COMM 101: Fundamentals of Public Speaking - Valparaiso
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- Speech Outline Examples
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A basic speech outline should include three main sections:
- The Introduction -- This is where you tell them what you're going to tell them.
- The Body -- This is where you tell them.
- The Conclusion -- This is where you tell them what you've told them.
- Speech Outline Formatting Guide The outline for a public speech, according to COMM 101 online textbook The Public Speaking Project , p.p. 8-9.
Use these samples to help prepare your speech outlines and bibliographies:
- Sample Speech Preparation Outline This type of outline is very detailed with all the main points and subpoints written in complete sentences. Your bibliography should be included with this outline.
- Sample Speech Speaking Outline This type of outline is very brief and uses phrases or key words for the main points and subpoints. This outline is used by the speaker during the speech.
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How to Write a Speech Outline
Last Updated: January 26, 2023 References Approved
This article was co-authored by Emily Listmann, MA and by wikiHow staff writer, Jennifer Mueller, JD . Emily Listmann is a private tutor in San Carlos, California. She has worked as a Social Studies Teacher, Curriculum Coordinator, and an SAT Prep Teacher. She received her MA in Education from the Stanford Graduate School of Education in 2014. There are 7 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article received 13 testimonials and 80% of readers who voted found it helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 469,216 times.
A speech outline can increase your confidence and help you keep your place so you sound authoritative and in control. As you write your speech outline, focus on how you'll introduce yourself and your topic, the points you'll cover, and the interests of your audience.
Sample Outline and Writing Help
Crafting Your Introduction
- Keep in mind you may be nervous when you start your speech. Include this in your outline so you won't forget.
- If there's anything about you that relates you to your audience, or to the group that organized the event, you want to include that in your brief greeting as well – especially if you didn't have the benefit of an introduction from someone else.
- For example, you might say "Good afternoon. I'm Sally Sunshine, and I've been a volunteer with the Springfield Animal Society for five years. I'm honored they've invited me to speak here today about the importance of spaying or neutering your pets."
- When choosing your attention-getter, keep your audience in mind. Think about what would grab their attention – not necessarily what you personally find interesting or humorous.
- If you're not sure whether your attention-getter will work, try practicing it in front of friends or family members who are similar in age and interests to the people who will be in the audience when you give your speech.
- For example, if you're giving a speech on spaying and neutering pets to a group of suburban families, you might open with a humorous reference to the Disney movie "101 Dalmatians."
- Briefly explain the importance of the topic or issue you'll be discussing in your speech.
- If your speech is an informative one, explain why the information is important or relevant to your audience.
- For argumentative speeches, explain what might happen if action isn't taken on the issue.
- For example, you might say "Every year, our local animal shelter has to put down 500 unwanted cats and dogs. If all pets were spayed and neutered, it's estimated this number would decrease to under 100."
- If you're giving an argumentative speech, your thesis statement will be a statement of the ultimate point you hope to prove through the information and evidence you lay out in your speech.
- For example, the thesis statement for a speech arguing that all pet owners should spay or neuter their pets might be "Our entire community would benefit if all pets were spayed or neutered."
- The thesis statement for a more informative speech will simply summarize the type of information you're going to provide the audience through your speech.
- For a more scientific speech, your thesis statement will reflect the hypothesis of the scientific study you're presenting in your speech.
- If you're giving a speech for a class in school, your "credibility" may be as simple as the fact that you took the class and researched the topic.
- However, if you have a more personalized interest in the topic of your speech, this is a good time to mention that.
- For an argumentative speech, a personal connection to the subject matter can enhance your credibility. For example, maybe you're giving a speech about local urban housing policy and you became interested in the topic when you learned your family was facing eviction. A personal connection often can mean more to members of your audience than extensive professional experience in the area.
- There's no hard and fast rule, but speeches typically have three main points. You should list them in your introduction in the order you plan to present them in your speech. The order in which you discuss your points depends on the type of speech you're giving.
- For example, your speech on spaying or neutering pets might address the benefits to the pet first, then the benefit to the pet's family, then the benefit to the community at large. This starts small and moves outward.
- For an argumentative speech, you typically want to lead with your strongest argument and work down in order of strength.
- If you're giving an informative speech based on a historical event, you may want to provide your points chronologically. Other informative speeches may be better served by starting with the broadest point and moving to more narrow points.
- Ultimately, you want to order your points in a way that feels natural to you and will enable you to easily transition from one point to another.
Building the Body of Your Speech
- Your first point will be a top-level entry on your outline, typically noted by a Roman numeral.
- Beneath that top-level, you will have a number of sub-points which are comments, statistics, or other evidence supporting that point. Depending on how your outline is formatted, these typically will be letters or bullet points.
- As with the points themselves, with your evidence you typically want to start with the strongest or most important sub-point or piece of evidence and move down. This way, if you start running short on time, you can easily cut the last points without worrying that you're leaving out something important.
- The type of evidence or sub-points you'll want to include will depend on the type of speech you're giving.
- Try to avoid pounding your audience with long series of numbers or statistics – they typically won't retain the information. If you have a significant amount of numerical data or statistics, creating an infographic you can project during your presentation may be more useful.
- Keep in mind that additional personal stories or anecdotes can be particularly effective to get your point across in a speech.
- For example, if your first point in your speech about spaying or neutering pets is that the procedure benefits the pets themselves, you might point out that pets that are spayed or neutered live longer, are at a decreased risk for certain types of cancer, and are generally more healthy than pets who aren't spayed or neutered.
- Avoid over-thinking your transition. It really doesn't need to be incredibly sophisticated. If you can't come up with anything specific, using a simple transitional phrase will work fine.
- For example, you might say "Now that I've discussed how spaying and neutering has a positive effect on your pet's health, I want to move to the effect that spaying and neutering has on your family."
- Some of the most effective transitions turn on a particular word or phrase, such as the word "effect" in the example above.
- When choosing your sub-points or the facts that you want to emphasize in your speech, keep your audience in mind as well as the overall point. Think about what's important to them, or what they potentially would find most surprising or most interesting.
Creating Your Closing
- This transition doesn't need to be fancy – it doesn't even have to be a whole sentence. You can simply say "In conclusion," and then launch into your summary.
- You don't need to go into detail here – you're just reinforcing what you've already told your audience.
- Make sure you don't introduce any new information in your closing summary.
- For example, you might say "As you've seen, spaying or neutering your pet has substantial benefits not only for you and your pet, but also for the community at large."
- If your speech went well, you have fully proven your thesis and demonstrated its importance. This statement should relate back to the summary of your points and present a strong statement.
- Particularly for brief speeches, you can even combine your summary of points with your thesis statement in a single sentence that wraps up your speech.
- For example, you might say "Given the benefits to your pet's health, to your family, and to the overall well-being of your community, it is clear that spaying or neutering pets should be a top priority for all pet owners."
- You may want to think of a way to bring the entire speech back around to that story you initially told to grab your audience's attention.
- If you have an argumentative or similar speech, your closing lines typically will include a call to action. Give your audience an example of how important the subject of your speech is, and implore them to act on the information you gave them in a specific way.
- When making a call to action, make sure you include specific details, such as where to go, who to contact, and when to act.
- For example, you might say "For the next week, the Springfield Animal Society will be spaying and neutering pets for free at their clinic on 123 Main Street. Call 555-555-5555 to make an appointment for your furry friend today!"
- Particularly if your speech was longer or if you went over the time allotted, be sure to tell them that you appreciate their time.
- As with your initial greeting, including this in your outline ensures you won't forget it in the moment. That doesn't mean you should try to write something verbatim. Rather, you should focus on your thanks being more off-the-cuff and sincere.
- If you want to establish parameters for the questions, be sure to list these in your outline so you can mention them when you announce that you're open for questions.
- Anticipate questions that may be asked dependent on your speech topic. Preemptively answer those questions and include them in your outline.
- You also should note if you only have a specified period of time for questions, or if you're only taking a set number of questions.
