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How to Write an Informative Speech
Last Updated: October 6, 2022 Fact Checked
This article was co-authored by Lynn Kirkham . Lynn Kirkham is a Professional Public Speaker and Founder of Yes You Can Speak, a San Francisco Bay Area-based public speaking educational business empowering thousands of professionals to take command of whatever stage they've been given - from job interviews, boardroom talks to TEDx and large conference platforms. Lynn was chosen as the official TEDx Berkeley speaker coach for the last four years and has worked with executives at Google, Facebook, Intuit, Genentech, Intel, VMware, and others. There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 1,379,338 times.
An informative speech tells an audience about a process, event, or concept. Whether you’re explaining how to grow a garden or describing a historical event, writing an informative speech is pretty straightforward. Knowing the topic inside and out is key, so start by conducting thorough research. Organize your speech logically so your audience can easily follow, and keep your language clear. Since speeches are recited out loud, be sure to set aside time after writing to perfect your delivery.
Researching the Topic
- Suppose your prompt instructs you to inform the audience about a hobby or activity. Make a list of your clubs, sports, and other activities, and choose the one that interests you most. Then zoom in on one particular aspect or process to focus on in your speech.
- For instance, if you like tennis, you can’t discuss every aspect of the sport in a single speech. Instead, you could focus on a specific technique, like serving the ball.
- For example, if your speech is about a historical event, find primary sources, like letters or newspaper articles published at the time of the event. Additionally, include secondary sources, such as scholarly articles written by experts on the event.
- If you’re informing the audience about a medical condition, find information in medical encyclopedias, scientific journals, and government health websites.
Tip: Organize your sources in a works cited page. Even if the assignment doesn’t require a works cited page, it’ll help you keep track of your sources.  X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
- For instance, if your speech is on growing plants from seeds, explain the process step-by-step to a friend or relative. Ask them if any parts in your explanation seemed muddy or vague.
- Break down the material into simple terms, especially if you’re addressing a non-expert audience. Think about how you’d describe the topic to a grandparent or younger sibling. If you can’t avoid using jargon, be sure to define technical words in clear, simple terms.
- For example, if your speech is on the poet Charles Baudelaire, a strong thesis would be, “I am here to explain how city life and exotic travel shaped the key poetic themes of Charles Baudelaire’s work.”
- While the goal of an informative speech isn't to make a defensible claim, your thesis still needs to be specific. For instance, “I’m going to talk about carburetors” is vague. “My purpose today is to explain how to take apart a variable choke carburetor” is more specific.
- For instance, a speech meant to persuade an audience to support a political stance would most likely include examples of pathos, or persuasive devices that appeal to the audience's emotions.
- On the other hand, an informative speech on how to grow pitcher plants would present clear, objective steps. It wouldn't try to argue that growing pitcher plants is great or persuade listeners to grow pitcher plants.
Drafting Your Speech
- Delivering memorized remarks instead of reading verbatim is more engaging. A section of a speaking outline would look like this: III. YMCA’s Focus on Healthy Living A. Commitment to overall health: both body and mind B. Programs that support commitment 1. Annual Kid’s Day 2. Fitness facilities 3. Classes and group activities
- For example, you could begin with, “Have you ever wondered how a figure skater could possibly jump, twist, and land on the thin blade of an ice skate? From proper technique to the physical forces at play, I’ll explain how world-class skaters achieve jaw-dropping jumps and spins.”
- Once you've established your purpose, preview your speech: “After describing the basic technical aspects of jumping, I’ll discuss the physics behind jumps and spins. Finally, I’ll explain the 6 types of jumps and clarify why some are more difficult than others.”
- Some people prefer to write the speech's body before the introduction. For others, writing the intro first helps them figure out how to organize the rest of the speech.
- For instance, if your speech is about the causes of World War I, start by discussing nationalism in the years prior to the war. Next, describe the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, then explain how alliances pulled the major players into open warfare.
- Transition smoothly between ideas so your audience can follow your speech. For example, write, “Now that we’ve covered how nationalism set the stage for international conflict, we can examine the event that directly led to the outbreak of World War I: the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.  X Research source
- For instance, your conclusion could point out, “Examining the factors that set the stage for World War I shows how intense nationalism fueled the conflict. A century after the Great War, the struggle between nationalism and globalism continues to define international politics in the twenty-first century.”
- Typically, speeches aren’t read verbatim. Instead, you’ll memorize the speech and use a bare bones outline to stay on track.
Avoid information overload: When you compose your speech, read out loud as you write. Focus on keeping your sentence structures simple and clear. Your audience will have a hard time following along if your language is too complicated.  X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source
Perfecting Your Delivery
- While it’s generally okay to use slightly different phrasing, try to stick to your complete outline as best you can. If you veer off too much or insert too many additional words, you could end up exceeding your time limit.
- Keep in mind your speaking outline will help you stay focused. As for quotes and statistics, feel free to write them on your notecards for quick reference.
Memorization tip: Break up the speech into smaller parts, and memorize it section by section. Memorize 1 sentence then, when you feel confident, add the next. Continue practicing with gradually longer passages until you know the speech like the back of your hand.
- Instead of slouching, stand up tall with your shoulders back. In addition to projecting confidence, good posture will help you breathe deeply to support your voice.
- Have them point out any spots that dragged or seemed disorganized. Ask if your tone was engaging, if you used body language effectively, and if your volume, pitch, and pacing need any tweaks.
- If you keep exceeding the time limit, review your complete sentence outline. Cut any fluff and simplify complicated phrases. If your speech isn’t long enough, look for areas that could use more detail or consider adding another section to the body.
- Just make sure any content you add is relevant. For instance, if your speech on nationalism and World War I is 2 minutes too short, you could add a section about how nationalism manifested in specific countries, including Britain, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Serbia.
Sample Informative Speeches
- You're probably much better at informative speeches than you think! If you have ever told your parents about your day at school or explained to a friend how to make chicken noodle soup, you already have experience giving an informative speech! Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0
- If you get nervous, try to relax, take deep breaths, and visualize calming scenery. Remember, there’s nothing to worry about. Just set yourself up for success by knowing the material and practicing. Thanks Helpful 3 Not Helpful 0
- When composing your speech, take your audience into consideration, and tailor your speech to the people you’re addressing. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 1
You Might Also Like
- ↑ https://courses.lumenlearning.com/suny-realworldcomm/chapter/11-1-informative-speeches/
- ↑ https://2012books.lardbucket.org/books/a-primer-on-communication-studies/s11-01-informative-speeches.html
- ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_formatting_and_style_guide/mla_works_cited_page_basic_format.html
- ↑ https://open.lib.umn.edu/communication/chapter/11-1-informative-speeches/
- ↑ https://www.comm.pitt.edu/informative-speaking
- ↑ https://rasmussen.libanswers.com/faq/337550
- ↑ Lynn Kirkham. Public Speaking Coach. Expert Interview. 20 November 2019.
