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How to Use a Quote in a Speech


Whether used in the introduction or in the body of a speech, quotations can add color and human dimension to a topic and support the information or argument found in the larger narrative. Just as in a written paper, proper acknowledgement of quoted material in a speech helps speakers maintain credibility and avoid plagiarism.

Quoting in the Introduction

A good speech opens with an attention getter or hook that engages listeners in the presentation. A quote gets listeners' attention because of its familiarity or because the audience understands that person is an expert on the subject. For instance, a quotation from Microsoft founder Bill Gates can interest people to listen to a speech about the power of computers. Check the language of the quote and carefully copy the language, because incorrect excerpts may distract or frustrate listeners.

Quoting for Support

Some topics lend themselves to the inclusion of research. For instance, a speech about the effects of obesity generates more buy-in from an audience if statistics from a credible source like the American Heart Association are included. When you back up your ideas with such sources, listeners become more open to your suggestions, giving your speech more credibility and authority. To Increase your believability with quotes, use sources listeners know. If you choose to quote someone less familiar, give enough background information that your audience understands why the source is trustworthy.

Fit the Quote to Your Purpose

Quotes enliven a speech, making it more interesting overall. Introduce quotes with your own language, and briefly explain their connection to your topic. If the quote does not relate clearly to your purpose, your audience might be confused and start thinking about the quote rather than listening to the rest of your presentation. In a speech about the causes of homelessness, quoting a homeless person can be effective if the chosen quote expresses what caused the person's homelessness. Use the quote to support your ideas about the causes of homelessness rather than picking a quote that has no connection to your topic.

Creating Oral Acknowledgement

Because listeners do not typically have paper copies of your speech, create oral citations for borrowed quotations by announcing your source when you use the quote. Mention at least the author or organization responsible for the quote. Include the date to stress the idea's currency and other information needed to establish the relevance or dependability. For instance, a speaker could say, "According to a 2013 publication from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 32 percent of people infected will die from the disease."

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