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- Outlines can vary in how formal or informal you make them. You could either make it a full script or use shorthand with highlighted main points. Use the outline that works best for you. ⧼thumbs_response⧽ Helpful 11 Not Helpful 0
- Use a large font that you can easily read by glancing down. Print your outline and place it on a desk, then stand and look down at the paper. If it's too small or you find yourself leaning over to read it, increase the font size. ⧼thumbs_response⧽ Helpful 15 Not Helpful 3
- If you're giving the speech for a class, you may need to turn in an outline of your speech that follows particular content or format requirements. Review your assignment carefully and turn in an outline that follows your instructor's requirements, even if you decide to use a slightly different outline when you give your speech. ⧼thumbs_response⧽ Helpful 4 Not Helpful 0
You Might Also Like
- ↑ https://canicollege.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/USEFUL-PHRASES-AND-STRATEGIES-FOR-PRESENTATIONS.pdf
- ↑ https://www.lamission.edu/learningcenter/docs/asc/worksheets/GeneralWritingResources/Speech%20Outline.pdf
- ↑ https://www.unr.edu/writing-speaking-center/student-resources/writing-speaking-resources/speech-introductions
- ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/the_writing_process/thesis_statement_tips.html
- ↑ https://lewisu.edu/writingcenter/pdf/final-developing-a-speech-outline.pdf
- ↑ https://www.unr.edu/writing-speaking-center/student-resources/writing-speaking-resources/speech-evidence
- ↑ https://open.lib.umn.edu/publicspeaking/chapter/10-2-keeping-your-speech-moving/
About This Article
The best way to write a speech outline is to write the main points of your greeting and introduction in the first section, including your name and what you’ll be talking about. Then, make a second section with bullet points of all the important details you want to mention in the body of your speech. Make sure to include facts and evidence to back your argument up. Finish your outline with a section that summarizes your points concisely. To learn how to keep your audience's attention throughout your speech, keep reading below! Did this summary help you? Yes No
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How To Write A Speech Outline
Do you have a speech coming up soon, but don’t know where to start when it comes to writing it?
The best way to start writing your speech is to first write an outline.
While to some, an outline may seem like an unnecessary extra step — after giving hundreds of speeches in my own career, I can assure you that first creating a speech outline is truly the best way to design a strong presentation that your audience will remember.
Should I Write A Speech Outline?
You might be wondering if you should really bother with a preparation outline. Is a speaking outline worth your time, or can you get through by just keeping your supporting points in mind?
Again, I highly recommend that all speakers create an outline as part of their speechwriting process. This step is an extremely important way to organize your main ideas and all the various elements of your speech in a way that will command your audience’s attention.
Good public speaking teachers will agree that an outline—even if it’s a rough outline—is the easiest way to propel you forward to a final draft of an organized speech that audience members will love.
Here are a few of the biggest benefits of creating an outline before diving straight into your speech.
Gain More Focus
By writing an outline, you’ll be able to center the focus of your speech where it belongs—on your thesis statement and main idea.
Remember, every illustration, example, or piece of information you share in your speech should be relevant to the key message you’re trying to deliver. And by creating an outline, you can ensure that everything relates back to your main point.
Keep Things Organized
Your speech should have an overall organizational pattern so that listeners will be able to follow your thoughts. You want your ideas to be laid out in a logical order that’s easy to track, and for all of the speech elements to correspond.
An outline serves as a structure or foundation for your speech, allowing you to see all of your main points laid out so you can easily rearrange them into an order that makes sense for easy listening.
Create Smoother Transitions
A speaking outline helps you create smoother transitions between the different parts of your speech.
When you know what’s happening before and after a certain section, it will be easy to accurately deliver transitional statements that make sense in context. Instead of seeming like several disjointed ideas, the parts of your speech will naturally flow into each other.
Save Yourself Time
An outline is an organization tool that will save you time and effort when you get ready to write the final draft of your speech. When you’re working off of an outline to write your draft, you can overcome “blank page syndrome.”
It will be much easier to finish the entire speech because the main points and sub-points are already clearly laid out for you.
Your only job is to finish filling everything in.
Preparing to Write A Speech Outline
Now that you know how helpful even the most basic of speech outlines can be in helping you write the best speech, here’s how to write the best outline for your next public speaking project.
How Long Should A Speech Outline Be?
The length of your speech outline will depend on the length of your speech. Are you giving a quick two-minute talk or a longer thirty-minute presentation? The length of your outline will reflect the length of your final speech.
Another factor that will determine the length of your outline is how much information you actually want to include in the outline. For some speakers, bullet points of your main points might be enough. In other cases, you may feel more comfortable with a full-sentence outline that offers a more comprehensive view of your speech topic.
The length of your outline will also depend on the type of outline you’re using at any given moment.
Types of Outlines
Did you know there are several outline types? Each type of outline is intended for a different stage of the speechwriting process. Here, we’re going to walk through:
- Working outlines
- Full-sentence outlines
- Speaking outlines
Think of your working outline as the bare bones of your speech—the scaffolding you’re using as you just start to build your presentation. To create a working outline, you will need:
- A speech topic
- An idea for the “hook” in your introduction
- A thesis statement
- 3-5 main points (each one should make a primary claim that you support with references)
- A conclusion
Each of your main points will also have sub-points, but we’ll get to those in a later step.
The benefit of a working outline is that it’s easy to move things around. If you think your main points don’t make sense in a certain order—or that one point needs to be scrapped entirely—it’s no problem to make the needed changes. You won’t be deleting any of your prior hard work because you haven’t really done any work yet.
Once you are confident in this “skeleton outline,” you can move on to the next, where you’ll start filling in more detailed information.
As the name implies, your full-sentence outline contains full sentences. No bullet points or scribbled, “talk about x, y, z here.” Instead, research everything you want to include and write out the information in full sentences.
Why is this important? A full-sentence outline helps ensure that you are:
- Including all of the information your audience needs to know
- Organizing the material well
- Staying within any time constraints you’ve been given
Don’t skip this important step as you plan your speech.
The final type of outline you’ll need is a speaking outline. When it comes to the level of detail, this outline is somewhere in between your working outline and a full-sentence outline.
You’ll include the main parts of your speech—the introduction, main points, and conclusion. But you’ll add a little extra detail about each one, too. This might be a quote that you don’t want to misremember or just a few words to jog your memory of an anecdote to share.
When you actually give your speech, this is the outline you will use. It might seem like it makes more sense to use your detailed full-sentence outline up on stage. However, if you use this outline, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of reading your speech—which is not what you want to do. You’ll likely sound much more natural if you use your speaking outline.
How to Write A Speech Outline
We’ve covered the types of outlines you’ll work through as you write your speech. Now, let’s talk more about how you’ll come up with the information to add to each outline type.
Pick A Topic
Before you can begin writing an outline, you have to know what you’re going to be speaking about. In some situations, you may have a topic given to you—especially if you are in a public speaking class and must follow the instructor’s requirements. But in many cases, speakers must come up with their own topic for a speech.
Consider your audience and what kind of educational, humorous, or otherwise valuable information they need to hear. Your topic and message should of course be highly relevant to them. If you don’t know your audience well enough to choose a topic, that’s a problem.
Your audience is your first priority. If possible, however, it’s also helpful to choose a topic that appeals to you. What’s something you’re interested in and/or knowledgeable about?
It will be much easier to write a speech on a topic you care about rather than one you don’t. If you can come up with a speech topic that appeals to your audience and is interesting to you, that’s the sweet spot for writing and delivering an unforgettable speech.
Write A Thesis Statement
The next step is to ask yourself two important questions:
- What do you want your audience to take away from your speech?
- How will you communicate this main message?
The key message of your speech can also be called your “thesis statement.”
Essentially, this is your main point—the most important thing you hope to get across.
You’ll most likely actually say your thesis statement verbatim during your speech. It should come at the end of your introduction. Then, you’ll spend the rest of your talk expanding on this statement, sharing more information that will prove the statement is true.
Consider writing your thesis statement right now—before you begin researching or outlining your speech. If you can refer back to this statement as you get to work, it will be much easier to make sure all of the elements correspond with each other throughout your speech.
An example of a good thesis statement might read like this:
- Going for a run every day is good for your health.
- It’s important to start saving for retirement early.
- The COVID-19 pandemic had a negative impact on many small businesses.
The second part of this step is to know how you will communicate your main message . For example, if your key point is that running improves physical health, you might get this across by:
- Citing scientific studies that proved running is good for your health
- Sharing your personal experience of going for a run every day
Your goal is for all of your sub-points and supporting material to reflect and support your main point. At the end of the speech, your audience should be appropriately motivated, educated, or convinced that your thesis statement is true.
Once you have a topic for your presentation and a good thesis statement, you can move on to the bulk of the outline.
The first part of your speech is the introduction, which should include a strong “hook” to grab the attention of your audience. There are endless directions you can go to create this hook. Don’t be afraid to get creative! You might try:
- Telling a joke
- Sharing an anecdote
- Using a prop or visual aid
- Asking a question (rhetorical or otherwise)
These are just a few examples of hooks that can make your audience sit up and take notice.
The rest of your introduction shouldn’t be too long—as a general rule of thumb, you want your introduction to take up about 10% of your entire speech. But there are a few other things you need to say.