- ↑ https://www.hamilton.edu/academics/centers/oralcommunication/guides/how-to-outline-a-speech
- ↑ https://wac.colostate.edu/resources/writing/guides/informative-speaking/
- ↑ https://www.comm.pitt.edu/structuring-speech
- ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/speeches/
- ↑ https://www.speechanddebate.org/wp-content/uploads/High-School-Competition-Events-Guide.pdf
- ↑ https://open.lib.umn.edu/communication/chapter/10-4-physical-delivery/
About This Article
To write an informative speech, start with an introduction that will grab your audience's attention and give them an idea of where the rest of your speech is headed. Next, choose 3 important points that you want to make to form the body of your speech. Then, organize the points in a logical order and write content to address each point. Finally, write a conclusion that summarizes the main points and ends with a message that you want your audience to take away from it. For tips on researching topics for an informative speech, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No
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UTNIF-IE Summer Camps: An Introduction to Writing Informative Speeches
- Randy Cox, Curriculum Director for Speech
- Brendon Bankey, Curriculum Director for Debate
A Video Primer
An informative speech teaches the audience about something they do not know about, or gives the audience a new perspective on something they do know about. What constitutes a "good" informative topic is difficult to define, as informatives come in many different styles and types. You can write a technical or scientific informative, a general interest informative, info-tainment, etc. The type of informative speech you choose is entirely up to you and what is best suited to your personal interests and presentation needs.
The informative speech is an original, factual speech on a realistic subject. Visual aids often can be used to supplement and reinforce the message. Multiple sources should be used and cited in the development of the speech.
Here are a few tips that may help as you work through the construction of your presentation:
I. Before you begin to write
A. finding a topic.
If you do not already know what you would like to inform an audience about, you can find interesting topics for informative speaking in many places. Look in science magazines like Scientific American, Discover, Popular Science, Psychology Today, etc. Also, look in the science report in the New York Times on Tuesdays, the "Science and Technology" section in The Economist , and the "Developments to Watch" section in BusinessWeek . Also, check in engineering magazines like, Machine Design and Mechanical Engineering . These are just a few ideas--there are plenty of other places to look for informative topics. New connections and interpretations in history, for example, sometimes make for very interesting subject material.
B. Researching the topic
1. Once you have selected a topic--before you attempt to figure out what approach you want to take--research!! Go to the digital and physical libraries, use computerized research databases, and look up your idea. Rack your brain for related words that your topic might be listed under. For example, if you're doing something on, say, ice-- don't limit your search to the word "ice." Look up words like "frozen water," "icebergs," etc. Look up any type of phrase or word that is even remotely related--the results may surprise you. Look for printed information about your topic. Check bibliographies and reference sections to identify names and titles of people who have done work on your topic. It may be the author or someone who was quoted in the article. Try contacting these people to get some information that they may have--ask them questions (this type of evidence is called a primary source).
2. After you've found some materials, don't stop researching-- you need to read your sources and highlight, underline, block off (or something similar) information which is strong (could be statistics, an example, a statement about the significance of your topic, etc.) After this step is completed, you should know whether you're missing a piece of evidence that is crucial (e.g., you don't have a solid significance statement). If you're missing something, go back and do more research or get back on the phone to call more primary sources.
II. Writing the speech
A. the introductory section.
1. Begin with an anecdote or some other Attention-Getting-Device to grab your audience right off the bat. You need something that will make them sit up and will draw them into your speech.
2. Next, you need to add a significance statement-- the "somebody else who's really important thinks this is a big deal, too" statement. Sometimes you can find an article which states the significance in a very general way-- sometimes you may even be able to cite an authoritative person who knows something about your topic.
3. State your thesis explicitly.
4. Preview your structure. Forecast your main points and be very specific. For example, "First, we'll look at the development of trains; second, we'll focus on the current level of the technology; and, finally, we'll examine the plans that could revolutionize the industry and the implications they hold." If you can come up with a metaphor or analogy that will sum up the speech and that you can carry through each of the transitions--use it in the preview.
5. Last but not least--the wrap statement. You need a nice finish statement that helps you to move out of the preview and into the first point.
B. The body of the speech
In light of the fact that there are a million different types of informative topics, there are a million different types of organization you can use-- it all depends on the information you have on your topic. There's the "past-present-future," the "what it is-where we are with it-and where we might be going with it," the "what it is-how beneficial it is for us-what problems it poses," etc.
Refer to your public speaking instructor for possibilities. For example, you may choose a topical breakdown, or a spacial structure, or an investigative informative structure. Your instructor may have other suggestions.
C. The conclusion
In many respects, the conclusion is a mirror image of the introduction. At the end of the third area, you need to have some sort of wrap statement (as per usual), but this one needs to have some sense of finality (simply put--you need to let the audience know that this is the end of the information you have). Then, you need an opening line to get you into the conclusion section; this can either refer to the intro or analogy (if you pulled one throughout) or refer generally to the topic. You may want to restate your thesis explicitly, and follow it with a structural summary-- make sure you keep your tag phrases the same as in your preview. Finally, wrap up the whole speech. Preferably, you should tie this into the intro if you didn't do so with the opening line. Most of all in this wrap statement--make sure to pull out all the stops with the topic. Don't let your audience lose sight of its significance. If your ending isn't catchy, full of hope for a better world, etc., you could leave the audience wondering why they even bothered listening for the past several minutes!
For some example competition speeches from the American Forensic Association, see:
2019 AFA National Final Round videos: https://cornerstone.lib.mnsu.edu/afa-niet-recordings/2019/informative-speaking
2018 AFA National Final Round videos: https://cornerstone.lib.mnsu.edu/afa-niet-recordings/2018/informative-speaking
Have questions about the UTNIF?
Contact our Program Coordinator:
Eric Lanning, 512-471-5518
Come work with some of the top coaches in forensics! Our staff represents the highest levels of competitive accomplishment and education. No matter your incoming level or your future competitive goals, we have the staff that can help you reach for your dreams, be they competitive, performative, or educational. Our staff includes not only former national finalists and champions at both the high school and collegiate levels, but coaches of multiple national champions.
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Planning and Presenting an Informative Speech
In this guide, you can learn about the purposes and types of informative speeches, about writing and delivering informative speeches, and about the parts of informative speeches.
Purposes of Informative Speaking
Informative speaking offers you an opportunity to practice your researching, writing, organizing, and speaking skills. You will learn how to discover and present information clearly. If you take the time to thoroughly research and understand your topic, to create a clearly organized speech, and to practice an enthusiastic, dynamic style of delivery, you can be an effective "teacher" during your informative speech. Finally, you will get a chance to practice a type of speaking you will undoubtedly use later in your professional career.
The purpose of the informative speech is to provide interesting, useful, and unique information to your audience. By dedicating yourself to the goals of providing information and appealing to your audience, you can take a positive step toward succeeding in your efforts as an informative speaker.
