The Internet and Speech Data: Beware

The Internet & Speech Data

The ever-present internet can be a curse or a boon to the speaker. The internet allows you as a speaker to keep current on your topic without ever entering a library building; the library is at your fingertips.

But there can be a down side if you are not sensitive to the internet skills of your audience. For example, in a recent communication seminar with about 140 in attendance, I was going over the bibliography I had passed to them. I feel obligated to explain two or three of my sources because they were written so long ago.

One such book is The Luck Factor by Max Gunther. The original publication date was 1977.  I explained that it was one of the first self-help books which made the point that I often make: we want to have a large number of resource people we can connect to. Gunther makes the point that the more people you know, the luckier you will become. Because I had not done recent research on the book, I stressed that it was out of print and difficult to find.

Less than a minute after I made that assertion, a participant raised his hand and said, “You can buy the e-book version on the internet for $5.23.”

It was a little embarrassing for me, but the statement got a good laugh. I needed some humor at that point and I was able to reinforce a previous point I had made about audiences:  as a speaker, you must stay current with your information. Your audience can check on your data with their smartphones or tablets as they listen. (Later I discovered that the book was re-released in 2010 and is readily available—in case you’re interested!)

The unexpected in presentations is a factor that keeps you as the speaker from getting bored, even if you have delivered the material many times before. In the future, I will be even more aware of the audience’s ability to research my material as I speak.

Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. Steve won the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in 1970 and was chosen Outstanding Professor of the Year at NKU in 1984, among other awards and honors. Since retiring, he volunteers with nonprofits, spends time with family, travels, preaches occasionally, and enjoys reading and writing. Contact Steve at (859) 866-5693 or at

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