Chapter 4: Developing and Supporting Your Ideas
The types of supporting materials that you will use for your presentation depend partly on the topic you’ve chosen and the audience that you will address. We have already discussed how important it is to try to reach as many listeners in your audience as you possibly can. Choosing several types of supports is one way to ensure that your speech is well rounded and will appeal to many different listeners. Let’s use the topic of buying a hybrid vehicle as an example. Some members of your audience will want to hear facts and statistics as they listen to your presentation. They may be mostly interested in hearing about rebates and gas mileage. Or perhaps they’ll want more information on how the vehicle actually functions or how the components within a hybrid, such as engine and motor, differ from a standard vehicle. But some audience members will also want to hear personal examples and anecdotes, as they find the human connection in the presentation more interesting and relatable. They want to know what personal reasons car buyers have for switching to hybrid vehicles. Do some individuals switch to hybrids due to environmental and ecological concerns? By providing both of these types of supporting material within one presentation, the speaker is able to reach more listeners within the group. Here are some of the basic types of supports that you may want to include in a speech.
An example is an item of information that is typical of a class or group and acts to represent the larger group. You use examples as a means to explain yourself every day. When you tell a friend that you are overwhelmed and then mention a particularly time-consuming assignment that must be completed in two days, you’ve given your friend an example -one specific item from a list of many items that are causing you stress at that moment. You will often find that providing an example is equally helpful in a presentation.
If you tell your audience that you researched and found thousands of individuals who reported near-death experiences, I can assure you that your audience has no desire to hear all of these reports. But if you choose one or two incidents from this research to use as examples, it will provide them with specifics that help them better understand the phenomenon from an individual point of view. Examples, then, are used by the speaker to clarify information and to provide a narrower focus from the research.
A speaker might also choose to use a hypothetical example during a presentation. A hypothetical example allows the speaker to use an example that describes an imaginary item, event, or incident, rather than an actual one. Hypothetical examples could be used to describe a situation in which most listeners would never find themselves. For example, if you asked your audience to imagine that they have survived a plane crash and find themselves the sole survivor on a deserted island, your audience can picture this situation even though they probably have never found themselves in this predicament. Hypothetical examples can also be used to expand your audience’s imagination. You could choose to open a presentation with a humorous example of the possible responses a human might have when first encountering a being from another planet. No one that I know of has actually found themselves in this particular situation; your example is simply a “what if ” scenario designed to make your point and to arouse interest. As you can see, examples, both actual and hypothetical, are effective in making your ideas and points clear to your audience. By giving your audience a detailed example, you help them to hone in on the smaller, more specific event or situation. This can be helpful in focusing your audience and keeping their interest.