Major Types of Informative Speeches
In this guide, we focus on informative speeches about:
These categories provide an effective method of organizing and evaluating informative speeches. Although they are not absolute, these categories provide a useful starting point for work on your speech.
In general, you will use four major types of informative speeches. While you can classify informative speeches many ways, the speech you deliver will fit into one of four major categories.
Speeches about Objects
Speeches about objects focus on things existing in the world. Objects include, among other things, people, places, animals, or products.
Because you are speaking under time constraints, you cannot discuss any topic in its entirety. Instead, limit your speech to a focused discussion of some aspect of your topic.
Some example topics for speeches about objects include: the Central Intelligence Agency, tombstones, surgical lasers, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the pituitary gland, and lemmings.
To focus these topics, you could give a speech about Franklin Delano Roosevelt and efforts to conceal how he suffered from polio while he was in office. Or, a speech about tombstones could focus on the creation and original designs of grave markers.
Speeches about Processes
Speeches about processes focus on patterns of action. One type of speech about processes, the demonstration speech, teaches people "how-to" perform a process. More frequently, however, you will use process speeches to explain a process in broader terms. This way, the audience is more likely to understand the importance or the context of the process.
A speech about how milk is pasteurized would not teach the audience how to milk cows. Rather, this speech could help audience members understand the process by making explicit connections between patterns of action (the pasteurization process) and outcomes (a safe milk supply).
Other examples of speeches about processes include: how the Internet works (not "how to work the Internet"), how to construct a good informative speech, and how to research the job market. As with any speech, be sure to limit your discussion to information you can explain clearly and completely within time constraints.
Speeches about Events
Speeches about events focus on things that happened, are happening, or will happen. When speaking about an event, remember to relate the topic to your audience. A speech chronicling history is informative, but you should adapt the information to your audience and provide them with some way to use the information. As always, limit your focus to those aspects of an event that can be adequately discussed within the time limitations of your assignment.
Examples of speeches about events include: the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington, Groundhog's Day, the Battle of the Bulge, the World Series, and the 2000 Presidential Elections.
Speeches about Concepts
Speeches about concepts focus on beliefs, ideas, and theories. While speeches about objects, processes, and events are fairly concrete, speeches about concepts are more abstract. Take care to be clear and understandable when creating and presenting a speech about a concept. When selecting a concept, remember you are crafting an informative speech. Often, speeches about concepts take on a persuasive tone. Focus your efforts toward providing unbiased information and refrain from making arguments. Because concepts can be vague and involved, limit your speech to aspects that can be readily explained and understood within the time limits.
Some examples of topics for concept speeches include: democracy, Taoism, principles of feminism, the philosophy of non-violent protest, and the Big Bang theory.
Strategies for Selecting a Topic
In many cases, circumstances will dictate the topic of your speech. However, if the topic has not been assigned or if you are having difficulty figuring out how to frame your topic as an informative speech,the following may be useful.
Begin by thinking of your interests. If you have always loved art, contemplate possible topics dealing with famous artists, art works, or different types of art. If you are employed, think of aspects of your job or aspects of your employer's business that would be interesting to talk about. While you cannot substitute personal experience for detailed research, your own experience can supplement your research and add vitality to your presentation. Choose one of the items below to learn more about selecting a topic.
Learn More about an Unfamiliar Topic
You may benefit more by selecting an unfamiliar topic that interests you. You can challenge yourself by choosing a topic you'd like to learn about and to help others understand it. If the Buddhist religion has always been an interesting and mysterious topic to you, research the topic and create a speech that offers an understandable introduction to the religion. Remember to adapt Buddhism to your audience and tell them why you think this information is useful to them. By taking this approach, you can learn something new and learn how to synthesize new information for your audience.
Think about Previous Classes
You might find a topic by thinking of classes you have taken. Think back to concepts covered in those classes and consider whether they would serve as unique, interesting, and enlightening topics for the informative speech. In astronomy, you learned about red giants. In history, you learned about Napoleon. In political science, you learned about The Federalist Papers. Past classes serve as rich resources for informative speech topics. If you make this choice, use your class notes and textbook as a starting point. To fully develop the content, you will need to do extensive research and perhaps even a few interviews.
Talk to Others
Topic selection does not have to be an individual effort. Spend time talking about potential topics with classmates or friends. This method can be extremely effective because other people can stimulate further ideas when you get stuck. When you use this method, always keep the basic requirements and the audience in mind. Just because you and your friend think home-brew is a great topic does not mean it will enthrall your audience or impress your instructor. While you talk with your classmates or friends, jot notes about potential topics and create a master list when you exhaust the possibilities. From this list, choose a topic with intellectual merit, originality, and potential to entertain while informing.
Framing a Thesis Statement
Once you settle on a topic, you need to frame a thesis statement. Framing a thesis statement allows you to narrow your topic, and in turns allows you to focus your research in this specific area, saving you time and trouble in the process.
Selecting a topic and focusing it into a thesis statement can be a difficult process. Fortunately, a number of useful strategies are available to you.
Thesis Statement Purpose
The thesis statement is crucial for clearly communicating your topic and purpose to the audience. Be sure to make the statement clear, concise, and easy to remember. Deliver it to the audience and use verbal and nonverbal illustrations to make it stand out.
Strategies For Framing a Thesis Statement
Focus on a specific aspect of your topic and phrase the thesis statement in one clear, concise, complete sentence, focusing on the audience. This sentence sets a goal for the speech. For example, in a speech about art, the thesis statement might be: "The purpose of this speech is to inform my audience about the early works of Vincent van Gogh." This statement establishes that the speech will inform the audience about the early works of one great artist. The thesis statement is worded conversationally and included in the delivery of the speech.
Thesis Statement and Audience
The thesis appears in the introduction of the speech so that the audience immediately realizes the speaker's topic and goal. Whatever the topic may be, you should attempt to create a clear, focused thesis statement that stands out and could be repeated by every member of your audience. It is important to refer to the audience in the thesis statement; when you look back at the thesis for direction, or when the audience hears the thesis, it should be clear that the most important goal of your speech is to inform the audience about your topic. While the focus and pressure will be on you as a speaker, you should always remember that the audience is the reason for presenting a public speech.
Avoid being too trivial or basic for the average audience member. At the same time, avoid being too technical for the average audience member. Be sure to use specific, concrete terms that clearly establish the focus of your speech.
Thesis Statement and Delivery
When creating the thesis statement, be sure to use a full sentence and frame that sentence as a statement, not as a question. The full sentence, "The purpose of this speech is to inform my audience about the early works of Vincent van Gogh," provides clear direction for the speech, whereas the fragment "van Gogh" says very little about the purpose of the speech. Similarly, the question "Who was Vincent van Gogh?" does not adequately indicate the direction the speech will take or what the speaker hopes to accomplish.