Briefly introduce yourself and who you are to communicate why the audience should trust you. Mention why you’re giving this speech.
Explain that you’re going to cover X main points—you can quickly list them—and include your thesis statement.
You could also mention how long your speech will be and say what your audience will take away from it (“At the end of our 15 minutes together today, you’ll understand how to write a resume”).
Then smoothly transition into the body of your speech.
Next, you’ll write the body of your speech. This is the bulk of your presentation. It will include your main points and their sub-points. Here’s how this should look:
Your subpoints might be anecdotes, visual aids, or studies. However you decide to support your main points, make them memorable and engaging. Nobody wants to sit and listen to you recite a dry list of facts.
Remember, the amount of detail you include right now will depend on which outline you’re on. Your first outline, or working outline, doesn’t have to include every last little detail. Your goal is to briefly encapsulate all of the most important elements in your speech.
But beyond that, you don’t need to write down every last detail or example right now. You don’t even have to write full sentences at this point. That will come in your second outline and other future drafts.
Your conclusion should concisely summarize the main points of your speech. You could do this by saying, “To recap as I finish up, today we learned…” and reiterate those primary points.
It’s also good to leave the audience with something to think about and/or discuss. Consider asking them a question that expands on your speech—something they can turn over in their minds the rest of the day.
Or share one final story or quote that will leave them with lasting inspiration. Bonus points if your conclusion circles back around to your introduction or hook.
In other cases, you may want to end with a call to action. Are you promoting something? Make sure your audience knows what it is, how it will benefit them, and where they can find it. Or, your CTA might be as simple as plugging your Twitter handle and asking listeners to follow you.
Finally, don’t forget to say thank you to your audience for taking the time to listen.
Additional Helpful Speechwriting Tips
Your speech outline is important, but it’s not the only thing that goes into preparing to give a presentation. Take a look at these additional tips I recommend to help your speech succeed.
Use Visual Aids
Visual aids are a good way to make sure your audience stays engaged—that they listen closely, and remember what you said. Visual aids serve as an attention-getter for people who may not be listening closely. These aids also ensure that your points are sufficiently supported.
You might choose to incorporate any of the following in your talk:
- A PowerPoint presentation
- A chart or graph
- A whiteboard or blackboard
- A flip chart
- A prop that you hold or interact with
Don’t overdo it. Remember, your speech is the main thing you’re presenting. Any visual aids are just that—aids. They’re a side dish, not the main entrée. Select one primary type of aid for your speech.
If you decide to include visual aids, use your speaking outline to make a note of which items you will incorporate where. You may want to place these items on your working outline. They should definitely be on your full-sentence outline.
Keep Your Audience Engaged
As you write and practice your speech, make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep your audience engaged the entire time. We’ve already talked about including stories and jokes, using visual aids, or asking questions to vary your talk and make it more interesting.
Your body language is another important component of audience engagement. Your posture should be straight yet relaxed, with shoulders back and feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your body open to the audience.
Make eye contact with different people in the audience. Incorporate hand gestures that emphasize certain points or draw attention to your visual aids.
Don’t be afraid to move around whatever space you have. Movement is especially helpful to indicate a clearer transition from one part of your speech to another. And smile! A simple smile goes a long way to help your audience relax.
Practice Your Speech
When you’re done with speechwriting, it’s time to get in front of the mirror and practice. Pay attention to your body language, gestures, and eye contact.
Practice working with any visual aids or props you will be using. It’s also helpful to make a plan B—for instance, what will you do if the projector isn’t working and you can’t use your slides?
Ask a friend or family member if you can rehearse your speech for them. When you’re through, ask them questions about which parts held their attention and which ones didn’t.
You should also use your speaking outline and whatever other notes you’ll be using in your speech itself. Get used to referring to this outline as you go. But remember, don’t read anything verbatim (except maybe a quote). Your speaking outline is simply a guide to remind you where you’re going.
Learn to Speak Like A Leader
There’s a lot of work that goes into writing a speech outline. That’s undeniable. But an outline is the best way to organize and plan your presentation. When your speech outline is ready, it will be a breeze to write and then present your actual speech.
If you’re looking for more help learning how to become a strong public speaker, I recommend my free Speak Like A Leader resource. In this handbook, I share power words and phrases that will allow you to get your point across—plus, expert tips and strategies to make you come across more professional in any and every situation. Download the handbook here and start learning how to give a winning speech.
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How to Outline a Speech
how to outline a speech (view pdf), introduction.
Your introduction sets the stage for the rest of your speech. As the first thing the audience hears from you, it is also one of the most remembered parts of a speech. It should contain three main elements.
A. Hook: This will grab your audience’s attention and make them interested in your speech. For example, you might ask a question, tell a story, or cite a shocking statistic. Generally, you don’t need to tell the audience your name.
B. Thesis: Just like in a paper, your speech has a thesis. It is what you are here to prove to your audience.
C. Road map: In a speech, you want to signal where you are going to be going and how you’re going to get there; it helps your audience follow you, since they can’t go back and re-read anything like they could in a paper. Your road map previews your main points.
The main section of your speech, where you make your main points. These are what you to laid out in your road map, and this is where transitioning is particularly important. For most speeches, 2-3 main points will give you sufficient content while also being easily followed by the audience. You want to think about the logical order of your points, which would easily flow into one another.
A. First point: _________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________________________ Transition: ____________________________________________________________________________
B. Second point: _______________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________ Transition: _____________________________________________________________________________
C. Third point: _________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________ Transition: _____________________________________________________________________________
Use your conclusion to summarize your main points, but don’t restate them word for word, similar to the conclusion of an essay. There’s a tendency to end speeches by saying “and that’s all I have,” but this is the last impression you’re giving your audience, and it’s an opportunity to drive home why your message is important.
A. Paraphrase your thesis and main points: _____________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________
B. Tell your audience why your message is important: ___________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________
Office / Department Name
Oral Communication Center
Oral Communication Center Director
The $400 million campaign to provide students with a life-altering education.
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- How to outline a speech
Sample speech outline template
Get a printable. Learn how to outline a speech effectively.
By: Susan Dugdale | Last modified: 02-20-2023
There's a printable sample speech outline template below for you to download and use.
Why? Because a well-completed outline becomes the backbone of your speech. You'll use it to guide you logically, and carefully, through ALL the aspects you need to consider before you actually write the speech itself.
It will help you clarify what material you want to cover to fit your audience, and speech purpose, as well as help to effectively organize it.
What you'll find on this page:
- t he reasons for using a speech outline
- how to outline a speech : the 4 essentials steps involved in writing an outline - detailed sequential help, with examples, covering: 1. choosing a topic, 2. audience analysis, 3. choosing the best organizational pattern to fit your speech purpose, 4. what to put in each part of your speech: introduction, body and conclusion
- a printable speech outline template to download
- links to 2 completed examples of speech outlines (a demonstration and a persuasive speech. Both with printable outlines to download.)
- a link to 7 completed examples of impromptu speech outlines , each with printable speech outline templates
- links to more resources for preparing an effective speech
Why bother writing a speech outline?
Because completing a speech outline is the first vital step toward preparing a successful speech.
It is often overlooked in a misguided attempt to get on with what is considered the real work: writing the speech, or the words you're going to say.
Despite what many people think, time spent completing an outline is not wasted. Instead, it helps you save it. A nd sidestep any anxiety caused by inadequate preparation.
The process might appear daunting and horrifically time consuming but prepare a speech outline all the same.☺
What you'll learn about speech structure, matching content to your speech purpose and your audience's needs will pay you back over and over again. I promise you, having an outline will make giving a speech easier and less stressful.
How to best use this page
Read the page all the way through to familiarize yourself with the terms and the process. When you're done, click the link at the foot of the page to download and print the blank sample speech outline template for your own use.
How to outline a speech: 4 essential steps
The process of outlining a speech is broken down into 4 essential steps.
(Click a heading to find out more about each one)
- deciding on your topic
- considering the audience and refining your topic to suit them
- deciding on the purpose of the speech
- choosing an organizational method to support your speech purpose
- opening greeting and attention getter
- defining your thesis statement (a summary of what your speech is about)
- establishing your credibility
- an overview and the benefit to the audience
- transition or link between introduction and body
- main ideas with supporting ideas
- examples and details
- summary of main points
- closer or call to action
Remember this old saying?
First: tell them what you're going to tell them. Second: tell them. Third: tell them what you told them.
A simple, or basic, speech outline follows that advice.
