Supporting the Informative Speech

Learning Objectives

Describe the importance of vetting facts and data in an informative speech.

We live in a world where we are bombarded by information every day. Some of the information is based upon careful research where facts and data are collected from reliable sources. Some of this information is all opinion based without credible sources to support the claims made. It is important to be able to distinguish between the two.

Screenshot of a webinar with the speaker on the right and an information slide on the left

The speaker in this webinar is using an information slide to describe the work her organization is doing.

Facts and data are what is called supporting material. You  can obtain supporting materials by doing research. This research is essential for creating a credible, informative speech that your audience will want to give their attention to. Why provide supporting material in a speech?

  • It helps clarify the ideas and content you are sharing.
  • It  builds your credibility as a speaker.
  • It helps you to emphasize key ideas and make your speech more impactful and memorable.
  • It shows the audience that you are knowledgeable in the area researched.

The type of supporting material you use and how you present it will impact the effectiveness of your speech and it will reflect upon your credibility as a speaker (or your ethos) as stated in the list above. Credibility is very important to build. The audience will not want to listen to a speaker who uses either poor or no sources. They want to trust that the person speaking knows what they are talking about. How you show this trustworthiness is by using supporting materials. Therefore, your speech is going to be effective only if the audience trusts what you say.

When creating your speech, you should carefully vet—or examine—the facts and data in your supporting materials. The supporting material you cite should be:

  • Accurate. The materials should be free from factual errors or inaccurate statements. Especially if the claims seem outside of the norm, too good to be true, or controversial in some way, it’s important to cross-check the data with other sources.
  • Authoritative. The materials should come from sources that are reliable, knowledgeable, and credible about the subject.
  • Current. In most cases, more recent research is better than older research. Exceptions exist for some types of historical research, but in general for most speech topics try to draw from current research.
  • Unbiased. In most cases, you want to draw supporting materials from sources that don’t have a particular agenda or bias behind them. These types of sources can be okay to use for certain speech topics, but generally for informative speeches they should be avoided.

You will want to tell your audience the source of the research you are citing in your speech by verbally citing your sources. Verbal citations are similar to what you would do in writing a paper when you cite your source. It works a bit differently in a speech, however, because in speeches, unlike written source citations, don’t follow a standard pattern. How you cite the source will depend on your speaking style, your audience, the kind of information you are citing, and where in the speech you are placing the cited information.

For example

Here is a short video offering an example of a speaker verbally citing a source (and using an overhead projector [!]):

You can view the transcript for “Informative Speech–Using Citations and Examples” here (opens in new window).

Man holding a sign saying citation neededGenerally, when citing a source you will want to let your audience know the name of the document itself (book, website, publication, etc.), the author who wrote the document you are citing or the organization that published it, the qualifications of the source, and the date (or year) the document was posted or published. This information is what you include when making any citation. However, when giving a speech, you will want to verbalize the citation.

Tim needs to give citations for his speech on changing a tire. He decided to use information from the Bridgestone Tire website. When speaking, Tim will tell the audience what he learned from the Bridgestone Tire website. Here is what he might say: “I learned from the Bridgestone Tire website that the best tools to use when changing a tire are . . . . The first step in changing a tire is to pull over and make sure you are in a safe place. Safety should always be the first consideration according to AAA.” These citations will really bolster the trust the audience has in Tim’s information.

There are different ways to make citations. You can paraphrase what was said by the source or you can directly quote the source. Above, Tim paraphrased what he learned in his citation. To deliver a direction quotation in the speech, Tim might say this: “Bridgestone Tires agrees with AAA when they write the first step is ‘find a safe location’ on their updated 2020 website.”

Always keep in mind that, when citing supporting materials, it’s not enough just to provide the citation. You must also explain why the information you are citing is relevant to the topic of your speech. If connections are not made between your speech content and supporting materials, it only serves to make the audience confused and lose confidence in you as a speaker.

A deeper dive

This video offers suggestions on how to verbally cite a source in a speech.

You can view the transcript for “Orally Citing a Source in a Speech” here (opens in new window).

Try It