De Oratore by Cicero – Book 2 – The Effects of Oratory

In addition to being a lawyer, politician and philosopher, Cicero (Marcus Tullius Cicero) was also a preeminent Roman orator. Drawing on the teaching of Greek rhetoric and the craft of oration in Roman times, he composed De Oratore to highlight the principles he believed were at play whenever someone planned to speak on an important topic.

While political speeches and legal proceedings were at the forefront of public speaking during this time, the concepts presented here are valuable in the drafting of any nonfiction narrative. Written in 55 BC, and comprised of three books, De Oratore is a dialogue that is set in 91 BC.

Cicero shares a dialogue, reported to him by Cotta, among a group of excellent political men and orators, who came together to discuss the crisis and general decline of politics. They met in the garden of Lucius Licinius Crassus’ villa in Tusculum.

Lucius Licinius CrassusQuintus Mucius ScaevolaQuintus Catulus
Marcus Antonius OratorGaius Aurelius CottaPublius Sulpicius Rufus

Marcus Antonius explains to Catulus:

But to determine how we should arrange the particulars that are to be advanced in order to prove, to inform, to persuade, more peculiarly belongs to the orator’s discretion.

Determining the order in which to present all your story blocks is one of the most powerful aspects of narrative structure, and one of the most difficult to master. You’ve identified the various elements that can tell your story, then you’ve selected those which best support your argument, idea or experience. Now the challenge is arrangement – which block goes where.

How to open, how to lead the audience on the journey, and finally, how to conclude your talk so that the listener understands what you have shared. Your story resonates emotionally and intellectually. While there are no rules for this structure, keep in mind the need to grab their attention early on, keep them engaged throughout the entire talk, and have it all make sense.

Antonius then offers:

…to listen to him from whom you receive any information or to him to whom you have to reply with such power of retention that they seem not to have poured their discourse into your ears but to have engraven it on your mental tablet?

If your story is compelling, and presented with the same energy and passion that mirrors your thoughts and feelings, and if it impacts the audience and inspires them to see the world with a fresh perspective, then Antonius believes that your message will not only resonate, but has the power to alter their memory, and thus, remain with them.

Keep these ideas in mind as you work on the sequence of your story blocks. If the audience believes what you’re saying (ethos), then finds their heart touched by your words (pathos), and the logic holds up (logos), you will maximize the impact of your story.

[De Oratore excerpts from Delphi Complete Works of Cicero, Translated by J. S. Watson]

Article written by Mark Lovett – Copyright Storytelling with Impact – All rights reserved

 

De Oratore by Cicero – Book 2 – The Emotions of Oratory

In addition to being a lawyer, politician and philosopher, Cicero (Marcus Tullius Cicero) was also a preeminent Roman orator. Drawing on the teaching of Greek rhetoric and the craft of oration in Roman times, he composed De Oratore to highlight the principles he believed were at play whenever someone planned to speak on an important topic.

While political speeches and legal proceedings were at the forefront of public speaking during this time, the concepts presented here are valuable in the drafting of any nonfiction narrative. Written in 55 BC, and comprised of three books, De Oratore is a dialogue that is set in 91 BC.

Cicero shares a dialogue, reported to him by Cotta, among a group of excellent political men and orators, who came together to discuss the crisis and general decline of politics. They met in the garden of Lucius Licinius Crassus’ villa in Tusculum.

Lucius Licinius CrassusQuintus Mucius ScaevolaQuintus Catulus
Marcus Antonius OratorGaius Aurelius CottaPublius Sulpicius Rufus

Marcus Antonius speaking to Catulus:

For mankind make far more determinations through hatred or love or desire or anger or grief or joy or hope or fear or error or some other affection of mind than from regard to truth or any settled maxim or principle of right or judicial form or adherence to the laws.

It’s common to believe we make decisions based on logic first and emotions second – does it make sense, and then, do we like it – but sadly the reverse is our reality. Our choices need to feel good first, and if they do, then we look toward the facts as a way to seal the deal.

