The Cons (and Pros) of Using Examples in Your Talks and Workshops

I can’t imagine trying to teach any topic without using examples.

On the pro side, examples can

  • clarify ideas and create an “aha” experience
  • turn vague concepts into concrete ideas
  • act as a model for imitation purposes
  • bring real-world relevance to the information

  • help attendees relate the knowledge and skills to their work or personal lives
  • add variety and interest
  • expand on an idea
  • justify your point of view and add to your credibility

However, on the “con” side, examples may not be helpful and may even sabotage the point you’re trying to make and your credibility if they

  • confuse your participants
  • aren’t clear and well thought out
  • aren’t current
  • run on too long
  • detract from your argument
  • aren’t relevant to your audience

Yes, there are many benefits to using examples, but they can also hinder how well your ideas are accepted and adopted by your audiences — and the ease with which your participants heed your call to action.

So, where do you find examples?
Feel free to draw from your own experiences as well as those of your colleagues and clients/customers. Find examples in journal articles, current events, sports, internet, etc.

Be sure to give credit where credit is due. There’s nothing wrong with using an example that’s not your own. But, be honest about where the examples come from — don’t claim them as your own.

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