- 'Tell them what you're going to tell them' becomes your introduction
- 'Tell them' forms the body
- 'Tell them what you told them' is your conclusion
Step 1 - Preparation for writing a speech outline
You need to complete this step before you do anything else. It is made up of five smaller steps, each of them an important part of the overall process. The decisions you make at this point will have a major impact on the final outcome of your speech.
By the time you are finished step 1 you will have:
- decided on your topic
- analyzed your audience
- refined your topic to meet the needs of your audience
- decided on the specific purpose of your speech
- chosen the best fitting of six organizational patterns to use - one matching your purpose and your material
Start with choosing a topic
The place to begin is deciding what you are going to talk about.
For example, if you are a realtor (real estate agent) who has been asked to talk to a suburban community group residential real estate seems like a good logical topic to pick.
(If you don't have a topic in mind, go to speech topics . You'll find 100s of them ordered by speech type and theme.)
Put yourself to one side & focus on your audience
However, before you make a final decision considering more closely who will be listening to you makes better sense than assuming whatever you come up with will be right!
How do you really know what aspects of your topic are best suited to meet your audience's needs? Or what would be of real benefit for them to hear about?
The scope of the topic 'residential real estate' is huge.
Your speech could cover any number of sub-topics like: financial advice for first home buyers, how to thoroughly check a house before purchase, the rise of mortgagee default sales, the collapse of property development schemes, how to purchase properties for makeovers...
Analyze your audience
So before you settle on the exact topic of your speech analyze your audience .
Without analysis you are 'guessing' what would be interesting and relevant for them to hear.
Refine your topic
Using what you found out about your audience, decide on an aspect of your topic that will be of benefit to them and the angle you will take on it. Take care with this. One size does not fit all!
For example a speech on housing affordability which includes a step by step plan toward buying a first home will likely interest an audience of youngish, (late 20s- early 40s), people with steady professional incomes.
But for another audience, (e.g. one that is older, less financially secure, or younger and not ready to consider settling yet...), it could be completely inappropriate.
Minimize the risk of getting it wrong by finding out as much as you can about your audience.
Deciding on the purpose of your speech
What is the purpose of this speech? Why are you giving it?
Is it to persuade or inform? Is it to demonstrate, entertain, or welcome? Or is it a combination of these?
What do you want your speech to achieve? Is there a particular action you want people to take as a result of listening to you?
Your answers to all of these questions will dictate what organizational pattern you'll use for your speech, its content and tone.
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Choosing an organizational pattern or method
There are 6 basic organizational patterns or methods of arranging the body (main points) of your material. Choose the one most appropriate for your need.
1. Cause - Effect
Because event 'A' happened, event 'B' occurred.
- Because the driver was speeding, they crashed the car.
- Because of the earthquake, the city was destroyed.
- Because the minimum wage is low, families can not afford good health care.
2. Problem - Solution
The problem is 'X'. The answer is 'Y'.
- The problem is unaffordable housing. The solution is community funded housing complexes.
- The problem is unemployment. The solution is meaningful, sustainable education and employment programs.
- The problem is poor food choices. The solution is practical community outreach programs to teach people about nutrition, food buying, storage and preparation, along side living wages, educational and employment programs.
This pattern suits a broad topic which can be broken down into naturally occurring sub-topics.
- The broad topic is 'Vocal Variety'. Its sub-topics include rate of speech, use of pausing, voice tone, volume, articulation...
- The broad topic is 'Organizational speech patterns'. Sub-topics could be problem-solution, cause- effect, logical...
- The broad topic is 'Residential real estate'. Its sub-topics could include houses for first-home buyers, how to apply for a mortgage, how to select the right neighborhood to buy in, the impact of high-density housing...
4. Spatial or geographic
Use this pattern for topics dealing with physical spaces.
- The 10 most popular tourist attractions in New Zealand.
- The European migration patterns of the 19th century.
- The population shift from country to town in USA.
5. Time or chronological/sequential
These are either historical topics or demonstration speeches. The foundation of both is an ordered sequence of events.
- The history of women's suffrage in USA, the abolition of slavery
- How to bake a cake, how to mend a puncture in a bicycle tire, or how to knot a tie
6. Advantage - disadvantage
Use this pattern to examine the range of positive and negative aspects of an idea or event.
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of private schooling?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of lowering the voting age?
- What is good about supporting local industry? What is negative about supporting local industry?
Step Two - Outlining the introduction
The 5 parts of preparing an introduction
1. greeting & attention getter.
How are you going to greet your audience, grab their attention and compel them to listen?
You could use a rhetorical question, a startling statistic, a quotation or a humorous one-liner. To be effective it must be related to your topic and apt for your audience.
- Rhetorical question How many of you really are more afraid of public speaking than death?
- A startling statistic Apparently in USA 75% of the population experiences public speaking anxiety. Some just a little. And some a lot.
- A quotation Mark Twain famously said, there are only two types of speakers in the world: the nervous and the liars.
- Humorous Speaker of United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi set a record for the longest speech on the House floor: 8 hours and 7 minutes. Relax. I only plan on taking 15 minutes of your valuable time. * * Be careful with humor. It will only work if it's appropriate; that is fitting for the occasion, and understood by the majority of your audience. For more about Nancy's record: Nancy Pelosi's all-day marathon speech sets record as longest continuous speech since at least 1909.
For more on effective speech openings see: How to write a speech introduction - 12 of the best ways to start a speech
2. Thesis statement
This is a short summary of your speech topic and your point of view or angle.
Green politics is no longer a fanciful fringe fad. It is a necessity.
This segment establishes your right to speak on the topic. It cites your qualification or expertise.
Using myself as an example, I can speak about preparing speeches because I've written many over the past twenty or so years. Prior to becoming a professional speech writer , I taught high school level English and drama and I also belonged to the global public speaking club Toastmasters for a long time.
4. Summative overview
This is a brief outline of the main points you are going to cover.
Today I am going to share with you three effective ways to lessen public speaking fear.
The first and second cover aspects of preparation: writing and rehearsal or practice: actually doing the work, rather than being frightened of it. ☺ The third is about the benefits of public speaking.
What's in your speech for your audience? Why will they want to hear what you've got to tell them? Be specific. Tell them.
When you make a decision to speak up in public you also gain: confidence, the ability to take on leadership roles, a growing collection of presentation skills like story telling, how to use your voice, the ability to use props well, how to listen, how to craft a speech to meet the needs of specific audiences... In short, you release the potential to become a bigger and better you * .
( * For more see 14 benefits of public speaking .)
Step Three - Outlining the body of your speech
This is the heart of your speech, the place where you lay out what you want to share with your audience.
Generally three main ideas, along with supporting examples, work more effectively than four or five or more. If you have a number of them to choose from, go with your three strongest points. And if one of your final three is noticeably weaker sandwich it between the other two.
If you intend to use visual aids (slides showing graphs, tables or images), or actual props, mark them in too.
Note: If you're unsure about the exact nature of links or transitions and how they work or what they are, you'll find more about them, with examples, on my page how to write a speech
- Main Idea 3 - Supporting ideas - Details and examples - Visuals or props - Transition to...
Step Four - Outlining the conclusion of your speech
There are four parts to preparing an effective conclusion to your speech. Use them to draw together and summarize all the material from your introduction and the body of your speech, and end with a clincher!
- Summary of main ideas These are the main points you covered in the body of your speech.
- Re-statement of thesis statement Use the statement from your introduction to reinforce your message.
- Re-statement of benefit to audience Remind the audience of the benefits they'll receive through carrying out whatever your propose. Again this comes from your introduction.
- Closer, Clincher or Call to Action This is your final sentence. To ensure your speech ends with a bang rather than a whimper check out this page on how to end a speech memorably. You'll find options and examples.
Get your printable sample speech outline template
This is a simple four page PDF of all four steps and their sub- headings with spaces for you to write your notes. Click to download and print your sample speech outline now.
2 completed examples of speech outlines
Use these links to go to a fully completed:
- demonstration speech outline example on how to leave an effective voice mail message (with a free printable sequential demonstration speech outline template)
- persuasive speech topic outline example on overcoming public speaking fear using Monroe's Motivated Sequence (with a free printable MMS persuasive speech outline template)
Example impromptu speech outline patterns
Impromptu speech outline patterns - seven different structural formats, each with completed examples and a free blank printable outline for you to download and use.
Other resources for preparing successful speeches
Want to know more about preparing speeches, planning and writing, rehearsing a speech.
Once you're done with planning, completing your sample speech outline and writing find out how to rehearse. A speech is a live performance. Rehearsal helps you expose and iron out glitches before you find them out the hard way - in front of your audience.
And if your speech is being assessed check out this standard speech evaluation form to see what aspects are likely to be judged and how a rating scale works.
