How to Work Supporting Materials into Your Speech

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  • 0:02 What Are Supporting Materials?
  • 2:46 Effective Supporting Materials
  • 4:28 Integrating Supporting…
  • 6:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kat Kadian-Baumeyer

Kat has a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Management and teaches Business courses.

A good speech should include supporting materials from secondary sources to back up claims made within the speech. They add credibility and also provide the audience with a way to research more about the topic.

What Are Supporting Materials?

When a bunch of old, salty dogs are sitting around the docks talking about the fish that got away and that it was 'this big,' there is no need for actual proof. It's just a fish tale.

In public speaking, however, this kind of story simply won't float. No pun intended. The speaker should use supporting materials that include evidence which can prove the points a speaker makes.

There are three types of supporting materials a speaker can choose from:

  • Examples
  • Statistics
  • Testimony

An example is a case or incidence that represents what the speaker is talking about. For example, let's say our fisherman was giving a speech about the fish he caught. In order to support the claim, he could bring the fish to the event, provide a photo of him holding the fish or even bring a similar-sized replica. The point being, it will illustrate the enormity of the story by showing the audience, rather than just telling them about his big catch.

Another way to drive a point home is by presenting the audience with statistics. These are figures that beef up the overall point of the speech. Used correctly, statistics can influence an audience. Check out the difference between these two statements:

'Only a few guys have ever caught a swordfish as big as the one I caught.'

'There is a 1 in 3,000 chance of any fisherman to catch a 500-pound swordfish.'

The latter really illustrates just how rare it is to reel in such a large fish.

Nothing beats a good 'he said, she said' story. So, using testimony can also enhance the credibility of a story. This is using the opinions of others to support a claim. There are a few ways in which this can be done: layman's, prestige and expert testimony.

Layman's testimony is like the word from the street and involves the use of stories from common people the audience may identify with. A bunch of fishermen gumming it up about the latest casting conditions on the pier may provide a new angler with some good information.

Sometimes, it takes the words of a famous person to convince the audience. This is when prestige testimony can be used. It involves using the words of a recognizable public figure that the audience respects to drive home a point.

When neither layman's nor prestige testimony will do, expert testimony may work. This is the words of an expert that is well respected as an authority on the topic. Once the speaker gathers the supporting materials, there is a process that should be used to keep everything in order.

Effective Supporting Materials

The most important thing to remember when using supporting materials is to make the materials relevant enough that the audience will understand why the information is being used. Sound difficult? Well, guess what: it is not at all! Here are a few steps that will help.

First, state the point you want the audience to understand. In other words, don't let the audience make assumptions about what you are about to present.

Suppose the speaker wants to prove to the audience that he caught a very large fish. He can tell them. But that's really not enough. It will take much more to convince the crowd. But this is certainly a start.

Next, present the materials to the audience by showing or telling them what type of supporting materials you are using. Perhaps it's a visual or a statistic. Of course, give them a clear reason for the support.

In this case, the speaker wants to emphasize how significant of an achievement it was to catch such a large swordfish. Therefore, he might use testimony from a credible organization's website that explains the average size of a swordfish.

Finally, explain how the support works into the speech. Maybe he can compare his 500-pound catch to the second largest 350-pound catch that's on record. The weight difference alone is enough to convince the audience. Simply put, using the supporting materials along with the facts demonstrate the point in a much more substantial way.

But just throwing out statistics or facts is not enough. There is a way to smoothly incorporate other supporting materials into your speech.

Integrating Supporting Material

It all starts with signposts. These are gestures or words that tell the audience you are about to move from one thing to another by showing the relationship between the two. Here's how they work. A signpost can be a transition, preview or a summary.

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