Canadian Manufacturing

What Aristotle can teach you about pitching cleantech

by Marc Stoiber   

Cleantech Canada
Financing Sales & Marketing Small Business Cleantech

Unfortunately, few presenters pay heed to the philosopher's observations, and all of us in the audience pay the price

Marc Stoiber is a marketing/brand consultant, entrepreneur, university professor and writer

Marc Stoiber is a marketing/brand consultant, entrepreneur, university professor and writer

VICTORIA—2,500 years ago, Aristotle had a profound insight on the art of persuasion, which is essentially comprised of three elements—ethos, pathos and logos.

In brief, these three elements can be described as:

Ethos: Ensuring you’re seen as a credible expert on the subject
Pathos: Creating a bond between yourself and the audience
Logos: Substantiating your pitch with logic

So, in an effort to bring us all up to Aristotle’s standards, I’m offering up a few helpful hints on infusing ethos, pathos and logos into your next pitch.


At first, it seems ridiculous. You wouldn’t be presenting if you weren’t an expert, right?

Well, it doesn’t matter what you think. It matters what your audience thinks. As Win Without Pitching guru Blair Enns underlines, to be seen as an expert, you need to have three key boxes ticked.

• Have you declared your expertise? Have you picked a very specific area of specialization and put your flag in the ground, declaring that you’re dedicating yourself to knowing everything there is to know about this subject?
• Have you surrounded yourself with complementary experts? No matter how narrow your field of expertise, you can never know everything. That’s why you need to build that expertise constantly. The best way to build it is by surrounding yourself with people who are also experts on the subject. The advantage is twofold—your expertise will grow by osmosis, and outsiders will regard you as a respected voice in your area of expertise.
• Have you shared your expertise? Scientists and professors adhere to the ‘publish or perish’ dictum. At regular intervals, they’re obligated to give away their expertise to the world in white papers, speeches and stories. This sharing doesn’t diminish their expertise or make us think they’ve given away their crown jewels. Quite the opposite.

If credible expertise were enough to win a pitch, university professors would be the ultimate pitch weapon. And they aren’t.

A pitch is a curious thing. The room casts a certain vibe, as does your audience. And you also are sending unspoken messages at a furious rate.

If all these subtleties align, your audience will bond with you on a visceral level. They’ll like you, and want to buy from you. If not, you can be pitching solid gold, and they’ll show you the door.

Being empathetic means understanding the deeper needs of your audience and aligning yourself with them. Some of the most compelling leaders today are crusty and querulous—these leaders emanate authenticity, which their fans love.

If you have a pitch based on new technology (in other words, every cleantech pitch) you’re probably providing a great deal of information and substantiation in your pitch.

Which is exactly what you shouldn’t do.

Nobody buys information in a pitch setting. They buy you. If they like you, they’ll happily read your numbers in a leave-behind. If they don’t like you, they’ll never look at the material.

Do yourself—and your audience—a favour. Forget the numbers, charts and slides with 50 bullet points. Tell your audience all the info is in a document in your briefcase.

You’ll have a better time bonding and establishing a relationship based on mutual trust and affinity. You’ll be able to affirm your credibility through dialogue. And you’ll spare everyone the torture of “death by powerpoint.”

And Aristotle will be smiling.

Marc Stoiber is a marketing/brand consultant, entrepreneur, university prof and writer. He helps clients in tech, healthcare and sustainability create simple, powerful brand propositions and stories. He can be reached at


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