Supporting the Talk: Examples—Types to use
The last two columns discussed the importance of definitions and how to use them
effectively in presentations. This column tells the types of examples you can
use to clarify what you are saying.
Short examples or instances.
Their use can briefly and clearly support points you wish to make.
To make the point older adults should not give up, I might say, “At age 65
Harlan had lost all his money and seemed destined to live on his paltry social
security check, but instead he decided to capitalize on what he knew; he knew
how to fry chicken. So he started his Kentucky Fried Chicken enterprise and
within a few years, Colonel Harlan Sanders was a millionaire.
Long examples or
illustrations. These simply provide more detail. I might begin,
“Several years ago a man in his early sixties lost his lifelong savings when a
new road bypassed his restaurant/motel/service station. Faced with the prospect
of living on only the income from his paltry social security check, he pondered
what to do. He didn’t want to fall into the same trap as many of his friends of
just resigning himself to the situation; so he kissed his wife goodbye, set out
for several weeks in his battered old car with a pressure cooker and a can of
specially prepared flour to pursue his dream . . . a few years later, Colonel
Harlan Sanders had built a nationwide franchise restaurant chain called Kentucky
Fried Chicken.” Notice I left out some details in this printed
paragraph—details I might well have included if actually using this
illustration. The object is to paint a picture for your listener with enough
details to impact them.
Real Examples. The
Colonel Sanders example is a real one. The example I used about the circle
drive in the very first column at this website in
July 2000 is also real
Invented Examples. Invented
examples are just what the name implies. Here speakers use examples they have
heard or draw on their own imagination to make up examples to illustrate
points. The example about the candy store I used in
October 2000 is an invented example. A word
of caution: never start such a story with the words, “this actually happened.”
This will hurt your credibility.