The Value of the Anecdote in Public Speaking

Posted on Posted in Public Speaking

In public speaking, the anecdotes you include in your presentation can say a lot about you as the speaker. Simply put, the anecdote is a very brief retelling of a true account which can be humorous or interesting, but more importantly, is relevant to your topic. The value of the anecdote is that it lends credibility to you as the speaker.

Whether you are giving an informative or a persuasive speech or presentation, your goal is to have your audience recognize you as an expert in your field. Besides the fact that audiences enjoy good anecdotes, the retelling of an experience that happened to you or to someone else brings believability in your knowledge of your subject as well as your ability in your field.

When I give a presentation about voice, public speaking, or telephone techniques, I always include anecdotes about diaphragmatic breathing because this type of deep, supported breathing is the foundation for everything I teach.

A good example is the retelling of my experience during a double breast biopsy I had a few years ago. Because of the breathing, I fell asleep during this procedure. As this anecdote shows the power of diaphragmatic breathing in eliminating the stress a woman might normally incur in this particular situation, it is very relevant to my topic. Because the benefits of deep supported breathing go far beyond the voice or presentation skills, I want my audience to see how the breathing can affect everything in their lives, be it professional or personal.

For them to hear about a professional golfer who drives the ball further, or an NHL player who no longer loses his voice on the ice, or a director of transportation whose blood pressure drops on his exercise bike, is not only interesting but it also show my audience that I am experienced as well as an expert in my field.

If you are young or just starting out in your profession, you may not have any anecdotes of your own, but if you research your topic, you will find relevant stories or examples that you can cite. Just remember to give credit to the writer or writers of these anecdotes.

In utilizing anecdotes, keep them brief. A 5-minute description of an incident or experience in a 10-minute presentation is too long. Anecdotes are not your presentation; they are filler and their purpose is to enlighten or further explain your subject matter.

Using anecdotes wisely lends credibility, and, if done well, can leave your audience wanting more.