Be Careful With Your Sources in a Speech

When you present, you provide examples, statistics and stories to support your message.  However, you have to be careful about what sources you use for your information. 

Just because you read it on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true.  And just because something is from a “study” doesn’t mean that it’s accurate or based on solid principles.  A survey of 30 people may not be a large enough sample size to get statistically relevant results.

My undergraduate and graduate degrees are in history and in those programs, I learned the importance of citing sources, both primary and secondary, so you’re not just making things up and relying on proof by assertion.

Earlier this year, in a keynote speech I gave at a Project Management Institute (SNEC-PMI) Conference, I focused on stepping out of your comfort zone to try something different so you can be more successful and live your life with more purpose. 

I quoted a study that asked CEOs to rank the top five leadership qualities needed over the next five years – and the number one leadership quality was Creativity.  I mentioned to the audience that the study was conducted by IBM, a reputable firm, and cited in PM Network Magazine, a leading industry publication.

I also made sure I knew more about it - it was a study of 1541 CEOS, conducted between September 2009 and January 2010 – and I concluded that the source was reliable enough for me to cite the study in my speech.

So the next time you’re presenting information, make sure you’re clear where it came from and what it really means.  You don’t have to become a statistician but you have the responsibility to ensure that you are not misleading the audience.  If you’re going to use data, be ready to cite the source and do your due diligence to make sure the source is valid.

To view the excerpt from the speech where I mention the study, view my video: Success Inspiration Speaker: Avoid Career Burnout - Recommit to Your Job or Quit Your Job (The video is 8 minutes, 21 seconds - I cite the study around minute 6)

Gilda Bonanno's blog