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Module 4: Organizing and Outlining
Outlining your speech.
Most speakers and audience members would agree that an organized speech is both easier to present as well as more persuasive. Public speaking teachers especially believe in the power of organizing your speech, which is why they encourage (and often require) that you create an outline for your speech. Outlines , or textual arrangements of all the various elements of a speech, are a very common way of organizing a speech before it is delivered. Most extemporaneous speakers keep their outlines with them during the speech as a way to ensure that they do not leave out any important elements and to keep them on track. Writing an outline is also important to the speechwriting process since doing so forces the speakers to think about the main points and sub-points, the examples they wish to include, and the ways in which these elements correspond to one another. In short, the outline functions both as an organization tool and as a reference for delivering a speech.
“Alpena Mayor Carol Shafto Speaks at 2011 Michigan Municipal League Convention” by Michigan Municipal League. CC-BY-ND .
There are two types of outlines. The first outline you will write is called the preparation outline . Also called a working, practice, or rough outline, the preparation outline is used to work through the various components of your speech in an inventive format. Stephen E. Lucas  put it simply: “The preparation outline is just what its name implies—an outline that helps you prepare the speech” (p. 248). When writing the preparation outline, you should focus on finalizing the purpose and thesis statements, logically ordering your main points, deciding where supporting material should be included, and refining the overall organizational pattern of your speech. As you write the preparation outline, you may find it necessary to rearrange your points or to add or subtract supporting material. You may also realize that some of your main points are sufficiently supported while others are lacking. The final draft of your preparation outline should include full sentences, making up a complete script of your entire speech. In most cases, however, the preparation outline is reserved for planning purposes only and is translated into a speaking outline before you deliver the speech.
A speaking outline is the outline you will prepare for use when delivering the speech. The speaking outline is much more succinct than the preparation outline and includes brief phrases or words that remind the speakers of the points they need to make, plus supporting material and signposts.  The words or phrases used on the speaking outline should briefly encapsulate all of the information needed to prompt the speaker to accurately deliver the speech. Although some cases call for reading a speech verbatim from the full-sentence outline, in most cases speakers will simply refer to their speaking outline for quick reminders and to ensure that they do not omit any important information. Because it uses just words or short phrases, and not full sentences, the speaking outline can easily be transferred to index cards that can be referenced during a speech.
Because an outline is used to arrange all of the elements of your speech, it makes sense that the outline itself has an organizational hierarchy and a common format. Although there are a variety of outline styles, generally they follow the same pattern. Main ideas are preceded by Roman numerals (I, II, III, etc.). Sub-points are preceded by capital letters (A, B, C, etc.), then Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, etc.), and finally lowercase letters (a, b, c, etc.). Each level of subordination is also differentiated from its predecessor by indenting a few spaces. Indenting makes it easy to find your main points, sub-points, and the supporting points and examples below them. Since there are three sections to your speech— introduction, body, and conclusion— your outline needs to include all of them. Each of these sections is titled and the main points start with Roman numeral I.
Outline Formatting Guide
Title: Organizing Your Public Speech
Topic: Organizing public speeches
Specific Purpose Statement: To inform listeners about the various ways in which they can organize their public speeches.
Thesis Statement: A variety of organizational styles can used to organize public speeches.
Introduction Paragraph that gets the attention of the audience, establishes goodwill with the audience, states the purpose of the speech, and previews the speech and its structure.
I. Main point
A. Sub-point B. Sub-point C. Sub-point
1. Supporting point 2. Supporting point
Conclusion Paragraph that prepares the audience for the end of the speech, presents any final appeals, and summarizes and wraps up the speech.
In addition to these formatting suggestions, there are some additional elements that should be included at the beginning of your outline: the title, topic, specific purpose statement, and thesis statement. These elements are helpful to you, the speechwriter, since they remind you what, specifically, you are trying to accomplish in your speech. They are also helpful to anyone reading and assessing your outline since knowing what you want to accomplish will determine how they perceive the elements included in your outline. Additionally, you should write out the transitional statements that you will use to alert audiences that you are moving from one point to another. These are included in parentheses between main points. At the end of the outlines, you should include bibliographic information for any outside resources you mention during the speech. These should be cited using whatever citations style your professor requires. The textbox entitled “Outline Formatting Guide” provides an example of the appropriate outline format.
If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading. – Lao Tzu
This chapter contains the preparation and speaking outlines for a short speech the author of this chapter gave about how small organizations can work on issues related to climate change (see appendices). In this example, the title, specific purpose, thesis, and list of visual aids precedes the speech. Depending on your instructor’s requirements, you may need to include these details plus additional information. It is also a good idea to keep these details at the top of your document as you write the speech since they will help keep you on track to developing an organized speech that is in line with your specific purpose and helps prove your thesis. At the end of the chapter, in Appendix A, you can find a full length example of a Preparation (Full Sentence) Outline.
In Appendix B, the Preparation Outline is condensed into just a few short key words or phrases that will remind speakers to include all of their main points and supporting information. The introduction and conclusion are not included since they will simply be inserted from the Preparation Outline. It is easy to forget your catchy attention-getter or final thoughts you have prepared for your audience, so it is best to include the full sentence versions even in your speaking outline.
Using the Speaking Outline
“TAG speaks of others first” by Texas Military Forces. CC-BY-ND .
Once you have prepared the outline and are almost ready to give your speech, you should decide how you want to format your outline for presentation. Many speakers like to carry a stack of papers with them when they speak, but others are more comfortable with a smaller stack of index cards with the outline copied onto them. Moreover, speaking instructors often have requirements for how you should format the speaking outline. Whether you decide to use index cards or the printed outline, here are a few tips. First, write large enough so that you do not have to bring the cards or pages close to your eyes to read them. Second, make sure you have the cards/pages in the correct order and bound together in some way so that they do not get out of order. Third, just in case the cards/pages do get out of order (this happens too often!), be sure that you number each in the top right corner so you can quickly and easily get things organized. Fourth, try not to fiddle with the cards/pages when you are speaking. It is best to lay them down if you have a podium or table in front of you. If not, practice reading from them in front of a mirror. You should be able to look down quickly, read the text, and then return to your gaze to the audience.
Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. – Albert Einstein
- Lucas, Stephen E. (2004). The art of public speaking (8th edition). New York: McGraw-Hill. ↵
- Beebe, S. A. & Beebe, S. J. (2003). The public speaking handbook (5th edition). Boston: Pearson. ↵
- Chapter 8 Outlining Your Speech. Authored by : Joshua Trey Barnett. Provided by : University of Indiana, Bloomington, IN. Located at : http://publicspeakingproject.org/psvirtualtext.html . Project : The Public Speaking Project. License : CC BY-NC-ND: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives
- Alpena Mayor Carol Shafto Speaks at 2011 Michigan Municipal League Convention. Authored by : Michigan Municipal League. Located at : https://flic.kr/p/aunJMR . License : CC BY-ND: Attribution-NoDerivatives
- TAG speaks of others first. Authored by : Texas Military Forces. Located at : https://www.flickr.com/photos/texasmilitaryforces/5560449970/ . License : CC BY-ND: Attribution-NoDerivatives
- Preparation , Structure
How to write a speech outline
- June 12, 2020
What is a speech outline? Think of it as a blueprint for a successful speech or presentation. You wouldn’t start construction on a house or building without a blueprint and you shouldn’t build a speech or presentation without proper preparation. That means having a basic outline.
How do you write a speech outline?
How do you create a good speech outline? Although writing a speech outline might seem daunting at first, if you break the task into small steps, it can be easier than you think. And, when you start to look at the component parts of a speech or presentation, you realize that good speech craft is all about prioritizing your ideas, putting them in the right order and adding supporting detail.
In this post, I set out the steps that I follow when writing an effective outline that will lead to an effective speech or presentation. For the purposes of this post, I will assume that you know the topic and the audience.
The steps to writing a speech outline
Step 1 – big picture.
Before you start writing your outline, it is important to step back and think about some big picture items.
First, think about the three cornerstones to your speech or presentation: the speaker (you); your subject; and your audience. Now, think about the relationships between these three cornerstones and make some notes about each. For example,
Speaker – Subject: What do you know about the subject? Why are you speaking about it? What expertise do you have? What insights can you share with the audience?
Audience – Subject: What does the audience know about the subject? Do they like the subject? Do they not like it? How is the subject relevant for the audience?
Speaker – Audience: What do you know about the people who will attend your presentation? What do they know about you? Do you have any ongoing relationship with them?
The purpose of this step is to get you to step back from the detail and think “big picture” about your speaking engagement.
Step 2 – Objective
What is your objective for the talk? What do you want people to do when have finished speaking?
