Mastering the Art of Public Speaking: Giving Credit for Quotes in Your Speech

By Spence M. Finlayson

NASSAU, Bahamas – Giving credit for a quote that you use during your speech or presentation is of the utmost importance.

With the advancement of social media, I notice persons are posting motivational and inspirational quotes from well known authors, speakers etc. without giving them credit for it.

As an international motivational speaker, corporate trainer and talk show host, I am very careful not to use a quote without giving the author credit.

I have my own original motivational quotes that I use from time to time but when I am speaking in the front of an audience  I go the extra mile to acknowledge the author of the quote, by saying for  example, according to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr “If a man is called to be a streetsweeper , let him sweep streets like Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry, he should sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will pause to say ‘here lived the greatest streetsweeper who did his job well.”

I recently had a real life experience with this situation. Let me explain. While writing my article on Public Speaking, I used a beautiful poem by Marina Aris and I gave her credit. Well, just a few hours after the article was published, I received an email from this wonderful lady saying the following: “Hello Spence, great article on South Florida Caribbean News “Mastering Public Speaking: Five Key Tips for Overcoming Your Fear of Public Speaking “. I am sure it will be well received and thank you so much for including my poem. I am honored truly. I wish you more continued success. All the best. Marina Aris, Author, Speaker & Founder, Brooklyn Writers Project.” I was blown away by this. And very happy that I gave her due credit in my article.

As a speaker, you must be cognizant of the fact that there may be persons in your audience very familiar with the quotes and the authors, so please make sure give credit where it is due.

I take every opportunity to do this especially when someone is taking notes and ask you to please repeat the quote, I than say ‘now this is not my original quote, it’s from so and so.

Don’t give your audience a chance to see that you blatantly used someone else’s words as your own. Its down right stealing.

The great African American Motivational Speaker, Les Brown came to the Bahamas to speak at a conference for AT & T at The Atlantis Resort & Casino on Paradise Island in 2002. He invited me to watch his presentation and at the end he closed with his now famous “If you want a thing in life speech.”

While walking with him back to his suite at the Royal Towers of the resort, he asked me what I thought about his speech and I told him, “Les man, I can do your closing better than you.” He had big laugh and I said I use this closing for my presentations and speeches and I just would like for you to know. So whenever, I am closing my speeches, I end on a high note with Les Brown stuff, making sure to say to the audience that this is not my own, its from Les Brown, who was married to Gladys Knight and I have permission to use this. “End of story.

Inspirational and motivational quotes are very powerful to use in your speeches at the appropriate time, they add zest to your speech.

I remember many years ago I bought a large hardback book with the ‘best motivational quotes’ I believe was published by Nightingale-Conant. I was so enamored with this book, that I frequently used it to research powerful motivational quotes. Now fast forward to the internet where you can find anything.

I am reminded about a famous case of plagiarism now that Joe Biden is thinking of entering the presidential race again.

According to CNN, Joe Biden during the 1988 Presidential election, the then presidential candidate was accused of mimicking a speech that British Labor Party Neil Kinnock delivered just four months prior.

CNN story continues, Kinnock’s speech included the following lines: Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Pointing to his wife in the audience. Why is Glenys the first woman in her family in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Was it because all our predecessors were thick?

While according to CNN, Biden said: “I started thinking as I was coming over here, why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go to a university? Pointing to his wife in the audience: Why is it that my wife who is sitting out there in the audience is the first in her family to ever go to college? Is it because our fathers and mothers were not bright? Is it because I’m the first Biden in a thousand generations to get a college and graduate degree that I was smarter than the rest?

The Vice President was forced to withdraw from the presidential race according to CNN, after Maureen Dowd of the New York Times exposed his plagiarized speech.

So finally, please make sure to give credit for the quotes that you use while giving a speech.


Master Motivator Spence Finlayson - Mastering the Art of Public Speaking: Giving Credit for Quotes in Your Speech
Spence Finlayson

Spence M  Finlayson, is an international conference speaker and the Founder & CEO of Master Motivator Spence Finlayson Speakers Academy. He is  a much sought after motivational speaker and has spoken in over 26 Foreign countries with 30 years experience. He can be reached at 242-677-0418 or by email at [email protected]

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The Team provides news and information for the Caribbean-American community in South Florida and beyond.

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