Using Examples

Types of Examples: Brief, Extended, and Hypothetical

Brief, extended, and hypothetical examples can be used to help an audience better understand and relate to key points of a presentation.

Learning Objectives

List the three types of examples

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Examples include specific situations, problems or stories intended to help communicate a more general idea.
  • Brief examples are used to further illustrate a point that may not be immediately obvious to all audience members but is not so complex that is requires a more lengthy example.
  • Extended examples are used when a presenter is discussing a more complicated topic that they think their audience may be unfamiliar with.
  • A hypothetical example is a fictional example that can be used when a speaker is explaining a complicated topic that makes the most sense when it is put into more realistic or relatable terms.

Key Terms

  • Hypothetical: A fictional situation or proposition used to explain a complicated subject.

There are many types of examples that a presenter can use to help an audience better understand a topic and the key points of a presentation. These include specific situations, problems, or stories intended to help communicate a more general idea. There are three main types of examples: brief, extended, and hypothetical.

Brief Examples

Brief examples are used to further illustrate a point that may not be immediately obvious to all audience members but is not so complex that is requires a more lengthy example. Brief examples can be used by the presenter as an aside or on its own. A presenter may use a brief example in a presentation on politics in explaining the Electoral College. Since many people are familiar with how the Electoral College works, the presenter may just mention that the Electoral College is based on population and a brief example of how it is used to determine an election. In this situation it would not be necessary for a presented to go into a lengthy explanation of the process of the Electoral College since many people are familiar with the process.

Extended Examples

Extended examples are used when a presenter is discussing a more complicated topic that they think their audience may be unfamiliar with. In an extended example a speaker may want to use a chart, graph, or other visual aid to help the audience understand the example. An instance in which an extended example could be used includes a presentation in which a speaker is explaining how the “time value of money” principle works in finance. Since this is a concept that people unfamiliar with finance may not immediately understand, a speaker will want to use an equation and other visual aids to further help the audience understand this principle. An extended example will likely take more time to explain than a brief example and will be about a more complex topic.

The equation (extended example) that's used to determine the average fixed cost (AFC = FC/Q).

Extended Example: An equation is an extended example that’s used as a visual aid to help the audience understand a complicated topic.

Hypothetical Examples

A hypothetical example is a fictional example that can be used when a speaker is explaining a complicated topic that makes the most sense when it is put into more realistic or relatable terms. For instance, if a presenter is discussing statistical probability, instead of explaining probability in terms of equations, it may make more sense for the presenter to make up a hypothetical example. This could be a story about a girl, Annie, picking 10 pieces of candy from a bag of 50 pieces of candy in which half are blue and half are red and then determining Annie’s probability of pulling out 10 total pieces of red candy. A hypothetical example helps the audience to better visualize a topic and relate to the point of the presentation more effectively.

Communicating Examples

Examples help the audience understand the key points; they should be to the point and complement the topic.

Learning Objectives

Use examples to help your audience understand the message being presented

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Examples are essential to a presentation that is backed up with evidence, and they help the audience effectively understand the message being presented. An example is a specific situation, problem, or story intended to help communicate a more general idea.
  • One method of effectively communicating examples is by using an example to clarify and complement a main point of a presentation.
  • A speaker should be careful to not overuse examples, as too many examples may confuse the audience and distract them from focusing on the key points that the speaker is making.

Key Terms

  • abstract: Difficult to understand; abstruse.
  • phenomenon: A fact or event considered very unusual, curious, or astonishing by those who witness it.

Communicating Examples

Examples are essential to a presentation that is backed up with evidence, and they help the audience effectively understand the message being presented. An example is a specific situation, problem, or story intended to help communicate a more general idea. Examples are most effective when they are used as a complement to a key point in the presentation and focus on the important topics of the presentation.

A man giving an interview on TV. The screen shots show him saying "but just supposing it is of value, corks for example, we discover a completely new energy source."

Giving an Example: An example can make an abstract idea clearer.

Using Examples to Complement Key Points

One method of effectively communicating examples is by using an example to clarify and complement a main point of a presentation. If an orator is holding a seminar about how to encourage productivity in the workplace, he or she might use an example that focuses on an employee receiving an incentive (such as a bonus) to work harder, and this improved the employee’s productivity. An example like this would act as a complement and help the audience better understand how to use incentives to improve performance in the workplace.

Using Examples That Are Concise and to the Point

Examples are essential to help an audience better understand a topic. However, a speaker should be careful to not overuse examples, as too many examples may confuse the audience and distract them from focusing on the key points that the speaker is making.

Examples should also be concise and not drawn out so the speaker does not lose the audience’s attention. Concise examples should have a big impact on audience engagement and understanding in a small amount of time.