People often tell me that they just want the audience to know something. The most powerful speeches and presentations are the ones that move people to action. If you can get people to take some concrete action, you will have made an impact.
When thinking about what you want the audience to do, be specific. For example, do you want them to increase your department’s budget or invest in your start-up or exercise three times a week? Write out your objective as follows:
“At the end of the presentation, the audience will ___________________ .”
Step 3 – Message
A speech or presentation should have a message, something that holds it together. The French call this le fil rouge – the red thread – that runs through the entirety of the presentation. People often try to pack in several messages but being too informative is not good; the result is often confusing for those listening. Of course, your message can have different parts, but it should have a single, unifying message.
Write the message of your speech in a single sentence. It must be a grammatically correct sentence, not a series of points. When you can distill your speech or presentation into a single sentence, the message will be clear in your mind. If you cannot, you need to spend more time thinking about the message. As Albert Einstein said, if you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it well enough.
When developing your speech outline in the steps below, use the message as a gauge for everything that goes into the speech. As you develop your talk, as you think about adding a slide, a statistic, a story, a chart, a graph, etc., ask yourself whether it supports the key message. If it does, it can stay. If it doesn’t, leave it out.
Step 4 – Relevance
A speech or presentation is never about the speaker or her product or service or company. It is always about the audience. When speakers put the audience first , that’s when great things happen.
Now that you have your message, list the reasons why your audience should care about your message. How is your message relevant to them?
You need at least one reason. If you can’t think of any, you have a problem. Either you are giving the wrong speech or you are speaking to the wrong audience. Go back to Step 3 and reconsider your message in light of Steps 1 and 2. Keep doing this until you can list one or more reasons why people should care about what you are saying.
Step 5 – Structure
Every speech or presentation needs structure in order for it to have an impact.
There are three basic parts to ever speech or presentation: the opening; the body; and the conclusion. For the purposes of this post, I will discuss them in that order. However, when working on your speech outline, I recommend starting with the body, then working on the opening and finally the conclusion.
Your opening is the introduction to your presentation. You get one chance to make a good first impression, so you want your opening to be strong. Preparation is key. A strong opening has two parts.
People’s attention is at its highest at the beginning of your presentation so you want to capitalize on it. Speakers who begin in a mundane fashion — “Good morning everyone. I’m happy to be here. My name is So-and-So and today we are going to talk about X” — often miss the opportunity to hook their audience’s attention.
There is no rule that says you have to begin with “Good morning” or something similar. There is no rule that introducing yourself has to be the first thing you do. And as for being happy, don’t say it. Show it in your smile and enthusiasm.
You can hook your audience’s attention from the outset in different ways. For example:
- Ask a rhetorical question
- Ask people to imagine something or recall a time in their lives when something happened
- Make a bold statement
- Tell an interesting fact
- Recite a quote
- Tell a story
Whatever you choose, be sure that it relates to the topic of your presentation. For your speech outline write down how you will immediately grab the audience’s attention.
Once you have hooked them, you need to let people know where you are going with your presentation. Otherwise, the audience will get frustrated. Have you ever been in the audience and wondered: Where is he going with this? What’s her point? Like I said, it’s frustrating.
You need to signpost your talk. It doesn’t take much but it is a big help for your audience. It is a simple, informative statement of what the talk is about.
For example: “Today I want to share with you three reasons why we should open an office in southeast Asia: lower taxation; a skilled workforce; and market proximity.” Clearly, there is more to know about the proposal, but the sentence is a clear signpost to the audience as to what the presentation will be about.
The body of your presentation is where you develop your message in detail. This part represents the bulk of you presentation, so you need to give it some thought. Here’s how I go about it.
(i) Gather content
You need content for your presentation. Often, you can talk about many points in support of your message. Write them all down. Don’t edit your ideas yet. Write down everything that you could talk about, no matter how insignificant. Try to distill each idea into a word or short phrase.
When you have finished, your preparation should leave you with a sheet full of ideas. You are now ready for the next step.
(ii) Choose the most important points
Leonardo da Vinci said that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Too often, speakers fail to hit the mark because they try to cover too much information. People can only remember so much information. The more you add, the harder it will be for them to remember. Removing information will actually help them.
Of course, the number of points you cover will depend on how much time you have. You can cover more topics in a 30-minute presentation that you can in a 5-minute presentation.
Still, don’t try to talk about everything. What are the main points? Pick what is most important for this audience on this occasion and focus on that. You can always tell the audience that there is more to know but that you are only going to focus on a few ideas.
I know that leaving material out can be difficult, but you have to do it. Think for a moment about the complexity of the projects on which you are currently working. If you were asked to give a 20-minute presentation on any one of those projects, I’d bet that you could only cover a fraction of the detail related to it.
(iii) Order the points
Once you know the ideas you are going to discuss, you need to order them in a logical manner that supports your message. Depending on what you are talking about, you have different options. Here are five possible ways to order your content:
- Chronological (for example, the history of a company or product)
- Sequential (for example, a process or business plan)
- Climax (when trying to persuade the audience to do something; points arranged from the least important to the most important, thus building to a climax)
- Headline (also when trying to persuade the audience to do something but here, the points arranged from the most important to the least important; useful for a small audience of busy, senior, give-me-the-bottom-line-now people)
- Pros and Cons (when considering options)
Your ideas must be presented in a coherent manner so that they help people understand the reasoning behind your message.
(iv) Add supporting detail
Now that the ideas are in the right order, you want to add supporting detail for each one. Your ideas need to be supported if they are to be convincing.
Examples of supporting detail include data, charts and graphs, stories, quotes, authoritative sources, visuals, metaphors, demonstrations and more. A good presentation will have a variety of supporting material. That is why this part of the process takes a fair bit of preparation.
For each of your main points, list the things that you will use to support that point. If you are going to use slides as part of the presentation, you can even sketch out a rough idea as to what each slide will contain.
Transitions in a presentation do not make up a large part of a presentation, but they are important. Too often, the different points in a presentation blend into each other like the compartments on a train. This makes it more challenging for the audience to follow.
It is important to leave enough space between two ideas so that the audience understands that you are moving onto a new point. Just as you need to signpost what your talk is about in the opening, you also need to signal when you are moving on to a new point in your talk.
A transition can be a simple statement. For example, “The next point is …” or “Another reason in support is …” or “Now that we’ve discussed X, let’s look at Y …”. Any of these will suffice. But a simple statement will allow the audience to shift gears mentally and get ready for the next idea.
On your speech outline, make a note about how each section of the body links to the following section.
You want to finish on a strong note. Too many people waste their conclusions with a weak “Thank you” and exit the stage. You have to resist that urge and maximize your conclusion. You can plan for it in your speech outline.
(i) Transition to conclusion
Plan how you will transition from the final point in the body of your presentation to the conclusion. It should send a clear signal to the audience that you are nearing the end. One way is to link your conclusion to your opening.
(ii) Link to opening
Most people think of a presentation as something that is linear but I like to think of it as something that is circular . In other words, you link your conclusion to your opening.
Thus, for example, if you began with a story, you could finish the story; if you began with a quote, you could come back to the quote; if you told an interesting fact, you could reiterate it (and perhaps add another interesting fact).
Linking your conclusion to the opening is not necessary, but it always adds a nice polish to your presentation and signals to your audience that you are approaching the end. In your speech outline, write down how you might link your conclusion to your opening.
(iii) Repeat and summarize message
Repeating your message as a simple statement will reinforce it in the mind of your audience. Succinctly summarize the different points in support, in the same order in which you presented them in the body of your talk.
(iv) Call to action
As discussed in Step 2 (Objective), the most powerful presentations are the ones that move the audience to take some kind of action. Now is the time to leave the audience with your call to action.
If your call to action is a big one, have a simple first step that they can take. Studies show that if you can get people to take a small step towards a larger goal, the chances of them reaching that goal are greatly increased.
One example of a first step that I have used with a few clients is to have them insert a slide at the end of the deck with a QR code on it. The code links to a website where the audience can learn more about the topic and perhaps download PDF document. It is a simple and effective way to start moving your audience toward your objective.
When you give a presentation, it is your job to get the audience across the metaphorical bridge that separates them from your idea. How do you do that? It all starts with the preparation of a good speech outline.
How do you write a speech outline? One step at a time.
Like this article?
Excellent, clear and concise overview — thank you, John! For me, including a clear call to action is my weakest point. I will definitely work on that. (I think it’s very much linked to self-confidence: “Who am I to suggest a call to action to you, audience members?” Is this a gender issue, to some extent, I wonder? I’d love to hear from other women speakers about this point. Or any observations from you as a mentor/coach/trainer, John?)
