Having to give a speech is an intimidating and dreaded task for many people, one that they try to avoid at all cost. But unless you live on Mars, you will be called upon to speak in front of a group sooner or later, and, depending on your profession, maybe quite often. Giving a speech is just like swimming: you cannot learn how to do it just by reading about how to do it effectively, but instead, you must get your feet wet and practice it in order to get comfortable and better at it. However, there are some skills that you can develop even before ever giving your first speech (although learning them after you have already gotten comfortable with speaking certainly will still make you a better speaker). One of those skills is developing a strong outline, or framework, for your speech.
Studies have shown that people remember 40% more of the information from a speech if the speech is organized in a clear, easy-to-follow manner. (give source) In order to prepare a clear, easy-to-follow speech, all you need to do is follow 3 simple steps:
- Introduction – Develop a strong thesis
- Body – Identify 3 main points that support your thesis
- Conclusion – Bring it all together
When creating a strong thesis, main points in support of it, and a solid conclusion, you will have a firm framework for your speech, so let’s delve into these 3 parts in some more detail!
Arguably, the introduction is the most important part of your speech. If you fail to engage your audience during the first minute and if you fail to make them believe that it is important for them to listen, then no matter how significant the rest of your speech is, you have already lost them. For this reason, it is tricky to write an introduction, and we recommend that you save this task until the end. You do not want to worry yourself so much about your introduction that you forget to focus on strengthening the main argument of your speech. Developing the main argument first and coming back to the introduction last will make both of those parts of your speech stronger. We will discuss strategies for developing a strong introduction at a later time. However, part of the introduction is your thesis, and you MUST come up with your thesis before attempting to work on the rest of your speech. How will you know what to discuss in the rest of your speech if you do not have a clearly defined topic?
Your thesis needs to be in the form of a statement that takes a position. It must be clear to the audience exactly what you are going to tell them. Avoid phrases like “I’m going to talk about …” or “You will hear why…” For example, compare the statement “I’ll be discussing bottled water” with “Bottled water can prevent illnesses and save lives” or “The use of bottled water is not only unnecessary, but it is actually dangerous and damaging.” Ultimately, your thesis should be clear enough that if the audience only remembers ONE thing from your speech, your thesis should be the message you want them to remember. Taking a position in your thesis will also allow you to focus the main points in the next part of the speech, the body.
The body is the largest part of your speech and should contain only information that supports your thesis. Like the thesis itself, each main point should be a clear statement. In shorter speeches, you should not have more than 3 main points so that your audience does not get lost or overwhelmed. Each main point should be followed by evidence of some sort to show the truth of your main point. This evidence could be a personal story or anecdote, statistics or something else based on research, or a combination.
The conclusion, like the introduction, serves several different purposes and therefore deserves a critical look at a later time. For now, you need to know that this is your opportunity to relay the message that you want your audience to take away from your speech. Restate your thesis, but use different words than you did before. If there is time, you can summarize your main points (again, use different words so that it doesn’t seem like you are merely repeating yourself). Finally, end with some food for thought, or provide the audience with a call to action, something they can do that will benefit them in regards to your topic.
If you’d like to see specific example of what I’ve just described, you can check out my next blog and video. If you have found this helpful or have suggestions for improvement, please leave a comment. Thank you, and happy speaking!
CALL TO ACTION
- Begin with a thesis.
- Make sure your thesis is specific and contains an argument that you can support or defend.
- Ensure that each main point is directly related to your thesis.
- Begin writing your entire introduction before you have defined your thesis and constructed your main points.
- Simply repeat your thesis and main points word for word in the conclusion.