If you limit your thesis statement to one distinct aspect of the larger topic, you are more likely to be understood and to meet the time constraints.
Researching Your Topic
As you begin to work on your informative speech, you will find that you need to gather additional information. Your instructor will most likely require that you locate relevant materials in the library and cite those materials in your speech. In this section, we discuss the process of researching your topic and thesis.
Conducting research for a major informative speech can be a daunting task. In this section, we discuss a number of strategies and techniques that you can use to gather and organize source materials for your speech.
Gathering materials can be a daunting task. You may want to do some research before you choose a topic. Once you have a topic, you have many options for finding information. You can conduct interviews, write or call for information from a clearinghouse or public relations office, and consult books, magazines, journals, newspapers, television and radio programs, and government documents. The library will probably be your primary source of information. You can use many of the libraries databases or talk to a reference librarian to learn how to conduct efficient research.
While doing your research, you may want to carry notecards. When you come across a useful passage, copy the source and the information onto the notecard or copy and paste the information. You should maintain a working bibliography as you research so you always know which sources you have consulted and so the process of writing citations into the speech and creating the bibliography will be easier. You'll need to determine what information-recording strategies work best for you. Talk to other students, instructors, and librarians to get tips on conducting efficient research. Spend time refining your system and you will soon be able to focus on the information instead of the record-keeping tasks.
Citing Sources Within Your Speech
Consult with your instructor to determine how much research/source information should be included in your speech. Realize that a source citation within your speech is defined as a reference to or quotation from material you have gathered during your research and an acknowledgement of the source. For example, within your speech you might say: "As John W. Bobbitt said in the December 22, 1993, edition of the Denver Post , 'Ouch!'" In this case, you have included a direct quotation and provided the source of the quotation. If you do not quote someone, you might say: "After the first week of the 1995 baseball season, attendance was down 13.5% from 1994. This statistic appeared in the May 7, 1995, edition of the Denver Post ." Whatever the case, whenever you use someone else's ideas, thoughts, or words, you must provide a source citation to give proper credit to the creator of the information. Failure to cite sources can be interpreted as plagiarism which is a serious offense. Upon review of the specific case, plagiarism can result in failure of the assignment, the course, or even dismissal from the University. Take care to cite your sources and give credit where it is due.
Creating Your Bibliography
As with all aspects of your speech, be sure to check with your instructor to get specific details about the assignment.
Generally, the bibliography includes only those sources you cited during the speech. Don't pad the bibliography with every source you read, saw on the shelf, or heard of from friends. When you create the bibliography, you should simply go through your complete sentence outline and list each source you cite. This is also a good way to check if you have included enough reference material within the speech. You will need to alphabetize the bibiography by authors last name and include the following information: author's name, article title, publication title, volume, date, page number(s). You may need to include additional information; you need to talk with your instructor to confirm the required bibliographical format.
When doing research, use caution in choosing your sources. You need to determine which sources are more credible than others and attempt to use a wide variety of materials. The broader the scope of your research, the more impressive and believable your information. You should draw from different sources (e.g., a variety of magazines-- Time, Newsweek, US News & World Report, National Review, Mother Jones ) as well as different types of sources (i.e., use interviews, newspapers, periodicals, and books instead of just newspapers). The greater your variety, the more apparent your hard work and effort will be. Solid research skills result in increased credibility and effectiveness for the speaker.
Structuring an Informative Speech
Typically, informative speeches have three parts:
In this section, we discuss the three parts of an informative speech, calling attention to specific elements that can enhance the effectiveness of your speech. As a speaker, you will want to create a clear structure for your speech. In this section, you will find discussions of the major parts of the informative speech.
The introduction sets the tone of the entire speech. The introduction should be brief and to-the-point as it accomplishes these several important tasks. Typically, there are six main components of an effective introduction:
Thesis statement, audience adaptation, credibility statement, transition to the body.
As in any social situation, your audience makes strong assumptions about you during the first eight or ten seconds of your speech. For this reason, you need to start solidly and launch the topic clearly. Focus your efforts on completing these tasks and moving on to the real information (the body) of the speech. Typically, there are six main components of an effective introduction. These tasks do not have to be handled in this order, but this layout often yields the best results.
The attention-getter is designed to intrigue the audience members and to motivate them to listen attentively for the next several minutes. There are infinite possibilities for attention-getting devices. Some of the more common devices include using a story, a rhetorical question, or a quotation. While any of these devices can be effective, it is important for you to spend time strategizing, creating, and practicing the attention-getter.
Most importantly, an attention-getter should create curiosity in the minds of your listeners and convince them that the speech will be interesting and useful. The wording of your attention-getter should be refined and practiced. Be sure to consider the mood/tone of your speech; determine the appropriateness of humor, emotion, aggressiveness, etc. Not only should the words get the audiences attention, but your delivery should be smooth and confident to let the audience know that you are a skilled speaker who is prepared for this speech.
The crowd was wild. The music was booming. The sun was shining. The cash registers were ringing.
This story-like re-creation of the scene at a Farm Aid concert serves to engage the audience and causes them to think about the situation you are describing. Touching stories or stories that make audience members feel involved with the topic serve as good attention-getters. You should tell a story with feeling and deliver it directly to the audience instead of reading it off your notecards.
Example Text : One dark summer night in 1849, a young woman in her 20's left Bucktown, Maryland, and followed the North Star. What was her name? Harriet Tubman. She went back some 19 times to rescue her fellow slaves. And as James Blockson relates in a 1984 issue of National Geographic , by the end of her career, she had a $40,000.00 price on her head. This was quite a compliment from her enemies (Blockson 22).
Rhetorical questions are questions designed to arouse curiosity without requiring an answer. Either the answer will be obvious, or if it isn't apparent, the question will arouse curiosity until the presentation provides the answer.
An example of a rhetorical question to gain the audiences attention for a speech about fly-fishing is, "Have you ever stood in a freezing river at 5 o'clock in the morning by choice?"
Example Text: Have you ever heard of a railroad with no tracks, with secret stations, and whose conductors were considered criminals?
A quotation from a famous person or from an expert on your topic can gain the attention of the audience. The use of a quotation immediately launches you into the speech and focuses the audience on your topic area. If it is from a well-known source, cite the author first. If the source is obscure, begin with the quote itself.
Example Text : "No day dawns for the slave, nor is it looked for. It is all night--night forever . . . ." (Pause) This quote was taken from Jermain Loguen, a fugitive who was the son of his Tennessee master and a slave woman.
Making a statement that is unusual to the ears of your listeners is another possibility for gaining their attention.
Example Text : "Follow the drinking gourd. That's what I said, friend, follow the drinking gourd." This phrase was used by slaves as a coded message to mean the Big Dipper, which revealed the North Star, and pointed toward freedom.
You might chose to use tasteful humor which relates to the topic as an effective way to attract the audience both to you and the subject at hand.
