Some years ago I had to explain the word surgery to a group of students so I gave them the dictionary definition: “It’s the treatment of injuries of the body by incision or manipulation, especially with instruments”. Of course, most students did not understand anything!  I realised I had made a mistake and then added “My friend Sven had to go to hospital for surgery after he’d broken his leg in an accident”. Everyone understood.

Since then, I have always added examples to my explanations. Why? Examples add clarity because it is always easier to visualise facts than theory. They also help people remember, even after a long time.

Here’s a case in point. My family and I visited Nassau in 2017. We were invited to The Bahamas Rum Cake Factory, where we saw their production process and were given a short explanation. However, what we all remember best is the moment we were offered a choice of Original or Cinnamon cake to taste. Whenever I think of Bahamas, it is not the explanation but that taste that comes back to my memory.

Therefore, you will be able to communicate ideas more clearly if you add something concrete. For instance, provide quotes from recent news so listeners link your words to current life, or explain something that happened to you through a story. And bring samples. Objects people can touch, smell or taste. Maybe not a rum cake but a product sample or a souvenir.

You can introduce examples with these phrases:

Let me illustrate

Let me illustrate this with a product sample. Can you feel how smooth the surface is?

For example

For example, on Twitter this morning I read that your company has added a new line.

For instance

Any non-abrasive liquid—water for instance—can be used to wash these lenses.

Let me show you a real

Let me show you a real situation. In this video you’ll see Jeff wearing bifocal glasses at the beach.

Here’s a case in point

Here’s a case in point. Henry Thomas needed a special design so we prepared a model for him. I have a sample here. Do you like it?


Want to learn more about business English? Read Andrew’s Speak and Write Better Business English e-book here