Types of Supporting Materials for a Speech

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  • 0:01 Supporting Materials
  • 1:04 Examples
  • 2:10 Statistics
  • 4:11 Testimony
  • 5:30 Practice Problems
  • 8:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Cathryn Jackson

Cat has taught a variety of subjects, including communications, mathematics, and technology. Cat has a master's degree in education and is currently working on her Ph.D.

When you are developing a speech, you need research to back up your claims. You can use different types of supporting materials strategically to help you. In this lesson, you will learn about these supporting materials and how to use them in your speech.

Supporting Materials

You want to ask your boss for a raise. Would you just walk into his or her office and demand more money? Maybe over the past year you've managed to double your sales record and implement a new procedure for handling customer sales. You've also been asked to spearhead a new training program for new employees. Furthermore, a director at a sister company has given you a glowing recommendation letter. All of these things are examples of supporting materials you can use as a public speaker.

In this lesson, you will learn the different types of supporting materials and the best uses for each.

Types of Supporting Materials

Okay, so you want to ask your boss for a raise. All of the good things that you've done in the past year are great examples of supporting materials. Supporting materials are resources used to give your main points credibility.

There are three basic categories, or types, of supporting materials. They are:

  • Examples (brief, extended, and hypothetical)
  • Statistics
  • Testimony (expert or peer)


Examples are a great way to simplify and reinforce ideas in your speech. You can tell your boss that you are a valuable asset to the company because you are an innovator and can manage multiple projects. This would be an example of a brief example. A brief example is an example that concisely clarifies the point that you are making. A brief example does not take up more than two or three sentences in your speech.

An extended example may be a narrative or an anecdote in your speech. This is when you may tell a story in your speech to reinforce or simplify certain concepts. You can give the example of the procedure you implemented for handling customer sales and the training program you've been asked to lead. This would be an extended example.

A hypothetical example is a fictional example that you or someone else has created to illustrate your point. In fact, the entire beginning of this lesson is a hypothetical example!

Examples are also a great way to relate to your audience. You can use a personal story or a narrative to reinforce and clarify ideas, while also making a personal connection to your audience.


Statistics are another great way to provide your main points with valuable information and support. You really have to be careful with statistics, however.

You can't throw too many numbers at your audience. If you can, use statistics sparingly and make sure you explain what the statistics mean. When you are explaining statistics, make sure you use the research where you found your statistics. Don't try to re-interpret the statistics. Make sure you aren't manipulating the numbers to fit your speech; it must be used in the same context as the original research.

When you ask your boss for a raise and you tell him that you've doubled your sales in the past year, this is a good example of statistics. In a public speaking situation, you don't need to give exact numbers or throw out a lot of information. If you say you've doubled your sales, and that is an accurate and ethical statement, then that is enough information for the audience.

It is okay to round your statistics to make the information more understandable. Rather than saying, '2,456 people have used my training course and improved their sales,' you could say, 'over 2,000 people have used my training course and improved their sales.' This is still an accurate statement, and it does not skew or manipulate the data in an inappropriate way.

Statistics are a great way to quantify ideas or concepts. In other words, if you want to illustrate how many more girls are doing well in science and mathematics, then you might want to find research that supports your claim. For example, you may find research that says 62% of girls in AP math and science classes are passing their AP exams versus 29% of boys. This would be a good statistic to use to quantify your idea.

If you have an option to use a visual aid, then use your visual aid to display statistical research. Make sure you are using a visual representation of the data, such as a chart or graph. Avoid using lists or tables if you can.


Testimony is another great way to add credibility to your speech. There are two types of testimony: peer and expert. Peer testimony is a statement that comes from someone who has experienced an event or situation. It could be someone who has been directly affected by the topic of your speech or someone that has an opinion on the topic. Expert testimony comes from a person that is a respected expert in the field of your topic, such as a doctor or someone that has conducted a great deal of research in that particular field.

For example, you're probably familiar with the products and brands that have celebrity or doctor endorsements. The companies of these products want the credibility of these celebrities or experts. Unless the celebrity is an expert, the testimony from the celebrity would be considered a peer testimony. The testimony from a doctor or an expert is, naturally, considered expert testimony.

A testimony will give your speech a similar form of credibility and give the audience a real world example of the concepts you are trying to illustrate. The glowing reference from the director at the sister company is an example of a testimony. In addition to giving this letter to your boss, you can quote or paraphrase the director's testimony when you are asking for a raise.

Practice Problems

Now that you understand the differences and uses of supporting material, let's practice identifying which types of supporting material are the best types to use in a speech:

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