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 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.

  • Pronunciation: AN - eck - doh​t​
  • Also Known As: incident, story, narrative, account, episode.

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.

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Your Citation
Fleming, Grace. "How to Use Anecdotes to Nail Your Next Speech." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Fleming, Grace. (2020, August 27). How to Use Anecdotes to Nail Your Next Speech. Retrieved from Fleming, Grace. "How to Use Anecdotes to Nail Your Next Speech." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 1, 2023).