Example Text : "I'm feeling boxed in." [PAUSE] I'm not sure, but these may have been Henry "Box" Brown's very words after being placed on his head inside a box which measured 3 feet by 2 feet by 2 1\2 feet for what seemed to him like "an hour and a half." He was shipped by Adams Express to freedom in Philadelphia (Brown 60,92; Still 10).
Another possibility to consider is the use of a factual statistic intended to grab your listener's attention. As you research the topic you've picked, keep your eyes open for statistics that will have impact.
Example Text : Today, John Elway's talents are worth millions, but in 1840 the price of a human life, a slave, was worth $1,000.00.
Example Text : Today I'd like to tell you about the Underground Railroad.
In your introduction, you need to adapt your speech to your audience. To keep audience members interested, tell them why your topic is important to them. To accomplish this task, you need to undertake audience analysis prior to creating the speech. Figure out who your audience members are, what things are important to them, what their biases may be, and what types of subjects/issues appeal to them. In the context of this class, some of your audience analysis is provided for you--most of your listeners are college students, so it is likely that they place some value on education, most of them are probably not bathing in money, and they live in Colorado. Consider these traits when you determine how to adapt to your audience.
As you research and write your speech, take note of references to issues that should be important to your audience. Include statements about aspects of your speech that you think will be of special interest to the audience in the introduction. By accomplishing this task, you give your listeners specific things with which they can identify. Audience adaptation will be included throughout the speech, but an effective introduction requires meaningful adaptation of the topic to the audience.
You need to find ways to get the members of your audience involved early in the speech. The following are some possible options to connect your speech to your audience:
Reference to the Occasion
Consider how the occasion itself might present an opportunity to heighten audience receptivity. Remind your listeners of an important date just passed or coming soon.
Example Text : This January will mark the 130th anniversary of a "giant interracial rally" organized by William Still which helped to end streetcar segregation in the city of Philadelphia (Katz i).
Reference to the Previous Speaker
Another possibility is to refer to a previous speaker to capitalize on the good will which already has been established or to build on the information presented.
Example Text : As Alice pointed out last week in her speech on the Olympic games of the ancient world, history can provide us with fascinating lessons.
The credibility statement establishes your qualifications as a speaker. You should come up with reasons why you are someone to listen to on this topic. Why do you have special knowledge or understanding of this topic? What can the audience learn from you that they couldn't learn from someone else? Credibility statements can refer to your extensive research on a topic, your life-long interest in an issue, your personal experience with a thing, or your desire to better the lives of your listeners by sifting through the topic and providing the crucial information.
Remember that Aristotle said that credibility, or ethos, consists of good sense, goodwill, and good moral character. Create the feeling that you possess these qualities by creatively stating that you are well-educated about the topic (good sense), that you want to help each member of the audience (goodwill), and that you are a decent person who can be trusted (good moral character). Once you establish your credibility, the audience is more likely to listen to you as something of an expert and to consider what you say to be the truth. It is often effective to include further references to your credibility throughout the speech by subtly referring to the traits mentioned above.
Show your listeners that you are qualified to speak by making a specific reference to a helpful resource. This is one way to demonstrate competence.
Example Text : In doing research for this topic, I came across an account written by one of these heroes that has deepened my understanding of the institution of slavery. Frederick Douglass', My Bondage and My Freedom, is the account of a man whose master's kindness made his slavery only more unbearable.
Your listeners want to believe that you have their best interests in mind. In the case of an informative speech, it is enough to assure them that this will be an interesting speech and that you, yourself, are enthusiastic about the topic.
Example Text : I hope you'll enjoy hearing about the heroism of the Underground Railroad as much as I have enjoyed preparing for this speech.
Preview the Main Points
The preview informs the audience about the speech's main points. You should preview every main body point and identify each as a separate piece of the body. The purpose of this preview is to let the audience members prepare themselves for the flow of the speech; therefore, you should word the preview clearly and concisely. Attempt to use parallel structure for each part of the preview and avoid delving into the main point; simply tell the audience what the main point will be about in general.
Use the preview to briefly establish your structure and then move on. Let the audience get a taste of how you will divide the topic and fulfill the thesis and then move on. This important tool will reinforce the information in the minds of your listeners. Here are two examples of a preview:
Simply identify the main points of the speech. Cover them in the same order that they will appear in the body of the presentation.
For example, the preview for a speech about kites organized topically might take this form: "First, I will inform you about the invention of the kite. Then, I will explain the evolution of the kite. Third, I will introduce you to the different types of kites. Finally, I will inform you about various uses for kites." Notice that this preview avoids digressions (e.g., listing the various uses for kites); you will take care of the deeper information within the body of the speech.
Example Text : I'll tell you about motivations and means of escape employed by fugitive slaves.
For example, the preview for a speech about the Pony Express organized chronologically might take this form: "I'll talk about the Pony Express in three parts. First, its origins, second, its heyday, and third, how it came to an end." Notice that this preview avoids digressions (e.g., listing the reasons why the Pony Express came to an end); you will cover the deeper information within the body of the speech.
Example Text : I'll talk about it in three parts. First, its origins, second, its heyday, and third, how it came to an end.
After you accomplish the first five components of the introduction, you should make a clean transition to the body of the speech. Use this transition to signal a change and prepare the audience to begin processing specific topical information. You should round out the introduction, reinforce the excitement and interest that you created in the audience during the introduction, and slide into the first main body point.
Strategic organization helps increase the clarity and effectiveness of your speech. Four key issues are discussed in this section:
Connective devices, references to outside research.
The body contains the bulk of information in your speech and needs to be clearly organized. Without clear organization, the audience will probably forget your information, main points, perhaps even your thesis. Some simple strategies will help you create a clear, memorable speech. Below are the four key issues used in organizing a speech.
Once you settle on a topic, you should decide which aspects of that topic are of greatest importance for your speech. These aspects become your main points. While there is no rule about how many main points should appear in the body of the speech, most students go with three main points. You must have at least two main points; aside from that rule, you should select your main points based on the importance of the information and the time limitations. Be sure to include whatever information is necessary for the audience to understand your topic. Also, be sure to synthesize the information so it fits into the assigned time frame. As you choose your main points, try to give each point equal attention within the speech. If you pick three main points, each point should take up roughly one-third of the body section of your speech.
There are four basic patterns of organization for an informative speech.
- Chronological order
- Spatial order
- Causal order
- Topical order
There are four basic patterns of organization for an informative speech. You can choose any of these patterns based on which pattern serves the needs of your speech.
A speech organized chronologically has main points oriented toward time. For example, a speech about the Farm Aid benefit concert could have main points organized chronologically. The first main point focuses on the creation of the event; the second main point focuses on the planning stages; the third point focuses on the actual performance/concert; and the fourth point focuses on donations and assistance that resulted from the entire process. In this format, you discuss main points in an order that could be followed on a calendar or a clock.
