Preparation: How to write a Speech Outline (with Examples)

You have been chosen to give a speech on a particular topic and you reckon that you’re a good speech writer.

However, without a good speech outline, your speech lacks the proper skeleton to put meat on.

A speech outline is to a speech what a blueprint is to an unconstructed building.

So, how do you develop a good speech outline? First, break it down into small steps as this will make it easier for you to prioritize your ideas and organize them in the right order before you add more details to them.

How to Make an Outline for a Speech

Below are steps that will enable you to write an effective speech outline for your presentation.

You should start by asking yourself:

a) What is the big picture?

Before you begin writing your outline, you should take a step back and think about your speech as a whole.

big-picture

First, think about the 3 keystones for your presentation or speech, i.e. the audience, your subject matter and of course, you, as the speaker.

Then, write a few notes down about each keystone and how they relate with each other. For instance,

  • With regard to your presentation’s subject matter and the audience, what does the audience know about the subject? Do they find the subject interesting or not at all? Is the subject relevant to them?
  • What do you as the speaker know about the subject in question? What are the reasons behind your presentation? Do you have any expertise on the matter? What new information will you be sharing with your audience?

A good outline will help you engage with your audience in a way that not only captures their attention but enables them to understand the subject matter.

b) What is your objective?

This refers to the goal of your presentation. Here, you should ask yourself, what do you want your audience to do after your presentation is over?

speech-outline-objective

While the objective for most speakers is for their audience to know something, that may not be enough. The best presentations and speeches are those that move people to act.

If you would prefer to make an impact in such a way, then you should ensure that you are as specific as you can be when deciding on your objective in your speech outline.

c) What is your message?

Your message is what holds your presentation or speech together. This is not to mean that you shouldn’t have different parts in your speech, but it does mean that your speech should have one message that you are trying to put across.

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Trying to include several different messages in your speech may confuse your audience, which makes it harder for them to understand the main point you are trying to convey. 

To do this, summarize the message of your presentation in one statement. This will not only allow you to understand the message in its entirety but also allow you to explain the message to your audience in a way that is easy to understand.

You can now use the statement you wrote above to help you develop your speech outline. Using the statement to determine whether a certain point supports your main message will ensure that your speech flows and doesn’t include any information not relevant to your subject topic.

d) How is your presentation relevant?

When it comes to a presentation or speech, the audience should always come first. That is why as a speaker, you should always keep your audience in mind when presenting.

If you have already decided on the message you will be conveying to your audience, you should now ask yourself; how is your message relevant to the audience?

audience

If you can’t come up with a reason why your presentation is relevant, then it’s back to the drawing board for you. This could mean that you will be presenting to the wrong audience or you will be giving the wrong presentation.

You can refer back to step (c) then review steps (a) and (b) for clarity.

e) Your speech structure

This is a very important part of your presentation as without it, your speech will have no impact on the audience. Therefore, you should ensure that you include the speech structure in your speech outline.

A structure has 3 basic parts; the introduction, the body and the conclusion. It should be noted though that when working on your speech outline, a common suggestion is to begin with the body before developing both your introduction and conclusion.

structure-of-a-presentation

Under your speech structure, the introduction is the opening of your speech/presentation. To make a good first impression on your audience, ensure that your introduction is strong.

This doesn’t have to be the usual, “Good morning, my name is YXZ…” Instead, capture your audience’s attention by either telling a story or an interesting fact, recite a quote, ask your audience to recall or imagine something or even ask a rhetorical question!

Related: How to Start a Speech to Engage Your Audience

The body of your presentation represents the bulk of your speech. You should therefore ensure that your main points can be explained in detail and that they have been organized in a logical order that makes your message easy to comprehend.

Similar to your introduction, you should finish on a strong note when it comes to your conclusion. You can do this by linking your conclusion to your introduction, after which you can then echo and summarize your message’s main points.

Different Speech Outline Examples

Below are a few examples of different speech outlines that you can use as a basis to write your own outline. Choosing the right one that works for you may depend on the type of speech you will be giving.

1. Persuasive Speech Outline

Persuasive presentations and speeches usually have a specific purpose in mind; either to urge the audience to take action on something or persuade them to adopt a certain view or opinion of something.

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This type of outline allows you, the speaker, to focus on the subject matter point while arguing your case in the most effective and compelling way to your audience.

A persuasive speech outline is made up of these parts:

  • An introduction
  • The body
  • The conclusion
  • Source Citation

The first three parts are common in most if not all presentations; please refer to step (e) to familiarize yourself with them once more.

A source citation is simply citing the sources for the research and facts that you presented in your speech. Remember you are trying to persuade your audience, so authoritative sources add weight to your argument.

2. Informative Speech Outline

There are different types of informative outlines. These include:

  • The informative speech outline
  • The informative presentation outline
  • The informative essay outline

These outlines are made up of 3 basic parts; the introduction, body and conclusion. For purposes of this article, we will be discussing the informative speech outline.

The central objective of an informative speech is to offer unique, useful and interesting information to your audience. Before choosing your informative speech topic, you should consider your overall objective.  

informative speech

Additionally, there are various types of informative speeches, including:

  • Concept - These are used to discuss abstract ideas like ideas and theories.
  • Process - These are used when describing broad processes.
  • Event - These are used to explain things that may happen, are already happening or those that have happened already.
  • Object - These are used when talking about products, places or people.

In addition to this, there are patterns that can be used to organize your speech outline. These will be chosen depending on your speech type.

Types of these patterns include:

  • Chronological or sequential - This pattern deals with a sequence of events; which could be useful in demonstration speeches or when discussing historical topics
  • Spatial or geographic - Use this pattern when discussing topics that deal with physical spaces
  • Logical - This pattern is suitable for a broad topic that has been broken down into sub-topics.
  • Advantage-disadvantage - This pattern can be used when you will be examining a range of negative and positive aspects of an event or idea

Furthermore, there are 2 possibilities for preparing a speech outline; the speaking and preparation outline.

The speaking outlines make use of phrases and keywords, which helps keep you focused on the subject matter while the preparation outline is used to help you develop your speech and makes use of full sentences.

3. Demonstrative Speech Outline

A demonstrative speech is an instructional speech that teaches the audience something by demonstrating the process.

explain-with-chart

Here are the basic steps for a demonstrative speech:

  1. Ask yourself why you choose this topic and why it is important to the audience
  2. Provide an overview
  3. Explain the steps involved in your process
  4. Talk about variations, other options
  5. Ensure you allot time for Q&A
  6. Give a brief summary

For a more in-depth guide on writing demonstrative speeches, click here.

Pro-Tip: Write down the specific purpose of your speech and your topic of discussion as you formulate your generic speech outline.

Conclusion: On Speech Outline Formats

As you become better at writing and delivering speeches, you will soon learn that the different outline formats described above aren’t mutually exclusive. Rather, situations often make it necessary to mix different formats.

What are you waiting for? Go out there and grow your confidence as a speech writer and speaker!