Support Your Arguments by Using Examples – Wilson Zhu

Published on 2014-10-23

Support Your Arguments by Using Examples - Wilson Zhu
AN EFFECTIVE PRESENTATION needs a strong argument to demonstrate an opinion, and strong arguments need evidence. Examples, statistics and testimony are three such ways of making a convincing presentation. However, this doesn’t mean cramming supporting materials into a speech. The supporting materials adopted in a presentation need to be accurate, relevant to the topic and reliable. For example:

“In one account over the weekend, we read about a family in Liberia. The disease had already killed the father. The mother was cradling a sick and listless five-year-old son. Her other son, 10-years-old, was dying, too. They finally reached a treatment centre but they couldn’t get in. And, said a relative, ‘We are just sitting.'”

The above paragraph was delivered by President Obama, in relation to the Ebola crisis in West Africa. While short, this paragraph clearly demonstrates the gravity of the situation in West Africa. Such vivid examples have a strong impact on an audience’s impression.
A brief example can be used to demonstrate a point of view. In a speech by Dr. Jill Biden at the International Congress on Vocational and Professional Education and Training, the speaker introduced a point of view to make job-training programs more effective in America. Her fundament strategy was to increase the opportunity for apprenticeships. Biden used an example to demonstrate that state governments and education professionals in the United States are already taking actions to increase the apprenticeships. The California State Senate, for example, has developed a new program called the Career Pathways Trust—a $250 million competitive grant program to encourage more partnerships between schools and the private sector.
Back to Obama. In a speech during the presentation of the Medal of Honour the President used two brief examples to demonstrate gallantry above and beyond the call of duty.

“More than four decades ago, in early 1970, an American squad in Vietnam set out on patrol. They marched down a trail, past a rice paddy. Shots rang out and splintered the bamboo above their heads. The lead soldier tripped a wire – a booby trap. A grenade rolled toward the feet of a 20-year-old machine gunner. The pin was pulled, and that grenade would explode at any moment.

A few years earlier, on the other side of the country, deep in the jungle, a small group of Americans were crouched on top of a small hill. And it was dark, and they were exhausted; the enemy had been pursuing them for days. And now they were surrounded, and the enemy was closing in on all sides.”

An effective way of using brief examples is using a series to demonstrate a point of view. In Dr. Jill Biden’s speech, she used a series of examples to explain why she chose to teach at a community college. She used three brief examples to illustrate her point, which is far more impressive than using one example:

“In my classes, I find single parents who come to school in the evening, weary from a long day, yet eager to create a brighter future for their children.

I have taught veterans who return to the classroom to complete their higher education as they look to transition to civilian careers.

And I have seen workers who have gone as far as they can in their jobs—get the skills they need to reach the next level in their fields.”

Compared with a brief example, an extended example has more detailed information. It can engage an audience quickly.
In the remarks by President Obama at the presentation of the 2013 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal, Obama expressed the idea of the arts and the humanities not just being consumed and enjoyed whenever we have a free moment in our lives, but rather, they are consumed constantly. He uses an extended example”

“I’ll just close by telling a tale of something that took place in this house, back in 1862. President Lincoln called together a meeting of his Cabinet to present them with the Emancipation Proclamation. But that was not the first item on his agenda. This is a little-known story. Instead, he began reading out loud from a story from the humorist, Artemus Ward. It was a story called ‘High-Handed Outrage at Utica.’ According to one often-repeated account, after he finished a chapter, Lincoln laughed and laughed. His Cabinet did not. So Lincoln read them another chapter. And they still sat there in stony silence. Finally, he put the book down, and said, “Gentlemen, why don’t you laugh? You need this medicine as much as I do.”

And finally, examples don’t have to be real. They can be hypothetical. In the case of an imaginary scenario, a hypothetical example is suitable to illustrate a point. When using hypothetical examples, it would be more convincing by including statistical figures or evidence. In this way the imaginary situation can become real in the mind of the audience.