A speech organized spatially has main points oriented toward space or a directional pattern. The Farm Aid speech's body could be organized in spatial order. The first main point discusses the New York branch of the organization; the second main point discusses the Midwest branch; the third main point discusses the California branch of Farm Aid. In this format, you discuss main points in an order that could be traced on a map.
A speech organized causally has main points oriented toward cause and effect. The main points of a Farm Aid speech organized causally could look like this: the first main point informs about problems on farms and the need for monetary assistance; the second main point discusses the creation and implementation of the Farm Aid program. In this format, you discuss main points in an order that alerts the audience to a problem or circumstance and then tells the audience what action resulted from the original circumstance.
A speech organized topically has main points organized more randomly by sub-topics. The Farm Aid speech could be organized topically: the first main point discusses Farm Aid administrators; the second main point discusses performers; the third main point discusses sponsors; the fourth main point discusses audiences. In this format, you discuss main points in a more random order that labels specific aspects of the topic and addresses them in separate categories. Most speeches that are not organized chronologically, spatially, or causally are organized topically.
Within the body of your speech, you need clear internal structure. Connectives are devices used to create a clear flow between ideas and points within the body of your speech--they serve to tie the speech together. There are four main types of connective devices:
Internal previews, internal summaries.
Within the body of your speech, you need clear internal structure. Think of connectives as hooks and ladders for the audience to use when moving from point-to-point within the body of your speech. These devices help re-focus the minds of audience members and remind them of which main point your information is supporting. The four main types of connective devices are:
Transitions are brief statements that tell the audience to shift gears between ideas. Transitions serve as the glue that holds the speech together and allow the audience to predict where the next portion of the speech will go. For example, once you have previewed your main points and you want to move from the introduction to the body of the Farm Aid speech, you might say: "To gain an adequate understanding of the intricacies of this philanthropic group, we need to look at some specific information about Farm Aid. We'll begin by looking at the administrative branch of this massive fund-raising organization."
Internal previews are used to preview the parts of a main point. Internal previews are more focused than, but serve the same purpose as, the preview you will use in the introduction of the speech. For example, you might create an internal preview for the complex main point dealing with Farm Aid performers: "In examining the Farm Aid performers, we must acknowledge the presence of entertainers from different genres of music--country and western, rhythm and blues, rock, and pop." The internal preview provides specific information for the audience if a main point is complex or potentially confusing.
Internal summaries are the reverse of internal previews. Internal summaries restate specific parts of a main point. To internally summarize the main point dealing with Farm Aid performers, you might say: "You now know what types of people perform at the Farm Aid benefit concerts. The entertainers come from a wide range of musical genres--country and western, rhythm and blues, rock, and pop." When using both internal previews and internal summaries, be sure to stylize the language in each so you do not become redundant.
Signposts are brief statements that remind the audience where you are within the speech. If you have a long point, you may want to remind the audience of what main point you are on: "Continuing my discussion of Farm Aid performers . . . "
When organizing the body of your speech, you will integrate several references to your research. The purpose of the informative speech is to allow you and the audience to learn something new about a topic. Additionally, source citations add credibility to your ideas. If you know a lot about rock climbing and you cite several sources who confirm your knowledge, the audience is likely to see you as a credible speaker who provides ample support for ideas.
Without these references, your speech is more like a story or a chance for you to say a few things you know. To complete this assignment satisfactorily, you must use source citations. Consult your textbook and instructor for specific information on how much supporting material you should use and about the appropriate style for source citations.
While the conclusion should be brief and tight, it has a few specific tasks to accomplish:
Re-assert/Reinforce the Thesis
Review the main points, close effectively.
Take a deep breath! If you made it to the conclusion, you are on the brink of finishing. Below are the tasks you should complete in your conclusion:
When making the transition to the conclusion, attempt to make clear distinctions (verbally and nonverbally) that you are now wrapping up the information and providing final comments about the topic. Refer back to the thesis from the introduction with wording that calls the original thesis into memory. Assert that you have accomplished the goals of your thesis statement and create the feeling that audience members who actively considered your information are now equipped with an understanding of your topic. Reinforce whatever mood/tone you chose for the speech and attempt to create a big picture of the speech.
Within the conclusion, re-state the main points of the speech. Since you have used parallel wording for your main points in the introduction and body, don't break that consistency in the conclusion. Frame the review so the audience will be reminded of the preview and the developed discussion of each main point. After the review, you may want to create a statement about why those main points fulfilled the goals of the speech.
Finish strongly. When you close your speech, craft statements that reinforce the message and leave the audience with a clear feeling about what was accomplished with your speech. You might finalize the adaptation by discussing the benefits of listening to the speech and explaining what you think audience members can do with the information.
Remember to maintain an informative tone for this speech. You should not persuade about beliefs or positions; rather, you should persuade the audience that the speech was worthwhile and useful. For greatest effect, create a closing line or paragraph that is artistic and effective. Much like the attention-getter, the closing line needs to be refined and practiced. Your close should stick with the audience and leave them interested in your topic. Take time to work on writing the close well and attempt to memorize it so you can directly address the audience and leave them thinking of you as a well-prepared, confident speaker.
Outlining an Informative Speech
Two types of outlines can help you prepare to deliver your speech. The complete sentence outline provides a useful means of checking the organization and content of your speech. The speaking outline is an essential aid for delivering your speech. In this section, we discuss both types of outlines.
Two types of outlines can help you prepare to deliver your speech. The complete sentence outline provides a useful means of checking the organization and content of your speech. The speaking outline is an essential aid for delivering your speech.
The Complete Sentence Outline
A complete sentence outline may not be required for your presentation. The following information is useful, however, in helping you prepare your speech.
The complete sentence outline helps you organize your material and thoughts and it serves as an excellent copy for editing the speech. The complete sentence outline is just what it sounds like: an outline format including every complete sentence (not fragments or keywords) that will be delivered during your speech.
Writing the Outline
You should create headings for the introduction, body, and conclusion and clearly signal shifts between these main speech parts on the outline. Use standard outline format. For instance, you can use Roman numerals, letters, and numbers to label the parts of the outline. Organize the information so the major headings contain general information and the sub-headings become more specific as they descend. Think of the outline as a funnel: you should make broad, general claims at the top of each part of the outline and then tighten the information until you have exhausted the point. Do this with each section of the outline. Be sure to consult with your instructor about specific aspects of the outline and refer to your course book for further information and examples.
Using the Outline
If you use this outline as it is designed to be used, you will benefit from it. You should start the outline well before your speech day and give yourself plenty of time to revise it. Attempt to have the final, clean copies ready two or three days ahead of time, so you can spend a day or two before your speech working on delivery. Prepare the outline as if it were a final term paper.
The Speaking Outline
Depending upon the assignment and the instructor, you may use a speaking outline during your presentation. The following information will be helpful in preparing your speech through the use of a speaking outline.
