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The Five Forms of Evidence

To speak successfully, you must provide some evidence to support or back up your viewpoint or your recommendation. It’s the evidence that makes what you have to say interesting and believable. It’s the evidence that makes the presentation persuasive and memorable. Let’s look at the forms of evidence as they can be used for a talk. There are five of them, and they are easy to remember because when you put the first letters together it spells PAJES (an obvious misspelling of PAGES, but still a good mnemonic):

Personal Experience (The Story)

Analogy

Judgment of Experts

Examples

Statistics/Facts

Let’s take the last one first. It’s where many speakers concentrate, but it’s not the best tool—it’s just the easiest and most familiar. Most of us use Statistics and Facts really well. We are taught that’s what business is all about.

But that’s not what people are all about. They’re about flesh and blood and feelings. Statistics and Facts aren’t, but the other kinds of evidence are. Those are the tools to call upon if you want to get inside the minds and hearts of your listeners.

We’ll tackle Personal Experience (the story) in depth in Chapter 4 and again in Chapter 16. Let’s look at the other four, as they are applicable to nearly every situation.

Analogy is a form of evidence that is often neglected because it takes a little more work and more than a little creativity to come up with a good one. Yet a good analogy can have real power when used properly.

Let’s define it: An analogy is a point of similarity between two unlike things. The one we are most familiar with is the “tip-of-the-iceberg” analogy. This implies a warning: It’s about seeing only a small portion of something and missing the significance of the whole.

All good analogies are visual and allow you to exaggerate a point without offending the listener’s intelligence. Analogies bite into a listener’s consciousness. They register and they stay there.

Judgment of Experts is simply a supportive statement by a person the audience would recognize as an authority. You must explain the expert’s credentials if they are not known to your listeners. For best results the quotes of another person should be kept short. Visualizing the quotes on projected slides will increase the power of the quote in supporting your presentation.

An Example is a specific situation with various key factors similar to those of your premise. Examples are persuasive to the degree the audience sees them as paralleling his or her own situation.

Statistics and Facts have their place, of course—especially if they are astounding enough to wake up the crowd.

Visualizing your evidence, whatever the form, will increase the power it has in supporting your presentation.

The Impact of an Analogy

Analogies can have amazing impact in any talk, in part because everyone understands them. Let’s look at an example of that impact. First, some background. A few years ago, Charlie Windhorst was chairman of Communispond, and Jo Wein was the company’s top sales producer. Jo was also as bright and competent a person as you could ever hope to have on your team.

Charlie had an important administrative project that had to be thought through and a plan developed. Jo, because of her variety of talents, was the ideal person to do the job and do it well. So he called her in one day, laid out the project, and asked her to take it on.

Now, let’s look at it from Jo’s perspective. Jo was juggling the needs and demands of five clients and was about to land another one. She was on a roll as a salesperson and, given the time, could double the business she already had.

Jo listened attentively, asked questions, and agreed it was important. Then she said, “Charlie, are you sure I’m the best person to handle the project?” Naturally, Charlie assured her that she was and then said, “But Jo, I’m curious, why do you ask?”

Jo said, “Charlie, I see the importance of the project. There’s no question that it has to be done and done well. And I’m flattered that you would ask me to handle it. But Charlie, I’m handling over a million dollars’ worth of business right now, and I have that much more in new business just inches away, if I can get to it.

“If I take on the project you outlined, it would take half my time for two months, and I wouldn’t be able to get to the new business at all.”

Charlie expected this push back, so he said, “Jo, I admire you for what you are doing on the sales front, but we need this project done and you are the best person for the job.”

Jo could see she wasn’t getting anyplace, so she used an analogy. “Charlie,” she said, “don’t you see what you would be doing? Asking me to take on that project would be forcing me to cut back on my selling. It’s like taking your best racehorse and putting a two hundred pound jockey on her back.”

Charlie’s Reaction to the Analogy

Charlie said afterward, “The racehorse analogy was so clear and so obviously valid that I agreed with Jo. I was resisting her arguments at first because I expected them, but we’re in a sales race in this company, and I didn’t want to slow down my best horse in that race.”

Notice the mental picture Charlie carried away from that exchange. All new learning needs to find a way to connect to existing knowledge in order for it to be stored and retrieved for later use. That’s one of the beauties of analogies. They make an easy connection to the audience’s memory bank. And your listeners can play them back afterward, if necessary.


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