by Claudia Brogan
Why do we take the time to include quotes in our presentations and speeches?
Though there are many ways to answer that question, I believe that we do so to get the clear attention of our audience, to provide encouragement and perspective, and to frame a useful lesson in a pithy way.
When making final preparations for a recent panel presentation, my co-presenter asked me to swiftly choose three great quotes that would epitomize my key points. The spontaneous idea was to create a handout of pithy quotes that we could hand out to our audience members.
In our quick-paced efforts to do that, it was tempting to choose the “tried and true” (easier to find) quotes. But in just that moment, I paused to reflect. I resisted temptation to just choose a few “easy” quotes off the top of my head. Instead, I gave this question some serious thought and studied some of my favorite quote resources. I was a “picky shopper” and moved with care. And I was greatly rewarded when the three quotes that I chose ended up fitting the presentation like a hand in a glove.
I was rewarded by going beyond just the usual quotes that get used by teachers and speakers so frequently.
Instead, I persisted until I found three powerful quotes which served my purpose so well. Concise in their word-count, they vividly expressed what I intended. I share them with you here, so that they can illustrate the point. But I also urge you, in your next presentation, to challenge yourself to be your own kind of “picky shopper” and take the time to find quotes that match your message and your audience well.
“It is time to start living the life you’ve imagined.” –Henry James
“The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” –John Muir
And my favorite quote which yielded excellent discussion and reflection at this session:
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” –Annie Dillard
The bonus for me has been that I have received some nice follow-up notes from session participants who remarked especially on the potency of the quotes that I provided: that gave me a happy grin, and cinched the deal that next time I will spend the time “shopping” for some thought-provoking quotes that suit the topic well. I’ll slow down a minute and go beyond the easy, popular quotes to choose more unique phrases that give food for thought and encouragement.
Frankly, many good speeches can be made into great speeches by adding the wise, humorous, or encouraging feeling that a well-chosen quote supplies by distilling thoughts into brief, brilliant words.
If you have not done so yet, you might also enjoy starting your own collection of quotes and their sources in a document that you keep at hand. Consider these some valuable tools in your toolkit.
Here are a few of some of my favorite Quote-Collectors’ websites. These are well collated and yield some special, excellent resources. You might try visiting these when next you need a pithy, fresh quote for your writing or speaking purposes. Each makes order out of chaos, providing some structure and themes to help you in your search. <Leave us a note in the comments section if you’d like to suggest an additional website or thoughts about your experience in collecting good quotes>
Claudia Brogan is a speaker, trainer and facilitator who helps organizations by coaching presenters, leading collaborative meetings and problem-solving with groups and teams. Reach out to see how she can help you.