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LIT - SPCH 1315 - Public Speaking: Using Supporting Material in Your Speech

Supporting Materials


by Lee McGaan. last updated 3/3/2000

Use a Variety of Support Material

There are a variety of types of support material which can be used to illustrate or prove points you make. The following kinds of materials are commonly used to support assertions in speeches:

    • example -- a concrete instance of the point you are making
    • testimony -- direct quotation or paraphrase of a credible source used to prove or illustrate a point
    • statistics/surveys -- quantitative information which proves or illustrates a point.
    • definition -- providing a dictionary or personal meaning for an unfamiliar or technical word.  e.g., "A tariff is a tax placed on imported goods."
    • narration -- A narration is a small story used in a speech or essay (usually appealing to the "mind's eye," told in chronological order).
    • analogy - a comparison of the unfamiliar to the familiar.  
    • description/explanation -- describing why your point is valid in your own words, usually in vivid concrete language
    • Audio/Visual aids -- anything the audience can see or hear (other than your words) which helps you make a point. 

Good micro-structure REQUIRES that you have support for every point (assertion) you make. However, it is also valuable to use as many different types of support material as you can. A speech that is mostly statistics or only explanation is almost certainly going to be less interesting to the audience than a speech which includes stories, quotations, analogies, and examples as well as statistics or explanation. In fact, overuse of explanation is a very common weakness in speeches.

A variety of support types not only helps keep listener interest, it also builds your credibility. Research shows that speakers who use many kinds of support are judged to be more knowledgeable than those who don't and are regarded as better speakers. Beginning with your second speech we ask you to label the type of each item of support you use in your outline as a way of encouraging you to avoid having only a limited variety of support in your speech. Your instructor will discuss ways you can increase the variety of support in your messages; however, the most important factor in getting a wide variety of support is obtaining several different kinds of information sources on your topic. By all means avoid speeches based solely on "personal knowledge."

Use Support Material Effectively

Merely having a variety of good support material doesn't guarantee that the audience will understand or be convinced of your point. You must use support well.

STEP 1. State the point (assertion) you wish to make/prove/illustrate. While this seems obvious sometimes speakers state a statistic or begin a story without indicating what THEIR point is, assuming the audience will draw the right conclusion. The problem is your audience may not see the point you think is obvious. Be clear. Make your point stand out as you deliver it so the audience will recognize it as important.

STEP 2. Present support material (one or more items) which clarifies, illustrates, or proves (convinces) your assertion. Use the support to develop your idea taking enough time to let the point "soak in."

STEP 3. Show how the support material clarifies or proves your assertion by a) summarizing the point, or b) explaining the link between support and assertion. At the very least you should remind listeners of your point after you present the support material to reinforce what you want them to remember. This may seem repetitious to you but it won't to your audience. They may not have gotten the assertion in step 1 and need a summary. Sometimes you may need to do more than summarize. The audience may not be able to see how your support proves your point (This is especially true when the support is statistical.). When that is possible you should be sure to explain the link as well as summarize.

An Example from a Student Speech

Step 1. Cardiovascular disease, the nation's leading cause of death, is caused by inactivity.

Step 2. Clogged arteries and veins are a result of inactivity. (example) Excess fat also caused by inactivity leads to a higher incidence of heart disease. (explanation and example)

Step 3. Statistically, then, you will die at an earlier age if you do not exercise. (internal summary)

An example of using supporting material in your speech

Example of Using Supporting Materials

Imagine a person was giving a speech on corporal punishment and wanted to use this information:

Psychologist H. Stephen Glenn said "Corporal punishment is the least effective method [of discipline]. Punishment reinforces a failure identity. It reinforces rebellion, resistance, revenge and resentment. And, what people who spank children will learn is that it teaches more about you than it does about them that the whole goal is to crush the child. It's not dignified, and it's not respectful."
Source: Ni, J. K. "Spanking denounced as ineffective, harmful -- Expert at 'Families Alive' [conference] urges positive discipline,Deseret News. 9 May 1998.

"The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly opposes striking a child. If the spanking is spontaneous, parents should later explain calmly why they did it, the specific behavior that provoked it, and how angry they felt. They might apologize to their child for their loss of control, because that usually helps the youngster understand and accept the spanking."
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics. "Physical punishment." 6 October 2002. <>

In the speech you might say this:

Experts and professional organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics tend to frown on corporal punishment. Psychologist H. Stephen Glenn, for example, believes that spanking can strengthen rather than reduce behavior problems.1 Others contend that if a parent spontaneously strikes a child, mom or dad should later discuss their feelings of anger with the child.2 

You should note the sources at the bottom of the page or at the end of the outline:

1Ni, 1998
2American Academy of Pediatrics, 2002

In the bibliography, you should list:

Ni, J. K. "Spanking denounced as ineffective, harmful -- Expert at 'Families Alive' [conference] urges positive discipline,Deseret News. 9 May 1998.

American Academy of Pediatrics. "Physical punishment." 6 October 2002. <>

Copyright © 1999-2002 Richard D. Rowley. All rights reserved.
Revised: August 17, 2003 .