“There is nothing to fear but fear itself.”
“Everything happens for a reason.”
“If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
“Live everyday like it s your last.”
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery and today is a gift. That's why we call it the present.”
“Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die today.”
Keep calm and....well, anything...
Take most quotes and shove them. Here's the test. If your audience can finish your quote before you do, then it's probably not worth using.
The great thing about quotes is that they give you credibility. When you state an idea or opinion, it sinks into your audience's mind. When you back that idea up with a quote from someone credible, your audience is even more likely to buy into your message.
But beware – the overuse of quotes or using ones that are TOO well known will lead to the dreaded “eye roll” reaction from the listener. Even if you don't see it, when you quote too many other speakers, no matter who they are, people will start to think that you lack originality.
Conversely, a properly and creatively used quote will not only give you credence with your crowd, but will give your talk a unique touch that will not soon be forgotten. Remember the following 3 Rules to use when quoting.
To Quote – Rule #1: Use the Unknown
Can you quote Tony Robbins or Oprah? Sure.
Here's a better idea. Find someone more obscure that has written a book or has earned credibility in another way. You can go to Google and find other quotable speakers and authors that may not be as well known. Here's a better and easier way to do it – have a tracking system. Read and absorb content often. Develop a “quote file” where you track the quotes that inspire you. I've created various files, separated by topic. That is an invaluable resource to have. When you need a quote about dreams and ambition, just go to your quote file. When you need one on leadership, go to your leadership file. You will never lack for quotes that you can use from unexpected sources when you keep track of them as you read or hear them.
To Quote – Rule #2: Originate, don't Duplicate
Here's a question – why does it have to be a famous person that gives you your quote? Your own or friends or family can be a great source of quotes or words of wisdom that you can share when you speak. I've quoted my parents more times than I can remember (especially my mother's words). I've quoted my wife, friends, and even strangers. Trust me when I say this – people will appreciate an original quote more than a regurgitated one more often than not.
A final tip: Think of YOUR own quotes. Brainstorm your own ideas on various topics. You are wiser than you think.
To Quote – Rule #3 – Search for Specificity
When you do quote others, people often assume that you just did a quick search online for what you needed, then delivered the line. Sometimes that may be necessary, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, specificity sticks. When you can be specific with your reference, your audience will know that you took the time to research your topic, and they will also get the impression that you take the time to educate yourself. Here are 3 areas that you can refer to:
#1 – Point of Time
When did that person use the quote? Was it used during a speech on a certain date? During a specific time in history? If you can add when the quote was used, not just what was said, you will create more credibility with your citation.
#2 – Page Numbers
When you keep track of your quotes, keep track of the page number (or chapter if you are reading electronically) of your quote. Adding that detail when you speak will indicate to your audience that you have read the book that you're quoting from, and you actually took the time to remember where in that book the quote was used. Bonus – it is easy to slip in where you read the quote by saying something such as, “If you pick up the book and turn to page 63, you'll see....(quote).”
#3 – Place
Did you go to see someone live? I once quoted Harvard Professor Amy Cuddy by starting with “When I saw Amy live at the Sony Centre, she said....”. Your audience may assume that you take some shortcuts when looking for your quotes, but they cannot deny your authenticity in the area of learning when you show them that you not only study and read, but also attend live presentations to gain wisdom from others.
To quote, or not to quote – that is the question (and a play on an overused quote). Let's end with Rule #4 – If you can say that there is no way (or it's highly unlikely) that another speaker has used the quote that you plan to use, or used it in a way that you are going to use it, then you are probably okay to go ahead.
If not, use sparingly, or better yet, scrap it and come up with your own.
You are wiser than you think.
Keep Speaking, Sharing and Serving
Kwesi Sekou Millington
Speaker, Mentor, Coach
Kwesi Millington helps speakers, presenters and youth to connect with their audiences and master their messages using the power of storytelling in their speeches & presentations. He is a Certified Public Speaking Coach & Youth Mentor.