Posted by: George E Burney | March 21, 2012

Public Speaking: Setting Up Your Illustrations For Maximum Effect

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In my most recent post, I mentioned some of the unique advantages of using appropriate illustrations. The next question is: How do we set our illustrations up? In other words, how do we prepare the audience so that an illustration has maximum effect?

Much depends on the way the audience will likely feel about the premise you’re illustrating. If they are not likely to be opposed to the point you’re making, you could simply state it clearly. Then you could say, “Let me illustrate that point…” and proceed with your illustration. In that situation, the illustration merely solidifies or drives the point home.

If the point you’re seeking to convince them of is controversial, you may do better to avoid stating it before introducing the illustration. Why? Because many will make a contrary decision as soon as you state your point, and not really listen to the illustration.

While you’re giving your illustration, they’ll be reviewing in their minds their reasons for disagreeing with you. Since they made their minds up before hearing the illustration, the illustration will have little effect, unless the illustration itself is unusually powerful and compelling.

On the other hand, if you give the illustration with no advance indication of where you’re going with it, there is no reason for anyone in the audience to mentally challenge it prematurely. They will follow you and agree with you as proceed with it.

Now, to apply it to the discussion at hand. If the illustration has been well-chosen, and is truly appropriate, the parallels will be apparent to all once your point comes into view. You merely have to ask the right question to get them to apply the point of the illustration to the premise you’re driving at.

Let the audience think momentarily to draw the desired conclusion. Afterwards, you can state the obvious conclusion, mentioning the parallels if necessary, and continue with your discussion.

So, whether your illustrations have the desired effect or not may depend on how well you set them up.

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


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