In the business of money management, influencing others is a skill that rivals investment expertise. If one can’t earn someone’s trust, and money, then one can’t run a true investment management business, no matter how talented a financial player one may be. To gain the support and gather assets of strangers, money managers must master the art of effective rhetoric.


Plato referred to rhetoric as ‘the art of winning the soul by discourse.’ To inspire others, a good communicator needs to engage them both intellectually and emotionally. Effective rhetoric cuts to the heart of the matter in bold, simple language. There is no stilted phrasing or tortured concept descriptions. Context is stated clearly and succinctly in plain ‘Everyman’ language. This method articulates issues in a way that is very effective.

The Roman philosopher Cicero first organized the five canons of rhetoric in his discourse De Inventione, as a means of educating the Roman population with Greek intellectual persuasion. These canons: Invention, Arrangement, Style, Memory, and Delivery are as relevant today in defining effective communication as they were then. Together, they work to create powerful messages across subject matters and audience.


Invention refers to the process of coming up with an idea to develop into an argument. Whether the delivery will be oral or written, defining what it is you want to convey is step one.

Arrangement is the exercise of deciding how to present what it is you want to communicate. This might take the form of an outline, speaking notes, or some other form of ordering information. The importance of step two is the planning process for eventual delivery.

Style is the method of communicating the message. This step three includes the actual words chosen and the format these words will take. For example, phrases delivered in active voice, versus passive voice, tend to be more forceful and emphatic. If your intent to is to appear strong in delivery, active voice phrasing is always the preferable option. Which sentence carries more impact? It is believed by the audience that a call for action must be made by Congress. Congress needs to act.

Memory is step four and involves practicing the content to be delivered and committing as much of it as possible to memory. While this is more important for an oral communication, it is also useful when drafting written content, as it weaves the message more tightly together prior to delivery, and helps in the final editing process.

Delivery, the fifth canon, is the process of conveying the communication. While the actual wording is central to this step, the energy and dynamic interaction of the delivery can greatly enhance or detract from the message. In speeches, videos, and other verbal deliveries, using a strong voice, gesturing appropriately while speaking, striding around a stage to engage various portions of the audience all work to help or hurt the delivery.

WORDS IN ACTION ran an article several years ago, ’10 Keys To Writing  A Speech,’ by Jeff Schmitt, that offered up some valuable pointers on why words matter. There’s a lesson to be learned from these suggestions that money managers can adopt when trying to inspire their own fans, and minimize potential foes.

  • Be human and real in describing your point, and use words that match the subject matter.

Investors often decide whether or not to invest with a particular manager based on risk management practices versus investment management experience. When managers can clearly articulate how they avoid bad investments or extricate themselves from excessively risky ones, they stand a chance of winning over investors concerned about the long-term impact of placing monies with an individual manager.

  • Repeat yourself to reinforce the most important elements of your message that speak to clients.

In money management, reputation is synonymous with brand. A brand is essentially what others think about you, not what you think about yourself. As such, the best way to develop and strengthen the brand you want to own is to reflect how you understand and deliver what your clients desire from you. Personalizing these messages and consistently following through on reinforcing them will solidify your individual status in your clients’ minds.

  • Use metaphors, axioms, and analogies to illustrate commitment to investing as your business focus.

Investors are very savvy about finding out what makes a money manager tick. If they suspect one is motivated more by asset-gathering to earn management fees versus growing their fund business as a means of reaching optimal capacity to execute their passion in investment strategy, the investors are likely to be turned off. Management fee motivation has been the death knells for many institutional fund managers who seem to lose passion, or ability, to perform once they aggregate a certain amount of assets.

  • Show emotion and enthusiasm with a dynamic delivery. Theatrics can be a positive when driving home a message.

There’s value in measuring performance and results, and assessing that via benchmarks, but adding in a dose of true passion about the business of investment and an excitement about the future can supplement a less-than-stellar track record.. Money managers who can honestly view themselves and work to succeed against these measures will find investors willing and eager to join them.

 Diane Harrison is principal and owner of Panegyric Marketing, a strategic marketing communications firm founded in 2002 specializing in alternative assets.  She has over 25 years’ of expertise in hedge fund and private equity marketing, investor relations, articles, white papers, blog posts, and other thought leadership deliverables.