Thank you very much, Merryl. I am glad that you enjoyed the post. I understand your point about the call to action. I know that some women struggle with it, but I also know men who struggle with it as well. There is, as you say, this feeling of “Who am I to tell you what to do?” but then again, who aren’t you to tell me? At the end of the day, I will decide whether to agree with you or not. But if you don’t sound invested, the chances that I will be invested are diminished. In this regard, this post , and the wonderful video in it, about speaking with conviction might help. Good luck with your speeches and presentations!
Excellent. This one a definite keeper! Hugs Mom
Thanks, Mom. Much appreciated.
Delighted to see a mention of the Red Thread here. It’s the backbone of a great talk, but often the hardest thing for people to find (and thus why I wanted to figure out a way to help people find it).
Great suggestions here for how to build a talk from there — thank you.
Thanks a lot John I will use it today for a strategy presentation. 😉
Good luck with the presentation, Michel!
Gems! Love the questions about how much the audience likes the subject – great way to see it from their viewpoint.
Also love your point about getting people to take a small, easy step, to get the ball rolling.
That’s actually the last piece of a 3-part model I use for getting listeners to act:
1. Announce your call-to-action (A) 2. Convince people to own it (C) 3. Transform it into steps (T)
It’s as if you build a bridge between your call-to-action and your listeners’ everyday lives. (See the link for some sample techniques.)
Great post, John. A little longer, but well worth the read!
Thanks, Craig. “ACT” is a great acronym for getting people to … act. I also like the metaphor of a bridge. I often say that your audience is on one side of the river and you want to get them to see things from your side. To do that, you have to build a bridge that allows them to cross over.
Great info, thanks !
Thank you for sharing that consistent and concise methode on how to outline a speech which is extremeley helpful. I will certainly apply that approach in planning my speeches.
I am glad that you found it helpful, Günther. Thanks for letting me know.
Excellent post: simple, to the point, easy-to-follow, compelling. Like a speech! 🙂
Thank you for summing it up in a neat package, John!
Thank you, Lisa Marie.
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John delivered a keynote address about the importance of public speaking to 80 senior members of Gore’s Medical Device Europe team at an important sales event. He was informative, engaging and inspirational. Everyone was motivated to improve their public speaking skills. Following his keynote, John has led public speaking workshops for Gore in Barcelona and Munich. He is an outstanding speaker who thinks carefully about the needs of his audience well before he steps on stage.
TA Leader, Gore and Associates
I first got in touch with John while preparing to speak at TED Global about my work on ProtonMail. John helped me to sharpen the presentation and get on point faster, making the talk more focused and impactful. My speech was very well received, has since reached almost 1.8 million people and was successful in explaining a complex subject (email encryption) to a general audience.
CEO, Proton Technologies
John gave the opening keynote on the second day of our unit’s recent offsite in Geneva, addressing an audience of 100+ attendees with a wealth of tips and techniques to deliver powerful, memorable presentations. I applied some of these techniques the very next week in an internal presentation, and I’ve been asked to give that presentation again to senior management, which has NEVER happened before. John is one of the greatest speakers I know and I can recommend his services without reservation.
Senior Data Scientist, Expedia Group
After a morning of team building activities using improvisation as the conduit, John came on stage to close the staff event which was organised in Chamonix, France. His energy and presence were immediately felt by all the members of staff. The work put into the preparation of his speech was evident and by sharing some his own stories, he was able to conduct a closing inspirational speech which was relevant, powerful and impactful for all at IRU. The whole team left feeling engaged and motivated to tackle the 2019 objectives ahead. Thank you, John.
Umberto de Pretto
Secretary General, World Road Transport Organization
I was expecting a few speaking tips and tricks and a few fun exercises, but you went above and beyond – and sideways. You taught me to stand tall. You taught me to anchor myself. You taught me to breathe. You taught me to open up. You taught me to look people in the eye. You taught me to tell the truth. You taught me to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. I got more than I bargained for in the best possible way.
World Cancer Day Campaign Manager, Union for International Cancer Control
John gave a brilliant presentation on public speaking during the UN EMERGE programme in Geneva (a two days workshop on leadership development for a group of female staff members working in the UN organizations in Geneva). His talk was inspirational and practical, thanks to the many techniques and tips he shared with the audience. His teaching can dramatically change our public speaking performance and enable us as presenters to have a real and powerful impact. Thank you, John, for your great contribution!
HR Specialist, World Health Organization
John is a genuine communication innovator. His seminars on gamification of public speaking learning and his interactive Rhetoric game at our conference set the tone for change and improvement in our organisation. The quality of his input, the impact he made with his audience and his effortlessly engaging style made it easy to get on board with his core messages and won over some delegates who were extremely skeptical as to the efficacy of games for learning. I simply cannot recommend him highly enough.
National Education Director, Association of Speakers Clubs UK
John joined our Global Sales Meeting in Segovia, Spain and we all participated in his "Improv(e) your Work!" session. I say “all” because it really was all interactive, participatory, learning and enjoyable. The session surprised everybody and was a fresh-air activity that brought a lot of self-reflection and insights to improve trust and confidence in each other inside our team. It´s all about communication and a good manner of speaking!"
General Manager Europe, Hayward Industries
Thank you very much for the excellent presentation skills session. The feedback I received was very positive. Everyone enjoyed the good mix of listening to your speech, co-developing a concrete take-away and the personal learning experience. We all feel more devoted to the task ahead, more able to succeed and an elevated team spirit. Delivering this in a short time, both in session and in preparation, is outstanding!
CFO European Dairy Supply Chain & Operations, Danone
Thanks to John’s excellent workshop, I have learned many important tips and techniques to become an effective public speaker. John is a fantastic speaker and teacher, with extensive knowledge of the field. His workshop was a great experience and has proven extremely useful for me in my professional and personal life.
Senior Sales Manager, Sunrise Communications
John’s presentation skills training was a terrific investment of my time. I increased my skills in this important area and feel more comfortable when speaking to an audience. John provided the right mix between theory and practice.
Director of the Jura Region, BKW Energie AG
Be BOLD. Those two words got stuck in my head and in the heads of all those ADP leaders and associates that had the privilege to see John on stage. He was our keynote speaker at our annual convention in Barcelona, and his message still remains! John puts his heart in every word. Few speakers are so credible, humble and yet super strong with large audiences!
Senior Director and Talent Partner, ADP International
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Speech Preparation #3: Don’t Skip the Speech Outline
This article describes how to support your core message with a speech outline , and provides numerous examples . This is the second step in the six-step speech preparation process .
Writing an outline is, unfortunately, a step that many skip. The most common excuse is simply “ No time. ” This is unfortunate because time spent on an outline is time well spent. It is necessary to ensure that you craft a coherent and focussed presentation .
- How to Prepare Your Presentation
- Select Your Speech Topic
- Plan Your Speech Outline
- Writing Your First Draft
- Editing Your Speech
- Add Speech Impact with Rhetorical Devices
- Staging, Gestures, and Vocal Variety
- Practicing Your Presentation
- Self-Critique: Preparation for Next Time
- Winning a Toastmasters Speech Contest
Writing a Speech Outline
- Basic Speech Outline
- Speech Outline Variants
- Outline Writing Tips
- Speech Outline Extended Example
An outline is a blueprint for your presentation .
- It highlights the key logical elements . i.e. what points are being made to logically support the core message?
- It highlights the key structural elements . e.g. introduction, body, conclusion, stories, high-level concepts
- It links these elements together in a sequence , perhaps allocating very rough timings.
- It can also map out the transitions between elements , although this may be deferred to a later stage of preparation.
Basic Speech Outlines
“ An outline is a blueprint for your presentation. ”
The basic speech outline template for structural elements is:
Similarly, the basic speech outline template for logical elements is the familiar advice:
- Tell them what you’re going to say
- Tell them what you’ve said
Put these together, and you have the start of a generic speech outline :
- Introduction — Establish topic and core message; list supporting points
- Supporting Point One
- Supporting Point Two
- Supporting Point Three
- Conclusion — Recap main points; summarize core message; call-to-action
It is surprising how well this simple 3-part outline template works for a wide range of speech topics. Incidentally, this same basic formula can be seen in novels, short stories, movies, plays, reports, business briefings, emails, memos, and many other forms of communication.
For many more examples , check out Why Successful Speech Outlines follow the Rule of Three .
Variants or Examples of Speech Outlines
Example: story-based outline.
Some people believe that stories are the best building blocks for speeches. For example, in The Story Factor (Annette Simmons) , the author claims that storytelling is the key to business communications .