This outline should be on notecards and should be a bare bones outline taken from the complete sentence outline. Think of the speaking outline as train tracks to guide you through the speech.
Many speakers find it helpful to highlight certain words/passages or to use different colors for different parts of the speech. You will probably want to write out long or cumbersome quotations along with your source citation. Many times, the hardest passages to learn are those you did not write but were spoken by someone else. Avoid the temptation to over-do the speaking outline; many speakers write too much on the cards and their grades suffer because they read from the cards.
The best strategy for becoming comfortable with a speaking outline is preparation. You should prepare well ahead of time and spend time working with the notecards and memorizing key sections of your speech (the introduction and conclusion, in particular). Try to become comfortable with the extemporaneous style of speaking. You should be able to look at a few keywords on your outline and deliver eloquent sentences because you are so familiar with your material. You should spend approximately 80% of your speech making eye-contact with your audience.
Delivering an Informative Speech
For many speakers, delivery is the most intimidating aspect of public speaking. Although there is no known cure for nervousness, you can make yourself much more comfortable by following a few basic delivery guidelines. In this section, we discuss those guidelines.
The Five-Step Method for Improving Delivery
- Read aloud your full-sentence outline. Listen to what you are saying and adjust your language to achieve a good, clear, simple sentence structure.
- Practice the speech repeatedly from the speaking outline. Become comfortable with your keywords to the point that what you say takes the form of an easy, natural conversation.
- Practice the speech aloud...rehearse it until you are confident you have mastered the ideas you want to present. Do not be concerned about "getting it just right." Once you know the content, you will find the way that is most comfortable for you.
- Practice in front of a mirror, tape record your practice, and/or present your speech to a friend. You are looking for feedback on rate of delivery, volume, pitch, non-verbal cues (gestures, card-usage, etc.), and eye-contact.
- Do a dress rehearsal of the speech under conditions as close as possible to those of the actual speech. Practice the speech a day or two before in a classroom. Be sure to incorporate as many elements as possible in the dress rehearsal...especially visual aids.
It should be clear that coping with anxiety over delivering a speech requires significant advanced preparation. The speech needs to be completed several days beforehand so that you can effectively employ this five-step plan.
Anderson, Thad, & Ron Tajchman. (1994). Informative Speaking. Writing@CSU . Colorado State University. https://writing.colostate.edu/guides/guide.cfm?guideid=52
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7 memorable ways to open a speech or presentation.
After hours of preparation, the moment to deliver your speech has arrived. You’re standing before the podium, all eyes on you, with confidence that no one could take away. Then you begin…
“Hello, everyone. Thank you for having me. My name is ______ _______, and I am going to be speaking to you today about _______. To begin, _______ is important because…”
Suddenly people begin shifting in their seats, checking their phones, reading the program, talking to one another and doing anything but paying attention to you.
Your opening often determines how long the audience will “tune in” to your presentation. If you bore your audience right from the start, there is little chance that your message will effectively get across.
How do you effectively open a speech or presentation to prevent this from happening? Here are seven effective methods to open a speech or presentation:
- Quote Opening with a relevant quote can help set the tone for the rest of your speech. For example, one that I often use to open a presentation dealing with public speaking: “It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” – Mark Twain
- “What If” Scenario Immediately drawing your audience into your speech works wonders. Asking a “what if” question invites the audience to follow your thought process. “What if we were all blunt? How different would our everyday lives be? What would happen if we said what was on our minds, all day every day?”
- “Imagine” Scenario A similar method, but more relevant for sensational examples. It puts your audience members directly into the presentation by allowing each member to visualize an extraordinary scenario. “Imagine jumping out of a skydiving plane and discovering your parachute doesn’t work. What memories would flash before you? Now imagine the parachute opened. How differently would you act when you landed?”
- Question Ask a rhetorical or literal question. When someone is posed with a question, whether an answer is called for or not, that person intuitively answers. “Who wouldn’t want to live on an exotic island?”
- Silence A pause, whether two seconds or 10 seconds, allows your audience to sit and quiet down. Most audiences expect a speaker to begin immediately. An extra pause brings all the attention right where you should want it – on you.
- Statistic Use a surprising, powerful, personalized statistic that will resonate with the audience to get your message across right away. It has the potential to trigger the audiences’ emotional appeal. “Look to your left. Now look to your right. One of your seatmates will ___________.” “In this room, over 90 percent of us are going to _________.”
- Powerful Statement/Phrase A statement or phrase can catch the audience’s attention by keeping them guessing as to what you’re about to say next. Implementing the silence technique afterwards also adds to the effect. “We can not win. We can’t win…” (Pause) “… That’s what every newspaper in the country is saying.”
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How to Write an Introduction for an Informative Speech
Writing the introduction for an informative speech is your chance to either grab the audience’s attention, and hopefully maintain it for the duration of the topic, or lose them and have the speech flail off into the land of sleepy crickets. To write a successful introduction, you will be required to have a commanding knowledge of the subject matter and the ability to use words to create a visual aid for the speaker.
Use everything you know
Know your audience. This is important to writing an introduction because depending on the group receiving the speech, the introduction will need to be tailored to their specific understanding. If your introduction is over their heads, you’ll lose them, and if your beginning is too elementary, you’ll lose them as well. For example, you could write about the three different types of Earth-fault boundaries in an introduction to a group of geologists, but you’d only write about the San Andreas Fault to a group of high school students.
Brainstorm for ideas. Think about the subject of the speech and write down several of the most interesting things about it. Include factual elements on the topic that might move the audience emotionally. Write something that will make them sit up in their seats and pay attention to everything that follows. Humor is good. Use it if you can, but remember you are not writing a stand-up comedy routine.
Get the audience involved. Write a question into the introduction that requires the group to participate. Have them raise their hands by asking a "yes" or "no" question. For example, "How many people in this room have used a public restroom?" This question might be perfect for an informative speech on communicable bathroom diseases.
Write in the active voice so the speaker will speak in the active voice. A good example is, "Ted threw the ball." Don’t write, "The ball was thrown by Ted." Use strong and vivid words that will create lasting images in the listener’s minds. Be clear and concise and remember the types of words used to convey an introduction are just as important as how the introduction is delivered by the speaker.
Write the conclusion of the introduction to easily flow into the body of the speech. If the speaker has an easy transition into his speech, the audience will easily follow him into the next topic. Include in the introduction, a list of topics the speaker will be discussing during the rest of the speech.
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Shane Montgomery is a 16-year veteran writer with more than 700 articles published on wire services and in small market publications across the country. He worked as the editor or managing editor for more than 300 issues of four magazines and two newspapers.
Module 9: Informative Speaking
Organizing the informative speech, learning objectives.
Discern the best organizational approach for types of informative speeches.
Like an essay, a speech should have a clear organizational structure with a recognizable beginning, middle, and end. But unlike an essay where your reader can go back and re-read sections they may not understand or follow, in a speech in front of a live audience your audience can’t stop, rewind, and re-listen to parts of your speech they didn’t follow. For that reason it is especially important to have a clear and easy-to-follow structure to a speech.
