Posted by: George E Burney | March 6, 2012

Public Speaking: Illustrations – Pictures Worth More Than 1000 Words

Good illustrations, which are well thought-out and appropriate to the point you’re making, can be worth more than 1000 words.

It has been said that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and it’s true. Suppose you and a friend were making a long-anticipated visit to a world-class art museum. Unfortunately, your friend had an accident 2 days earlier, and was temporarily blinded.

While at the museum, you are simply overwhelmed by the beauty of a particular painting. If you were allowed to use only 1000 words to describe the painting to your friend, would they be enough?

If your friend returned to the museum after regaining his sight, would he say that you provided a perfect description of the painting? Would he recognize it at first glance?

Even if your description was superb, and he immediately recognized the painting, remember that it took only one glance at the painting for him to take in everything you spoke at length about, and more! A picture really is worth a thousand words.

A good illustration is even better. It engages the minds of your listeners. Because it utilizes concepts, occurrences, or things which are commonly understood, people have little difficulty following the illustration as you give it, and in inwardly agreeing that what is being illustrated is plausible and makes sense.

It remains only to make the application clear. When that is done, the audience can see very clearly the point being made. If the illustration is truly appropriate to the discussion, and supports the point you’re making, it then becomes very difficult for members of the audience to disagree, even in their own minds.

Incidentally, the point of the illustration may even be an idea or premise which, but for the illustration, would otherwise have been rejected as soon as you proposed it. Using the illustration first prepared the minds of your hearers to accept the point you are making.

In such a situation, even 2000 or 3000 words would not have sufficed to gain the agreement of your audience. Such is the power of a good illustration. In some cases, a good illustration is worth more than a thousand words.

For a more detailed discussion of illustrations, please see my recently published eBook, entitled Creating and Using  Stories, Examples, and Illustrations in Public Speaking. For more information, click here:


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