It’s the same process in storytelling, as well in storylistening. Too often a speaker will want to offer information as their narrative’s foundation, layering on the human elements afterward. I encourage clients to change course and give listeners a reason to empathize before engaging their brains. As I see it, information invites judgement, while emotions invite connection.

Antonius then offers:

The feelings of the hearers are conciliated by a person’s dignity, by his actions, by the character of his life; particulars which can more easily be adorned by eloquence if they really exist than be invented if they have no existence.

While the previous passage dealt with two elements of Aristotle’s rhetoric; Pathos (emotions) and Logos (logic), in this case, however, Antonius is addressing the mysterious nature of the third element – Ethos (ethics).

What is the audience’s gut feel about the speaker? Do they feel he or she is honest, authentic and trustworthy? Some speakers will stretch the truth a bit, embellishing their abilities and track record as a way to impress the audience. But in such cases the audience will usually see through a smoke screen of eloquent delivery.

Keep these observations in mind as you think about the sequence of your story blocks. If the audience believes what you’re saying, then finds their heart touched by your words, and the logic holds up, you will maximize the impact of your story.

[De Oratore excerpts from Delphi Complete Works of Cicero, Translated by J. S. Watson]

Article written by Mark Lovett – Copyright Storytelling with Impact – All rights reserved

 

De Oratore by Cicero – Book 2 – The Objectives of Oratory

In addition to being a lawyer, politician and philosopher, Cicero (Marcus Tullius Cicero) was also a preeminent Roman orator. Drawing on the teaching of Greek rhetoric and the craft of oration in Roman times, he composed De Oratore to highlight the principles he believed were at play whenever someone planned to speak on an important topic.

While political speeches and legal proceedings were at the forefront of public speaking during this time, the concepts presented here are valuable in the drafting of any nonfiction narrative. Written in 55 BC, and comprised of three books, De Oratore is a dialogue that is set in 91 BC.

Cicero shares a dialogue, reported to him by Cotta, among a group of excellent political men and orators, who came together to discuss the crisis and general decline of politics. They met in the garden of Lucius Licinius Crassus’ villa in Tusculum.

Lucius Licinius CrassusQuintus Mucius ScaevolaQuintus Catulus
Marcus Antonius OratorGaius Aurelius CottaPublius Sulpicius Rufus

Marcus Antonius replies to Catulus:

…for who is ignorant that it is the first law in writing history that the historian must not dare to tell any falsehood and the next that he must be bold enough to tell the whole truth?

While there are many genres of storytelling that are wholly or partially fictitious in nature, personal storytelling is not one of them. Once a speaker deviates from the truth, the entire story becomes suspect. When your intent is to share your wisdom, experience and viewpoint, authenticity and accuracy will form the foundation. And if the audience sees cracks in that foundation, they will disregard your message.

Telling the ‘whole truth’ is trickier to address, as there are time constraints for every speech or presentation. It’s not uncommon that a client I’m working with has a story to tell that could easily consume many hours, yet they only have a 15 or 20 minute time slot. Crafting such a talk requires condensing some passages while cutting other scenes altogether, but in the end, the story must represent the truth and not be misleading in any way.

Antonius later offers:

Thus the whole business of speaking rests upon three things for success in persuasion; that we prove what we maintain to be true; that we conciliate those who hear; that we produce in their minds whatever feeling our cause may require.

Once again Antonius touches on the topic of truth, but introduces the notion of proving what you claim to be true. The audience must feel that the point you are proposing is not just your opinion, but rather an idea supported by evidence. This is especially true for any scientific or historical talk which includes material that is beyond the speaker’s direct experience.

Conciliation refers to a listener being satisfied, or won over, by your argument. This is a matter of logic, as your narrative must make sense, by exhibiting a logical flow, for the audience to accept it. The audience must also connect to your story emotionally. They should feel what you feel at each point in the narrative. It’s this resonance which aligns the listener’s experience with yours.

