was it done in respect towards others" and "was it polished and professional"?
Logos is the logical content or reason.  Is the context to be used as an argument, sales pitch, or something to persuade? What makes for a good building block using Logos? Is content to be based on fact or reason? Content based on reason is much more complicated and often holds less impact yet content based on fact can be straightforward and direct.  Documents distributed by companies or corporations are logos-driven. Scholarly documents are also often logos-driven. Questions to ask regarding a presentations use of logos would be items such as "is the data correct", "does it come form a reliable source", "what are the fallacies if any"?
Pathos is the emotional appeal and impact. In context of information being presented, using pathos is an attempt to get the reader or audience to sympathize and connect emotionally with the content being presented. It attempts to build a bridge or bond between the audience and the presenter. Content based on pathos relies heavily on the use of emotional reasoning. They can often be images or stories of examples which provoke certain levels of emotion such as happy or in contrast sad, emotions of love or in contrast hate, etc. Advertisements tend to be pathos-driven. Questions to ask regarding a presentations use of pathos would be items such as "is the presentation dependant on emotion to obscure the facts", "is it meant to make the audience feel a certain way", and "which emotions is it drawing upon and why"

Content and Context.  In use of text in digital presentations for this lesson it is important for us to mentally divide the presentation into two forms, content and context. This way we can begin to break it down further in terms of rhetoric. This would be considering both what you are going to present (content i.e. words and phrases used, pictures, graphs, illustrations, etc) and how your are going to present along with who you are going to present it to (context i.e.. argument, sales pitch, introduction, to students, professionals, friends, etc).

For context, in rhetoric it is important to consider what your write, how you write and who your write for. As a writer your personal characteristics and interests affect what you write about and how you write about it (ethos). For example, some factors which can affect your writing include: your age, your experiences, your gender, your location, your political beliefs,  your education, your parents and peers, your religion. Some purposes and reasons for writing include: to inform, to persuade, to educate, to call to action, to entertain, to shock. Another form of writing may be Genre. Genres hinge upon purpose and the needs of the intended audience and could include: fiction, autobiographical story, news article, review, editorial, analysis. For topic, what is it that you are choosing to write about? Whatever it is that you choose to write about may be broadened or narrowed depending upon the length of the presentation and your level of interest/expertise. What you choose to write about may also be affected by time, location, current events, cultural significance. Also for context, it is important to consider your audience. To whom are you writing? Many of the same factors which affect the writer also affect the audience i.e. age, social class and education. Bottom line to what this means is that: you need to be aware rhetorically speaking every time you write. You may need to adapt your writing depending upon your context.

For content, appeal (or visual rhetoric) can be achieved through visual information structure, color, and graphic images. This includes how the text looks on the screen which is achieved through the appearance of such things as fonts, titles and headings, comments statements and phrases. For color this includes the color of the text, background and the surrounding graphics. The contrast of the colors and color use of each of these items can play an important role. For the graphic images, this includes the other information in the document aside from the text being presented, i.e. such things as clip art, illustrations, diagrams, icons, buttons, photos, graphs, etc. To achieve visual rhetoric consideration must be made towards the use of images as arguments, the overall arrangement and organization of the elements on the page, use of typography, and analysis of the images and visuals being applied.

Type Functions have personalities that generally fall under formal and informal. Consider the effect of the choice of font you use, the personality and appropriateness. The correct font choice can build upon the ethos of the presentation. Matching it with the context of the presentation is important. For example:

To Whom it May Concern, Font used "Arial" Formal use desired - business oriented
Dear Mrs. Jones, Font used "Times New Roman" Formal use desired - general purpose or unknown acquaintance
Hey Betty, Font used "Cooper Black" Informal use desired - very casual, perhaps comical appearance
Hi Bob and Mary, (Informal font used "Freestyle Script") Informal use desired - friends and casual acquaintances

Heading and Body Functions don't necessarily have personalities, but do place a level of importance, emphasis and attention on the material being presented. A heading would be a correct font choice with a bold typeface for that of a title or headline to a subject, body text with normal font would be a correct choice for the bulk of the information being presented. The correct choices for heading size or use of body text along with typeface can build upon the ethos of the presentation. Matching it with the context of the presentation is important, along with maintaining legibility. For example:

Announcing a new release: Bold font style to add emphasis separated from the body of the main text information being presented.  
Application Software Version 4.0 Italicized to identify it as a title and bold to add emphasis which helps separate it from the body of the main text being presented. 
To be released January 2006 Bold to continue emphasis and underline sections to identify important highlight of the heading.
ABC Software announced today the release of their latest version of software Application Software Version 4.0. Normal font style typically used for the bulk of the material being presented, this aides in legibility. Note the Italicized body text to identify a title of an item.

Color use of text and background also has importance and can add impact for your presentation. Again this can add to the level of importance, emphasis and attention as well as add considerably to the ethos of the presentation. It may be wise to stick with some of the more traditional color and contrast uses for the bulk of your material being presented, this will aide in the long run the overall legibility of the presentation. For example:

Welcome to My Homepage Basic black text on white background show high contrast and is most commonly used..  
Welcome to My Homepage White text on black background still shows high contrast, but is not ideal for use, many find the presentation can tend to take on a dark look and feel to it.
Welcome to My Homepage Run black text over a light tan or beige background shows high contrast and still pleasing to most audiences.  
Welcome to My Homepage Run white text over a medium to dark background such as medium blue. This can provide a good alternative to black text on a white background.
Welcome to My Homepage A deep blue text against a dark red background also provides an acceptable alternative to black text on a white background.
Welcome to My Homepage A dull red and pale blue may also be a choice which has good contrast but with de-saturated colors for amore subtle affect.

