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In Praise of Proverbs

I spent this weekend at the Inn on the Harbor in the charming seacoast village of Stonington, Maine, where I have stayed many times before. Every summer, the innkeeper revises the guest book and adds what she calls a “zany” page that returning guests like me look forward to reading. This year was one of the best for “zany” reading. And yes, believe it or not, even here I found timeless principles that pertain to the art of public speaking!

The Zany Page of Revised Proverbs
In the guest book was the story of a first grade teacher who had 26 students in her class. She presented each child with the first half of a well-known proverb and asked the student to come up with the remainder of the proverb. Following is the list as it was posted in the innkeeper’s guest book. As you read this list, do keep in mind that the children who wrote these are only six years old.  

Don’t change horses…until they stop running.
Strike while the…bug is close.
It’s always darkest before…Daylight Savings Time.
Never underestimate the power of…termites.
You can lead a horse to water but…How?
Don’t bite the hand that…looks dirty.
No news is…impossible.
A miss is as good as a…Mr.
You can’t teach an old dog new…math.
If you lie down with dogs, you’ll…stink in the morning.
Love all; trust…me.
The pen is mightier than the…pigs.
An idle mind is…the best way to relax.
Where there’s smoke there’s… pollution.
Happy the bride who…gets all the presents.
A penny saved is…not much.
Two’s company; threes…the Musketeers.
Don’t put off till tomorrow what…you put on to go to bed.
Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry and…you have to blow your nose.
There are none so blind as…Stevie Wonder.
Children should be seen and not…spanked or grounded.
If at first you don’t succeed…get new batteries.
You get out of something only what you… see in the picture box.
When the blind lead the blind…get out of the way.
A bird in the hand…is going to poop on you.
Better late than…pregnant.

Lessons for the Public Speaker
So what can we, as public speakers, learn from these funny mixed-up proverbs? More than anything else, we can simply remember to use proverbs—edited or not—in our speeches.

Support evidence or “touch points” come in many forms: stories, analogies, facts, data, metaphors, quotations, definitions, questions, physical demonstrations, charts, graphs, humor…and yes, even proverbs.

When you want to add variety to your support evidence, and not just bore your audience with dry data and statistics, look for a proverb to help you convince and persuade. After all, there’s no time like the present…to try a proverb.

August 31st, 2010 | Permalink | Trackback | Bookmark and Share

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