How often do we quote someone else’s words or use references in speeches?
What I want to say, but said better.
Quote, books or studies are useful. They can be supporting materials to our position, or a way to express our point. If we want these elements to be relevant and the audience to receive them well, we must blend them smoothly in the flow of the speech.
I had never thought that a poor presentation of external references can be disturbing for the audience – until some days ago. I was attending a workshop, but I my level of engagement started to decrease as the speaker proceeded with the presentation. Later, I realized that I felt excluded from the communication – by the way the speaker introduced some quotes and references to literary sources. The topic of the workshop was interesting, but as soon as I lost the connection with the speaker, the bridge was burned and my attention wandered away.
So, I have started to think about this topic: how do we avoid that the audience feels lost, excluded or diminished?
Don’t make them feel lost
After all the events I attend, I like to further elaborate on the topics I heard. So, when I listen to presentations I usually take notes and bring home some suggestions. Often these suggestions come from materials the speaker quotes. I have discovered many interesting movies, books and articles thanks to someone else’s speeches. For this to happen, the speaker needs to mention properly the sources. If she doesn’t, the audience may lose the opportunity to fully appreciate and expand on the topic after the speech.
Don’t make them feel excluded
Create a connection with the audience is crucial to make sure they feel engaged in your speech. As a listener, when I don’t recognize the reference and the speaker says something like: “There’s no need to explain” or “As you know”, I wonder if I am in the right room. Every time the speaker quotes a supposedly common knowledge that someone in the audience doesn’t share, these people may feel excluded. If this happens, they will lose attention and engagement.
Don’t make them feel diminished
During the workshop I saw, the speaker mentioned a book inviting us to “re-read it”. I don’t know how many people in the audience had read this book, but I hadn’t. Still, this expression assumed I had. I felt like the speaker was scolding me for not doing my homework, as I was back in school. Regardless how obvious your sources seem, it’s better to add a short explanation, to avoid that the audience feels diminished because they don’t share your previous intellectual experiences.
When you use references in speeches, sources or quotes, they should be smooth and easy to catch for the audience. This way, that the topic gets through immediately. Let’s make sure that when we present the references we don’t burn bridges with the audience, but instead we make them feel part of the experience.
(Image by Giancarlo Revolledo on Unsplash)