Speech Making Technique – The compare and contrast

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Here is a simple technique to improve your presentation, speech or essay. It is the compare and contrast.

It is one of those old oratory techniques that has been used since the times of Cicero (and probably before).

A contrast (or juxtaposition) is where two viewpoints are placed close to each other for effect.

Instead of giving out a list of facts, you compare them from different angles.

Here is a memorable example. John F Kennedy wanted to encourage American citizens to become more active in helping the country.

He could have said “We all need your help” and it would have been forgotten two days later. Instead he used a contrast and said –

“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”

Here is another example. In Hamlet, Shakespeare could have written “I think that I might kill myself”

Instead he wrote “To be or not to be, that is the question.” He then goes on to compare “Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them?”. You can read the to be or not to be speech on this link.

There are many other examples of contrasts in literature. One of the most famous is the start of “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us, we had nothing before us,
we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”

Charles DickensTo start using it in a presentation or speech, you just need to start bringing some contrast statements into your script.

“On one hand we have the … , on the other hand we are …”

“The situation put us between a rock and a hard place.”

To structure a speech or essay – you can use the compare and contrast structure.

So if your talk was on China,

You could say “China has a population of 1,321 million.”

A stronger statement would be “China has a population of 1,321 million, which is over four times as much of that of the 300 million in the USA.”

Other examples of contrasts include

“An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”

“It’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it.”

“Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor.” Benjamin Franklin.

“There is nothing to fear but fear itself. Franklin D. Roosevelt

Do you have any other good examples of contrasts? Just add them into the comments box below.


Published On: 12th Sep 2007

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