Keep these objectives in mind as you work on your story and decide which elements to include, the order they will be presented, and the manner in which they will be delivered.

[De Oratore excerpts from Delphi Complete Works of Cicero, Translated by J. S. Watson]

Article written by Mark Lovett – Copyright Storytelling with Impact – All rights reserved

 

De Oratore by Cicero – Book 1 – Writing to Learn Oratory

In addition to being a lawyer, politician and philosopher, Cicero (Marcus Tullius Cicero) was also a preeminent Roman orator. Drawing on the teaching of Greek rhetoric and the craft of oration in Roman times, he composed De Oratore to highlight the principles he believed were at play whenever someone planned to speak on an important topic.

While political speeches and legal proceedings were at the forefront of public speaking during this time, the concepts presented here are valuable in the drafting of any nonfiction narrative. Written in 55 BC, and comprised of three books, De Oratore is a dialogue that is set in 91 BC.

Cicero shares a dialogue, reported to him by Cotta, among a group of excellent political men and orators, who came together to discuss the crisis and general decline of politics. They met in the garden of Lucius Licinius Crassus’ villa in Tusculum.

Lucius Licinius CrassusQuintus Mucius Scaevola
Marcus Antonius OratorGaius Aurelius CottaPublius Sulpicius Rufus

replied Crassus when Sulpicious wants to here more,

Writing is said to be the best and most excellent modeller and teacher of oratory; and not without reason; for if what is meditated and considered easily surpasses sudden and extemporary speech, a constant and diligent habit of writing will surely be of more effect than meditation and consideration itself

Speaking extemporaneously lacks the depth achieved when proper diligence and consideration occurs during the writing process. I’ve seen this happen with everyone I’ve coached, as the interplay of writing and editing uncovers new layers to the story, adding meaning and strength to the message you’re delivering.

While not mentioned in this passage, the circular interplay of writing, rehearsing, and editing results in superior word choice and sentence structure. Ideally it will replace cliche words and phrases with more accurate and direct prose, but this requires attention to detail.

Such are the qualities which bring applause and admiration to good orators; nor will any man ever attain them, unless after long and great practice in writing, however resolutely he may have exercised himself in extemporary speeches; and he who comes to speak after practice in writing brings this advantage with him, that though he speak at the call of the moment, yet what he says will bear a resemblance to something written; and if ever, when he comes to speak, he brings anything with him in writing, the rest of his speech, when he departs from what is written, will flow on in a similar strain.

As an extension to the initial benefits of putting your words to paper (or keyboard) is that the story blocks you create in the process are better remembered and used when called upon to speak without time for preparation. You will better embody your message(s) and improve your ability to diverge from a written speech while maintaining your authority of the topic at hand.

Occasionally I will encounter clients who prefer to outline their talk to identify the major points and order of delivery, but resist the call to write out every word of their talk. In such cases I let them know that they are under no obligation to recite a written speech word for word. Lots of folks have difficulty memorizing a speech.

But once the writing process is complete, you can turn the text back into an outline for the rehearsal phase, which gives you the freedom to select specific words on the fly. The difference is that the writing process significantly changes the narrative, which means the outline produced after writing is superior to the outline as initially drafted.

[De Oratore excerpts from Delphi Complete Works of Cicero, Translated by J. S. Watson]

Article written by Mark Lovett – Copyright Storytelling with Impact – All rights reserved

 

De Oratore by Cicero – Book 1 – Conversation on Oratory

In addition to being a lawyer, politician and philosopher, Cicero (Marcus Tullius Cicero) was also a preeminent Roman orator. Drawing on the teaching of Greek rhetoric and the craft of oration in Roman times, he composed De Oratore to highlight the principles he believed were at play whenever someone planned to speak on an important topic.

