Are you somebody who relishes finding the perfect quotes to add to your presentations? Using quotations in speaking is certainly a popular strategy, and they can be welcome additions when used correctly.
But that’s the key caveat — “when used correctly.” Too often, I see speakers who think they’re being profound, clever, or funny by using quotes that actually detract from their message.
Here’s how to make sure you choose the right quotations for your presentations.
They need to be relevant
Relevance is the most important factor when it comes to choosing quotations. Your quote might be incredibly profound.
Your quote might get a big laugh. Your quote might be emotionally stirring. But if it’s not relevant to your message, what’s the point? At best, you’re providing an amusing distraction. So, despite how tempted you may be to use your favorite quote, leave it out unless it’s clearly connected to your key message.
The shorter, the better
Another key factor in choosing quotations is pithiness. As Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” (Case in point: That quotation fulfills each of my first two requirements: It’s both relevant and pithy.)
In speaking, complexity is your enemy — you want to speak in short, simple phrases, whenever possible. So while you may be tempted to quote a selection from your favorite book, you need to remember that your audience is going to be listening to the quote, not reading it.
Make sure you read the quotes you’re considering out loud — you’ll find that the shorter the quote is, the better.
Finally, consider choosing quotes that use imagery. One of the masters of this was Martin Luther King, Jr. — one great example: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
If your quote uses imagery that your audience can “see” in their minds’ eyes, they’ll be far more likely to remember it later. And if you’re looking for publicity, using imagery will make you much more likely to get quoted — the media loves a punchy, vivid quote.
Some people use quotations to make themselves seem more intelligent or well-read. But really, quotations should be used to help make your message even more clear, so that your audience feels smart — not you. Now that you know what to look for, you can feel confident in using quotations to add even more impact to your presentations.