9 common quote mistakes to avoid

For years it’s been good practice to use quotes in presentations. And we’ve seen quite a lot of good examples, but we’ve seen some big no-no’s over the years too. Here are some common quote mistakes not to make.

Don’t misquote

The gravest error of them all when quoting someone is getting it wrong. This not only undermines your quote, but your whole presentation and even your cred-inline-blockility as a speaker. Always find a reputable source, better yet: find multiple sources. Finding quotes on the internet is easy today, but finding a reliable source is not.

Don’t quote out of context

Be mindful of the context a certain sentence was said in. Taking someone’s words out of context can change their meaning entirely. This is not as bad as misquoting, but it’s nearly the same thing.

Don’t quote irrelevancies

The quotes you use should bare relevance to the point you are trying to make. No matter how punchy and deep a quote is when it’s got nothing to do with the message you’re bringing, leave it out.

Don’t overdo it

One or two quotes during a presentation are fine. But remember that the people in the room are here to listen to your talk, not to a list of famous and amusing quotes from history. Unless your talk is titled ‘Random famous and amusing quotes from history’, then carry on.

Don’t quote for the sake of quoting

Although sometimes it’s okay to do something just because you can, using quotes in your presentation is not one of these occasions. Your presentation should be better because of the quote you are using. If it isn’t, leave it out.

Don’t use an overly complex or bloated quote

Your quote should be punchy and impactful, not a monologue. It’s okay to shorten quotes, as long as you don’t change the original meaning. When possible, tell people you did and where they can find the original.

Don’t quote someone no one knows

No matter how relevant, well-spoken and punchy that thing was your brother said yesterday, don’t quote him unless he’s an expert in his field or you’re at a family dinner. Quoting your brother on unemployment issues just because he’s unemployed will not reinforce your point.

Don’t think a quote can save you

A quote can reinforce a speech or presentation, but it’s not a lifesaver. Quotes shouldn’t be pivotal points of your public speaking success.

Don’t rattle it off

You’ve carefully chosen these specific words by this specific author to speak for you. Give these words the respect they deserve and give them impact by pausing before and after your quote.