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Achieving the Purpose of Your Speech

Jan DArcy
Using Statistics in Your Speech

The purpose of a speech is to persuade people to your point of view and get them to take action of some kind. Here is Jan D'Arcy with some great ideas on using statistics to build credibility and enforce your key points.

You have decided on your main points, the material in the bull's eye that will lead you to the response you want. Now you need to gain understanding of and agreement for each point.

Aristotle said, "There are only two parts to a speech: you make a statement and you prove it. " Supporting material proves your assertions. It clarifies, illustrates, makes memorable. Anecdotes, statistics, testimony, explanations and repetition are used as supporting points. Visual aids can also be thought of as supporting material because they make your main points more vivid.

Anecdotes are fun. They add interest to your speech. People remember them. They support and clarify an issue, but shouldn't be expected to prove your main points by themselves. Anecdotes have been used by great teachers since time immemorial.

Aesop's fables are all tales told to illustrate moral lessons. One of my clients was giving a speech to a group of employees whose productivity was very low. One of his main points was, productivity depends on trust, and this is how he illustrated his point. Two big turtles and a little turtle were crawling down the street when they decided to stop in at a local bar and have some sarsaparilla. They had just gotten inside and ordered their drinks when one of the big turtles glanced out the window. "I think it's going to rain. Someone will have to go back and get an umbrella." And both of the big turtles looked straight at the little turtle. "Oh no," said the little turtle. "I'm not going to go get an umbrella because then you will drink my sarsaparilla." "No we won't," said one of the big turtles. "Just go and get it."

Two weeks went by and one of the big turtles said, "I don't think that little guy is coming back," and the other turtle replied, "I don't think so either. Do you know what I was thinking?" "Yeah," said the other big turtle. "Let's drink his sarsaparilla." Just then, a little voice came from the end of the bar. "If you do, I won't go."

Productivity depends on trust. Keep a file of stories you like. They can be serious or humorous. They can be newspaper items.

Statistics are figures, which show relationships among phenomena. Statistics pull together a great number of examples so that many individual items can be dealt with as a collective whole.

In the magazine Science, it was reported last year nearly 45,000 people died in auto collisions, the equivalent of a fully loaded passenger jet crashing with no survivors every day for a year. If everyone wore seat belts, more than half of these deaths could have been avoided. Notice the imagery used in conjunction with the statistics.

Whenever you use statistics, ask yourself: Number one: How accurate are the figures? Number two: Who collected the data? Number three: Was the collector objective? Number four: How current are the figures?

If properly assembled and presented, statistics can be powerful devices.

Now, here are two things you can do in every speech to increase its impact:

First, clarify each main point and then develop anecdotes, stories, personal experiences and statistics to reinforce and drive the point home. These are remembered longer than any other part of your talk.

Second, when you use a number or statistic, create an illustration, story or metaphor to show how powerful and important that number is. People will remember the story long after they forget the number.


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