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Speech Basics

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Speech Basics

Evidence and research - ESU's guidance for speakers(3)

Supporting your statement of intent

Each clause in your statement of intent is a claim that needs to be identified and then supported. Looking at the example on the previous page, we can see there are two claims:

“climate change will have a serious effect on the global economy in the next twenty years” and “they [the audience] are able to take action to alleviate it”

You’re going to need evidence to support each of these claims – probably quite a few pieces of evidence – and you’re going to need to explain how your evidence supports what you are saying.

Opposing opinions and contrary evidence

The most interesting speeches often make claims that are controversial. This means that although you will be hoping, in the course of your speech, to reason your way to a firm conclusion there will be much evidence surrounding your topic that does not support your conclusion, and many opinions different from your own. Don’t ignore these. It is apparent to an audience when an issue can be seen from more than one viewpoint, and it will harm your credibility if you seem not to recognise that.

Take time in your speech to acknowledge, explore and recognise other points of view, before comparing them carefully with your own evidence and reasons to come to a balanced conclusion. That is much more effective as a method of persuasion because it creates much
more credibility for you.

Evidence as illustration

There are all sorts of pieces of evidence that could support your claim, not just what you might think of as ‘facts’. You may want to use some statistics, examples from history or current affairs, or widely accepted facts from science or geography, but ideas can also be supported with other ideas, such as common sense beliefs, religious tenets, the views of others, analogies and narrative stories.

Think of evidence not just in the sense in which it is meant in a courtroom, but as illustration in the most literal sense – shedding light on the issue, illuminating your ideas and making them more easily understood by the audience. Always remember, though, to show how your evidence is relevant, and how it supports what you’re saying – facts are no substitute for reasons!

Researching your topic

Even if you’ve chosen a topic that you’re very knowledgeable about (as we’ve recommended) you will probably want to look more widely at the issue, especially at viewpoints different from your own.

You may want to see what other people have said about the issue before you (and perhaps you’ll want to quote them) or you may want to see if there have been any recent developments that you would want to share with your audience. Direct your research towards recent and frequently updated publications with editorials and analysis (like newspapers), rather than at definitive but less opinionated or up-to-date sources (like encyclopaedias).
Reproduced by permission from the Centre for Speech and Debate of ESU (The English-Speaking Union)
Competition Handbook 2007
©The English-Speaking Union
http://www.esu.org/page.asp? p=1633

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