In this section, we introduce the characteristic organizational structures of an informative speech. Later on, we’ll explore each of the organizational structural elements in greater detail.
An informative speech can be broken up into three sections:
- Section 1: Introduction. The first section of the speech contains an attention-getter to grab the interest of the audience and orient them to the topic of the speech, a clear thesis that states the purpose of the speech, and a preview of the main points of the speech.
- Section 2: Body. The heart of the speech is the body. The body is where you provide your audience all the information they will need to understand your topic. To make the body of the speech easier for the audience to follow, divide it up into at least two but no more than five main points . Organize the main points in a clear structure appropriate to the topic and thesis and provide supporting examples and/or evidence for each main point.
- Section 3: Conclusion. The conclusion is a short section that reinforces the thesis, summarizes the main points, and provides a sense of closure.
To see an example of an informative speech with a clear introduction, body, and conclusion, watch this speech where the speaker informs her audience how to manage the stress that comes with being a college student.
You can view the transcript for “Stress Informative Speech (with captions)” here (opens in new window) .
Specific Purpose Statement
Once you have a speech topic selected, develop a specific purpose statement. Your purpose statement describes what you want your audience to know as a result of listening to your speech. Here are some examples of informative speech purpose statements:
- To inform my audience about different types of coffee makers.
- To inform my audience about the historical significance of Harriet Tubman.
- To inform my audience about how to prune roses.
Your purpose statement helps you determine the thesis or central idea of your speech. You will present your central idea in the introduction to the speech and everything you say in the speech will support that central idea.
For example, if your purpose is to inform your audience about different types of coffee makers you could develop a central idea like this:
- There are two main types of coffee makers, automatic drip machines and manual coffee makers.
Once you have a purpose statement you want to develop your main points. The body of the speech is where you will present and provide support for the main points of the speech. Remember that you should generally aim to have at least two but no more than five main points. Keep time constraints in mind when developing your main points. If you are given four minutes to speak, for instance, trying to have four main points might be too ambitious, so you might instead focus on two or at the most three main points.
You’ll want to organize the body of the speech in a way that helps you present your main points in the most effective order. Your purpose statement helps you decide what kind of organizational pattern would make the most sense for your topic.
There are many types of organizational patterns you can use for an informative speech, as you can see in more detail in Module 6: Organizing and Outlining Your Speech. Here are a few examples:
In a topical organization structure, each point fits into one of a few topic categories.
Topical : This is a good, all-purpose organizational pattern where you divide your main points into topics. It works well for speeches where the main points are clearly distinct from each other and the order they are placed in isn’t critical like it would be for some other organizational patterns. The example above about coffee makers, for example, could be divided into two topical main points: 1) automatic drip coffee makers and 2) manual coffee makers. Each main point would be supported by subpoints that elaborate on the characteristics of each type of coffee maker.
Compare/contrast: With compare/contrast organizational patterns, you explain the similarities and differences between two or more things. A speech about the similarities and differences between video game consoles PlayStation and Xbox would fit this type of organizational pattern. You could devote one main point to the qualities they share in common and a second point to how they differ from each other.
A spatially organized speech about the Mississippi River might follow the river from north to south.
Spatial: Do you have a topic that lends itself to being explained in a directional order such as from top to bottom, left to right, or east to west? If so, you could organize your speech in a spatial pattern. This can be a good organizational pattern to use when you want to describe a place to an audience. For instance, if you gave a speech about the major cities the Mississippi River passes through you could start in the north by describing its origin in Minnesota near Minneapolis and St. Paul, then work south and explain how it flows through other cities like St. Louis before it empties into the Gulf of Mexico in New Orleans.
Chronological: This is a speech that follows a time order. This is a good choice for speeches where you want to explain a sequence of events. For example, you could use a chronological pattern for a speech explaining the steps Apple took in developing the iPhone or the significant decisions made by the Supreme Court affecting rights of the LGBTQIA community. Chronological can also be a good organizational choice for speeches where you are explaining a process or demonstrating how to do something.
To describe or demonstrate a process, step by step may be the best structure.
Step-by-Step: When you’re speaking about a process, the most logical organizational structure may be step by step. Step-by-step organization is useful for “how-to” or demonstration speeches where you are teaching or showing how to do a task. If you were speaking about how to spray-paint a mural, you might describe each layer of the painting step by step.
Biographical : A biographical organization tells the story of a person’s life. The person could be a well-known person or someone who is not. The subject of the speech could even be the speaker themselves. It can be similar to the chronological pattern in that it can be organized by time but it doesn’t have to be. A biographical speech could start by focusing on an important event late in someone’s life and then going back in time to explain how the person got to that point.
A causal structure talks about why something happened.
Causal: If you want to explain a cause/effect relationship, you want to use the causal organizational pattern. Typically with this pattern, you would have two main points: one focused on the causes of an event, the second about its effects. A speech about hurricanes might be organized this way, for example. One main point could be devoted to oceanic and atmospheric causes of hurricanes and the second main point about the effects of hurricanes such as storm surge, strong winds, and flooding.
We cover outlining in detail elsewhere, but at this point once you have a purpose statement, general idea, main points, and an organizational pattern, you are ready to develop an outline.
Some important reminders about outlines:
- Working outlines are what you start with and they help you with speech preparation and planning. This isn’t the outline you will use for speaking.
- The full-sentence outline develops the full details of the message. But, again, it is not the outline you use to speak.
- The speaking outline includes key words or phrases and helps you stay organized in front of the audience without reading to them. This is the outline you will speak from so that you are speaking extemporaneously rather than reading your outline word for word.
- Tip: Using notecards for your speaking outline helps with delivery and makes it easier to find information if you lose your place or draw a blank.
- Silverware. Authored by : Peter Griffin. Located at : https://www.needpix.com/photo/download/1307472/silverware-drawer-utensils-knife-fork-spoon-silverware-free-pictures-free-photos . License : CC0: No Rights Reserved
- Mississippi River Watershed. Authored by : Shannon1. Located at : https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mississippiriver-new-01.png . License : CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike
- Airplane. Authored by : Spacefem. Located at : https://openclipart.org/detail/274994/draw-a-single-engine-airplane . License : CC0: No Rights Reserved
- Dominoes. Authored by : Clint Budd. Located at : https://flic.kr/p/MN2WaG . License : CC BY: Attribution
- Stress Informative Speech (with captions). Authored by : RITPublicSpeaking. Located at : https://youtu.be/f4RLULR6iNg . License : Other . License Terms : Standard YouTube License
- Organizing the Informative Speech. Authored by : Mike Randolph with Lumen Learning. License : CC BY: Attribution
- Organizing the Informative Speech. Authored by : Sandra K. Winn with Lumen Learning. License : CC BY: Attribution