As stated above, content appeal can be achieved through addition of graphic images, but care and considerations should be taken in what images you choose to use. Avoid the cartoon clip art if it distracts from your presentation, choose clip art that truly fits the purpose of the presentation and matches color and design schemes. Consider creating special images for special purpose. Add illustrations, diagrams, graphs, charts and figures that help contribute to the presentation pathos and logos as well as stay with the ethos in context for the presentation. Any addition of text used in conjunction with the graphics,  should be short concise phrases used to provide clarity and definition to information presented. Remember the purpose to inform, convey information, to emphasize and to accentuate the content. When organizing the graphics on the page avoid clutter, be selective in choice and use the graphics to split up large amounts of text information. Use "white space" to add to the uniformity and clarity of the presentation (white space being the surrounding space that does not contain graphic images or text). Graphic images can help break up and contribute to use of white space in your presentation.

By rhetoric ideal, the overall design and composition of your presentation should now be taking context and content into consideration along with building upon the ethos, logos and pathos. The primary goal of the presentation is to make optimum use of striking and eye catching elements which creates a natural path for the eye to follow the flow of information which should be well-organized and logically presented.

Examples and Practice Problems

Looking back in review: 


The definition of Rhetoric according to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language is: The art or study of using language effectively and persuasively. To interpret rhetoric principles into analysis of presentation skills would be to make effectively use of text, color, animation, graphic images, and other various forms of multimedia content to present in context an idea, theory, concept, topic or whatever else a person desires. Without rhetoric in writing we would not have choice experiences as learners to read from great authors such as Shakespeare or Dickens. Similarly without speaking rhetorically we would not have been blessed with speeches such as the famous speech by Martin Luther King Jr., "I have a Dream" and we would not have examples even in the movies as well such as the speech segment "about being perfect" from the movie Friday Night Lights.     

We all rely and depend on rhetoric of one form or another and to one extent or another. Take a comedian, a door to door salesman, even a musician rely on rhetoric. The comedian who can describe a funny situation to make us laugh. A door to door salesman who has the one liner which gets his foot in the door so that he can make the sale. The musician who sings up a story and draws upon the emotions of the listener. Speaking and writing in rhetoric will make you a better presenter, rhetoric gives you the ability to work creatively and to present effectively.

Assignment Description

Since Technical Illustration II is concerned explicitly with the study of professional design presentation and the processes, tools, and media used, for this assignment you will research and build a oral/multimedia presentation. As you produce your presentations consider the following 5 areas of emphasis regarding presentation rhetoric  composition, arrangement, style, preparation, and delivery.  Keep in mind the content and form in context with the rhetorical situation of your presentation and the way in which your use the 5 areas of emphasis presented below, making your point and keeping the interest of your audience along with your own individual ethos as an author.

  1.  Composition:  Your presentation may be an overview or it may be single example which provides groundwork for additional projects in this course. Consider content, duration, layout, and structure. Use of creative framework of structure for your presentation is strongly encouraged, i.e. structuring it as a sneak preview, movie short, a behind the scenes look at your project in progress, or even an expose.


  2. Arrangement: You will need to consider the arrangement of your content, how you will arrange, order, organize, and structure your presentation. This means both outlining it as necessary and if you are using slides, considering the most appropriate use of any additional multimedia elements such as audio and/or visual material. The presentation should have a clear beginning, middle and end.

  4. Style: You need to decide on the ethos of your presentation. What will your voice be, or the persona you wish to portray? Will it be formal or informal? Will you invite audience participation? Will you invite questions and when? How will you approach your audience? As an expert in your subject? All these questions are starting points for thinking about the style of your presentation.

  6. Preparation: This has as much to do with improvisation (i.e., being able to read your audience and adapt your presentation to suite their current needs) as it does with memorization or a level of comfort with your material. Be prepared to present this assignment as a collective-in-class presentation, where the format for the presentation will be open for discussion and questions as well as critiques. Rehearse your presentation and work with the timing.


  7. Delivery: Consider your audience, and develop your presentation accordingly. Your presentation should be thoughtfully designed as to represent good use of  thought towards the rhetoric presented by this paper. Again, you will need to decide on the method by which you will deliver your materials such as auto-run with narration or done by a presenter. This involves considering whether you will use audio or visual aids as well as other elements you may wish to include in your presentation, such as the way you present yourself, dress, or project your voice while presenting.

Learning Outcomes. Upon completion of this exercise, you should be able to:

Assessment and Evaluation. You will be provided feedback by your peers. An assessment survey sheet similar to the one linked will be handed out prior to the day of the class collective presentation. Upon which time you will have chance to evaluate (and be evaluated by) your peer. Be professional, courteous honest and polite during others presentations and in doing the assessment. This time will also be used for class critique, the process which is for positive and constructive criticism and not to be derogatory in any manner to the other student. For particulars on the grading of this project (see the assignment rubric).


Assessment Sheet                Assignment Rubric

Practice Exercise



This Page Last updated 01/12/2009