Why let someone else put words in your mouth? While some may feel that borrowing the wit and wisdom of others is a sign of weakness, there are many reasons for using spicy, substantive, salient sayings in your business writing and presentations: To add authority. To gather input from an unbiased source. To add humor. Even to create controversy.
Here are several pointers on how to use quotations for maximum effectiveness:
1. Understand when you need a quote to add authority. Is it important who said it? If so, consider experts, industry leaders, CEOs, political figures, academics, and celebrities. They all have the potential to add substance and authority to your message.
2. Consider person-on-the-street quotes for illustration. Is it important what was said? If you’re trying to illustrate a problem, pain, or the emotional depth an issue, a relevant quote from almost anyone will help you give personality and passion to your point.
3. Let the quotation stand on its own merit. Don’t feel the need to paraphrase or explain it. An explanation dilutes the impact in much the same way as the comedian’s explanation of the punch line of a joke. If the quote is clear, concise, and of high quality, it rarely needs any commentary.
4. Extract the pithy comment. The shorter the quote, the stronger the impact. And many times, more is just more. Need an example? How about this from author Edmond Weiss: “Updating a manual is like changing tires on a moving car.” Enough said.
5. Use a quotation directly from its source to add impact. In this age of instant access and up-close-and-personal availability, it’s a good idea to try your best to capture not only the words, but also as much of the context and essence of the quotation as you can. How about interviewing clients as they stop by your tradeshow booth, then embedding their comments into your slide presentation (with their permission, of course)? Making the source as real time and visible as possible adds authenticity.
6. Pause long enough after the quotation for your audience to digest it. Comedians learn early on that if they step on their laugh lines, groups will stop responding to their jokes. Ditto with quotations. If you toss out a great quotation, but rush ahead without giving your audience time to reflect on it, they will not benefit from its full value. As stated above, a quotation is at its best when it is delivered and then left alone and given time to work its magic.
7. Avoid ending with a quote. Your closing words mark the point of highest impact for your writing or presentation – and that needs to be on you and your thoughts. Why let someone else’s ideas and insights be given the last words? Make them your own.
Using quotations effectively can add style, substance, and authority to your business writing and presentations. Use them well and you’ve got an additional arsenal of tools that will help you reach a higher level of effectiveness.