How Public Speakers Can Avoid Plagiarism


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Plagiarism is never a good look, whether you’re a writer or a public speaker. It’s said that there’s no such thing as an original idea, but it’s still important to be as original and as unique as you can be, especially when you’re delivering a talk to a large audience.

Unfortunately, avoiding plagiarism is easier said than done, and it’s also possible to commit plagiarism without meaning to. And that’s where this week’s article comes in.

Today, we’re going to share ten of our top tips on how public speakers can avoid plagiarism, and we’re going to do our best to avoid plagiarizing anyone else while we’re at it. Let’s get started.

Don’t plagiarize

This might sound pretty obvious, but the best way to avoid plagiarizing someone is to make sure that you never intentionally commit plagiarism. The bad news is that it’s still possible to accidentally plagiarize people and so you’re going to need to do a little more work to make sure that you’re covered, but setting out with the right intentions will give you a solid head start. Plus, it will mean that even if you do get accused of plagiarism, you’ll be able to honestly say that there was no intent behind it.

Use a plagiarism checker

A number of sites offer plagiarism-checking software, with some of it available for free and others requiring a small fee. We’re not going to recommend any given piece of software in case you don’t get on with it, but you can easily run a Google search and try out a few of the tools that appear in the results pages. Once you find a piece of software that you can trust, stick with it.

Give credit where credit is due

Another great way to avoid plagiarism is to ensure that if you ever reference somebody else’s work, you give them credit and openly acknowledge them as the source during your presentation. Even when information is available in the public domain, it’s still a good idea to acknowledge the source. As well as protecting you from accusations of plagiarism, it will also mean that audience members will know exactly where to go if they want to find further information.

Create original ideas

It’s hard to commit plagiarism if you go out of your way to create original ideas that are unique to you and your business. If you’re sharing your own intellectual property, you can pretty much say what you want, although you’ll need to be able to back your claims with research and data. This is especially true if you’re saying something controversial.

Run your idea past someone

A great way to pick up inadvertent plagiarism is to run your speech past someone else who works in your field. The more knowledgeable they are about what you’re talking about, the more likely it is that they’ll be able to spot if you’ve accidentally plagiarized someone. It’s not a fool-proof method, but it’s always good to have a second pair of eyes and some feedback from someone who knows your topic as well as you do. It has the additional benefit of getting your subject matter content checked too.

Google your topics

In the vast majority of cases, you’ll be asked to confirm the topics that you’re going to speak about well in advance of the event. This means that you’ll have plenty of time to Google the topic and to see whether somebody else has already covered it. If that’s the case, save the links but don’t do any further research until after you’ve prepared your talk, because simply reading or watching what they’ve already covered can be enough to taint your research and to lead you to accidentally plagiarize their work.

Ask for permission

If you decide to echo someone else’s sentiments, whether that’s by referencing a talk or study, or whether it’s by quoting someone or using one of their images, be sure to ask for their permission beforehand. As well as being a best practice and a common courtesy, this can help to protect you from legal action, especially if you get their written permission in advance. If they later change their mind, you’ll have the proof you need to show you had their permission to use it.

Use exact match searches

When you use a search engine like Google, you can run what’s called an exact match search by putting your search term in quotation marks. For example, searching for pizza delivery near me will bring up any page that has each of those words located somewhere within it. Searching for “pizza delivery near me” will only bring up pages that have all four words in that exact order. You can do the same thing to search for key terms in your presentation to check whether they’ve been used anywhere else.

Plan what you’re going to say

If you plan what you’re going to say ahead of time, you reduce the chances of accidentally committing verbal plagiarism because you know exactly what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. The ideal way to do this is to aim for somewhere between just reading a full script and ad-libbing based upon your knowledge and the slides that you’ve prepared. Practice it ahead of time so that you can make your delivery as smooth as possible.

Ask for feedback

One final tip is to ask people for feedback at the end of your presentations. It might be too late to avoid plagiarism on that particular talk, but if someone points it out when you ask for feedback then you can avoid making the same mistake in the future. It’s a case of better late than never!


Now that you know our top tips on how public speakers can avoid plagiarism, it’s over to you to put what you’ve learned today into practice. Be aware that plagiarism can happen by accident, and so even if you go into your talk with no intention of committing plagiarism, it can still happen.

That’s why it’s so important to be aware of it and to take steps to combat it. After all, plagiarism can be hugely damaging to your reputation and even just an accusation can cut short a promising career as a public speaker.

Now that you know our top tips for combating plagiarism, we want to hear from you. Have you ever had an issue with plagiarism as a public speaker? And if so, how did you combat it? As always, be sure to let us know in the comments so that we can keep the discussion going, and we’ll see you soon for another article.


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See also:

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  • 5 Common Public Speaking Mistakes and How to Overcome Them
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    5 Common Public Speaking Mistakes and How to Overcome Them