While political speeches and legal proceedings were at the forefront of public speaking during this time, the concepts presented here are valuable in the drafting of any nonfiction narrative. Written in 55 BC, and comprised of three books, De Oratore is a dialogue that is set in 91 BC.

Cicero writes about a dialogue, reported to him by Cotta, among a group of excellent political men and orators, who came together to discuss the crisis and general decline of politics. They met in the garden of Lucius Licinius Crassus’ villa in Tusculum.

Lucius Licinius CrassusQuintus Mucius Scaevola
Marcus Antonius OratorGaius Aurelius CottaPublius Sulpicius Rufus

Lucius Licinius Crassus offers the following insights:

One thing there will certainly be, which those who speak well will exhibit as their own; a graceful and elegant style, distinguished by a peculiar artifice and polish. But this kind of diction, if there be not matter beneath it clear and intelligible to the speaker, must either amount to nothing, or be received with ridicule by all who hear it.

For who is ignorant that the highest power of an orator consists in exciting the minds of men to anger, or to hatred, or to grief, or in recalling them from these more violent emotions to gentleness and compassion? which power will never be able to effect its object by eloquence, unless in him who has obtained a thorough insight into the nature of mankind, and all the passions of humanity, and those causes by which our minds are either impelled or restrained.

Despite the benefit of delivering a speech with elegance and polish, Crassus notes that a speaker’s words will fall on deaf ears should we not view their narrative as authentic and of substance. He also speaks to the power of an orator to stir the emotions of an audience, either toward assuming a negative mindset, or in soothing pre-existing negativity. But eloquence alone can not cause this movement, as the speaker must also understand humankind’s very nature, and how we are influenced.

While this approach is common in politics, and many marketing campaigns, whereby the intent is to play off of one’s emotions instead of intellect, it is nonetheless important to think about what is important to the audience, and why they care about the story that you’re telling them. That said, the key objective should be for them to understand your viewpoint. Their emotions may follow – positively or negatively – but manipulating their emotions should never be the aim when telling a personal story.

Antonius soon after said,

But in an orator, the acuteness of the logicians, the wisdom of the philosophers, the language almost of poetry, the memory of lawyers, the voice of tragedians, the gesture almost of the best actors, is required. Nothing therefore is more rarely found among mankind than a consummate orator; for qualifications which professors of other arts are commended for acquiring in a moderate degree, each in his respective pursuit, will not be praised in the orator, unless they are all combined in him in the highest possible excellence.”

Crafting a narrative that is logical, which offers wisdom and insight, that shows the importance of proper word choice, and is delivered from memory, using vocal variation and appropriate body movement is the essence of oratory according to Antonius. That unique skill set separates those who merely know their subject well, even if they are subject matter experts, from those who know how to properly deliver a speech.

I would agree that the combination of these skills will maximize a story’s impact, and that acquiring such a diverse set of talents is rather difficult for most of us, but as with any profession, it’s a matter of recognizing the challenge and then applying the requisite time and energy to achieving that level of proficiency. Most talented speakers will tell you how bad they were at the beginning of their careers, and how long it took them to learn the craft of writing and presenting a memorable talk.

and Crassus responded,

That since all the business and art of an orator is divided into five parts, he ought first to find out what he should say; next, to dispose and arrange his matter, not only in a certain order, but with a sort of power and judgment; then to clothe and deck his thoughts with language; then to secure them in his memory; and lastly, to deliver them with dignity and grace.

Crassus offers an initial insight into the Five Canons of Rhetoric;

  • Invention (clearing defining the main idea, perspective or position)
  • Arrangement (how the story is organized to provide maximum impact)
  • Style (the language used to present each of the narrative components)
  • Memory (speaker’s ability to memorized / embody the essence of the message)
  • Delivery (which includes vocal variation, facial expression and body movements)

[De Oratore excerpts from Delphi Complete Works of Cicero, Translated by J. S. Watson]

Article written by Mark Lovett – Copyright Storytelling with Impact – All rights reserved