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Research your Subject


Techniques Public speaking > Preparing the Presentation > Research your Subject

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



When you are going to do a presentation or speech of some sort, make sure you spend time researching your subject.

Look for stories that you can use to enliven your presentation. These can be news stories that everyone knows and to which you can add a new spin. You may also find research stories, for example a tale of how a social researcher discovered a new theory using cunning experimental methods.

Look also for data, facts and figures from articles, research and other places. Find data that supports your points and information that can add to the credibility of you and your presentation. Ensure you use good references, especially if these may be challenged.

Examples can be brief or involve a fuller narrative. They are best if factual, although hypothetical situations may be better than none. Try to avoid tired examples that everyone else has used (eg. MLK and JFK stories).

References and testimonials from others who have found your work can be powerful, although do not over-do 'blowing your own trumpet'. be careful to cite references in an appropriate format (eg. APA).

You can make your presentation interesting and unexpected by showing analogies and linkages with other areas, such as news stories and items where your audience has an interest.

Even if you are an expert in the field, ensure you are right up to date with the latest research and use recent facts and figures in your argument (rather than the same tired figures from the book you published ten years ago).


I am about to do a presentation on leadership. I look for examples in the news of good and bad leadership. I also review the past years' editions of the Harvard Business Review. I also find a study that shows the financial gain of well-managed companies as compared to badly-managed ones.


Evidence is a powerful persuader as it appears independent, which obviates the need for listeners to trust the speaker. Recent evidence builds the credibility of the speaker as it shows they care enough about the audience to 'go the extra mile' in preparation.

A potential problem with using data is that it may be challenged (particularly if you are presenting to a research-oriented audience!). The precision of references and credibility of sources can be very important in such cases. 

Numerical data have a particular allure, to the point that most people will accept numerical data as being unquestionable fact. These can be enhanced with color graphs and charts that help you point to contrastive differences and other significant points.

See also

Evidence principle, Social Research


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