- Attention grabbing opening which introduces the topic and core message
- Make a point
- Make another point.
- Make another point
- Memorable conclusion which ties together all three stories to support the core message.
Example: Scientific Conference Talk Outline
The outline for many scientific talks mirrors the scientific method :
- Define the problem needing a solution
- Describe the hypothesis which will explore one aspect of the problem
- Detail 1 — schematic
- Detail 2 — photograph
- Detail 3 — description
- Data analysis 1 — chart
- Data analysis 2 — chart
- Data analysis 3 — table
- Draw conclusions relating back to the hypothesis
- Suggest future actions
Example: Community Association Meeting Speech Outline
- Story to introduce the symptom (e.g. vandalism)
- A strong call-to-action motivating the audience to join the cause
Example: Business Proposal to Investors
- Be direct: “Invest $___ for %___ of the shares”
- Story to illustrate the need for the product XYZ
- Story to describe the vision of how product XYZ improves lives
- Benefit #1 (focus on benefits, not features)
- Story illustrating strength of the team
- Market analysis
- Financial projections
- Repeat call-to-action: “Invest $___ for %___ of the shares”
Other Speech Outline Writing Tips
“ When sequencing your outline points, try to avoid random order. Seek and extract the meaningful relationship. ”
Note that all of these speech outline examples are appropriate for a short six to ten minute speech . Longer time windows will obviously allow for more detailed outlines.
You may be able to customize one of the generic speech outline formats for your speech; more likely, you will need to craft your own to fit your situation. A few other things to consider:
- The granularity of your outline should be roughly one outline point per minute of speaking time, perhaps less for lengthy presentations.
- Remember that your presentation is much more than your set of slides . Your outline should reflect your speaking elements which the slides complement.
- Chronological – e.g. a biographical speech
- Spatial – e.g. an entertaining travel speech
- Cause-effect – e.g. speech relating crime rate to drug use
- Low to high importance – e.g. reasons to exercise
- Broad vision to specific details – e.g. a management speech outlining new company direction
- Your outline is not the same as cue cards , but they are related (if you use cue cards). An outline contains high-level speech elements; cue cards might additionally contain selected speech details e.g. transition phrases, key words/phrases, key numbers, or punch lines.
Speech Outline Example — Face the Wind
Here is the original outline that I put together for the Face the Wind speech. Comments follow which represent my thinking at the time of writing the outline.
- Opening humor – connect with audience as typical home owner
- “Strong roots… strong tree”
- Foreshadow: neighbour’s monster tree falling
- National news (trees falling on houses), but our house okay
- Arborists: “Wind came from a different direction”
- Establish key analogy – Trees cannot face the wind.
- Michelle and Lance have strong roots
- Maximus is born
- Call-to-action: “We must face our problems”
Comments on Face the Wind Outline
At the outline stage, I set up many key elements of the speech. I determined the three main stories, planned humorous opening, identified a few key phrases to incorporate, established contrast (tree/people), used a metaphor (roots of people), and concluded with a call-to-action.
Opening – I wanted to open with humor to offset the drama later in the speech. Also, I wanted to connect with the audience as a homeowner as many in the audience are also homeowners.
Story #1 – I wanted the first story to establish the “strong roots… strong tree” connection. By establishing that trees have strong roots, it makes the fact that they were toppled in the storm (story #2) more dramatic.
Story #2 – This story was essentially an expansion of the “wind came from a different direction” theory of arborists that I picked up several months prior from my friend. The fact that trees cannot face the wind is the key analogy in this speech, although the audience doesn’t know it yet.
Story #3 – This story tells about the struggles which eventually led to the birth of Maximus. The key element here is the contrast between trees and people (who can face the wind).
Next in the Speech Preparation Series
The next article in this series discusses the causes of writer’s block and writing the first draft of your speech .
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Andrew, I can’t imagine not using an outline! In fact, for most of my presentations, I ONLY write an outline and use just that for all of my preparation. Can’t have a body without a skeleton!
Hi Lisa I am a student at Ashworth University. I love that school. I received my Associate in Criminal Justice, and now working on my Bachelor in Early Childhood Development. My Bachelor is online and it is kicking me Real Hard! lol I truly wish I had the confident you have about the outline. I have about 30 sheets of papers in front of me and I have NO ideal of where to start!
Thanks, good information. I needed a refresher on some of this information. Much appreciated. 🙂
i think to have a speach outline can help in the long run!!
This is an extremely good article which helps me a lot!
I am one of the students of CST 100 at Northern Virginia community college Annandale campus.
Writing an outline is such as good help. It helps me to underline all the points that I am going to say, and also it helps me not to focus on my notes so that I can make a great eye contact with my audiences. My speech goes smoothly when I do my outline before that.
Thank you for sharing! Great information to build a speech that will impact listeners. I quill share your page with others!
Fantastic resource. I suggest it to students all the time.
This was a very helpful article. Thank you. I give my second speech tomorrow. I hope to execute all you have taught us.
Awesome Article. Definitely great starter points for anyone wanting to write a speech. I have been stuck on my speech writing and now I feel more confident in progressing forward.
Speech Preparation #3: Don't Skip the Speech Outline http://t.co/tddYaIe4 via @6minutes — Ms. Petrini Dec 29th, 2012
This article teaches you how to quickly outline your next speech. #speaking http://t.co/bSZLbOD23U — @blazelazarony Feb 10th, 2014
In public speaking, creating an outline is a vital step. Here are some tips to give you a hand http://t.co/1qq1SzU6iw — @EIU_CMN_1310 Sep 30th, 2015
So you’ve settled on a topic, and it’s something that you are passionate about, you know the ins and outs of the… https://t.co/0HBAWaL4a8 — R/Hm Toastmasters WA (@RHmToastmasters) Jan 5th, 2016
Speech Preparation: Speech Outline Examples https://t.co/HV5cxk7EQX by @6minutes — @ashokqs Feb 7th, 2016
https://t.co/08ZrGXfrl4 — @YoYoManojKumar2 Mar 5th, 2016
Speech Preparation #3: Don’t Skip the Speech Outline https://t.co/aw0vZrsuRY by @6minutes — @touriiy Jan 30th, 2017
Speech Preparation: Speech Outline Examples https://t.co/jeX0WpDISy by @6minutes #Toastmasters #publicspeaking #prepared — @ClaudiaLeBaron Apr 25th, 2017
Don’t skip the speech outline! https://t.co/dnMuvCBMbz #CYSA17 #SpeakingUpforAg #publicspeaking — CYSA (@CYSAgriculture) Jul 11th, 2017
Speech Preparation #3: Don’t Skip the Speech Outline https://t.co/cvGT2B2WjO by @6minutes — @ShlokamS Jan 30th, 2019
8 Blog Links
S.O.A.P.S. Activity « Mrs. Henson’s Blog — Mar 13th, 2009
Speech Preparation « Mrs. Henson’s Blog — Sep 15th, 2009
3 simple ways to improve your public speaking « Low Hanging Fruit — Nov 12th, 2009
Public Speaking Training — Dec 22nd, 2009
Potential Speech Formats « Space/Place/Identity/Affect — Sep 4th, 2012
Speech Preparation | Managerial Communication Everyday — Sep 25th, 2012
PowerPoint Presentations - what NOT to write | English Editing Blog — Nov 21st, 2012
Prepare that speech | E-WOT — Apr 28th, 2013
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COMM 101: Fundamentals of Public Speaking - Valparaiso · The Introduction -- This is where you tell them what you're going to tell them. · The Body -- This is
The best way to write a speech outline is to write the main points of your greeting and introduction in the first section, including your name and what you'll
You'll include the main parts of your speech—the introduction, main points, and conclusion. But you'll add a little extra detail about each one, too. This might
Specifically, you should have a clear introduction, main ideas that are easy to follow, and a conclusion to wrap up the speech. This form highlights the typical
How to outline a speech: 4 essential steps · Preparation-. deciding on your topic; considering the audience and refining your topic to suit them
Chapters. View all · Introduction · Introduction · Introduction · Opening · Opening · Opening · Premise · Premise.
Do you want to get paid to speak?https://www.stagetimeuniversity.com/get-paid-to-speak-training/Want to be an unforgettable
Indenting makes it easy to find your main points, sub-points, and the supporting points and examples below them. Since there are three sections to your speech—
The steps to writing a speech outline · Step 1 – Big Picture · Step 2 – Objective · Step 3 – Message · Step 4 – Relevance · Step 5 – Structure.
Basic Speech Outlines · Introduction — Establish topic and core message; list supporting points · Body. Supporting Point One; Supporting Point Two