How to Use Anecdotes to Nail Your Next Speech

businessman giving speech in front of colleagues
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An anecdote is a short scene or story taken from a personal experience. Anecdotes can be useful for setting the stage for a speech or personal essay. An anecdote often relays a story that can be used as a theme or lesson.

Examples of Usage

The story below could be used as an introduction to a speech or short story about personal safety:

"After the long Ohio winter, I was so happy to see the first signs of spring that I ran outside as soon as I saw our first flower blooming. I plucked the dewy, white blossom and tucked it into my hair band and went about my day with joy in my heart. Unfortunately, I didn't notice that my big white flower had been host to a dozen or so tiny bugs, that apparently enjoyed a new home in the warmth and security of my hair. I was soon itching and twitching like a scrappy dog. Next time I stop to smell the flowers, I'll make sure I'll do it with my eyes wide open."

The anecdote provides a lead-in to the overall message of your speech or essay. For example, the next sentence after the anecdote could be: "Have you ever delved head-first into a situation and run straight into trouble?"

Using Anecdotes to Set the Stage

See how this anecdote can provide a moral or backdrop for a speech or essay about staying alert? You can use many small events in your own life as anecdotes to set the stage for a greater message.

Another time when anecdotes are often used is during a seminar. For example, a seminar covering race car vehicle suspension may begin with a story about how the driver or engineer became aware of a strange problem with a car. Although the subject of the seminar may be highly technical, the introduction story — or anecdote — may be simple or even humorous. 

School teachers and college professors will often use anecdotes as a way of easing students into a complex issue. It could be argued that using anecdotes this way is a "roundabout" way of introducing a subject, but people use examples in everyday speech to make a subject more easy to understand and to clarify the more complex part of a narrative to follow. 

Pronunciation: AN - eck - doh​t​

Also Known As: incident, story, narrative, account, episode.