The ideas presented earlier about how to construct a quick outline for your speech showed that the process can be fairly easy to master. Now that we are going to take a more critical look at writing the body, you will find that there are steps you can take to strengthen your arguments. While these steps might take some extra time in preparing your speech, they are well worth your effort in the long run. If you want people to enjoy and remember your speech, putting in some extra thought and effort will ensure that you include the right ingredients to make it memorable. After all, anybody can put a burger with some lettuce and tomato on a bun, splash it with some ketchup, and call it a hamburger, but the burger that makes your mouth water and teases your tongue with scrumptious layers of delicious flavor is the one you will recommend to your friends and order again in the future.
If you want your speech to be the equivalent of that succulent burger that people keep talking about, remember not to try to circumvent the process but to take your time to work through all the steps in order to get the best possible outcome. Are you eager to find out what these steps are? Let’s find out!
You have already decided on a topic for your speech, and you may have already formed some ideas that can be used as main points in your body, but it is important to spend time brainstorming to give yourself a chance to sort out which information is very important and which information might be less convincing. If you simply pick the first 3 things that come to mind as your main points, you might be missing out on a lot of good stuff. (should find some research that shows the mind thinks best when using unstructured brainstorming)
When brainstorming, you should write down everything you already know about your subject, but also make note of what you do not know. Are there questions you have that might shed light on your topic if you found out the answer? What important information is missing from your existing knowledge? This can be done in the form of a random list. For now, don’t worry about organizing or categorizing your thoughts. For example, my thoughts about bottled water might look something like this:
- People don’t like the taste of water from the faucet
- Bottles are not recycled and end up in oceans or landfills
- Plastic is not biodegradable
- Wildlife is harmed
- Bottled water is expensive for the consumer
- Natural resources are wasted (making bottles, transport from factory to store
- People think bottled water is safer or healthier (Flint?)
- Big companies are filling their pockets
- Convenience when not at home
- How many bottles are consumed?
- How many bottles are (not) recycled?
- Where does bottled water come from?
- How is bottled water different from tap water?
- Where does tap water come from, and how is it regulated/inspected?
Once you have written down your thoughts randomly, it is useful to use a template for mind mapping, because it can show you how ideas are connected to each other. If you take a look at the list above, you can see that some of the thoughts fit together in broadly the same categories. Here is an example of such a template: >>>
Your template can be made on the computer, if you feel comfortable with technology, or can be done freehand with pen and paper if you work better that way. The important thing you need to remember is that this is the time where you identify how all the information fits together.
- SELECTING YOUR MAIN POINTS
Once you have listed a number of different issues that are related to your topic, you need to sort out which ones are the most suitable for your speech. To help you determine which main points make your speech most effective, you must ask yourself some key questions
- Who is my audience?
- What does my audience already know?
- Why does my audience need to know this?
Why would you need to ask these questions? Think back to the tasty burger analogy. If you were in the business of selling burgers and had a restaurant located in a neighborhood with a lot of South Asian residents, you might sell more burgers if you had one on the menu with hot sauce. If you owned a restaurant in another country and boasted an “all-American” burger, then you would definitely need ketchup, or if you catered to the Dutch, you would want to serve burgers with mayonnaise. You would also make special choices about other toppings based on the preferences of your clientele. The same concept applies to your speech; you may find that certain audiences respond better to specific main points than others do. For example, when addressing adults, a speech about bottled water usage could include arguments about the high prices of bottled water. However, if you were speaking to a class of third graders about bottled water usage, a discussion on price would be meaningless, and you might want to put more emphasis on how animals are harmed by discarded water bottles.
When selecting which information to include as the main points in your body, use caution to cross-check your main points against your thesis. If your main point does not fully support your thesis, you have 2 options: 1) do not use the information in your speech and instead choose a different main point that doessupport your thesis, or 2) tweak your thesis so that you main point is appropriate. If your main point is not aligned with your thesis, your audience may interpret it as ranting and lose sight of what was supposed to be your main take-away.
In the bottled water speech example, the thesis “The use of bottled water is not only unnecessary, but it is actually dangerous and damaging” can be supported by the following main points:
- Using bottled water may be LESS healthy than using tap water.
- Using bottled water has disastrous effects on our environment.
- Using bottled water is socially irresponsible and causes undue hardship for the poorest people on earth.
III. FINDING SUPPORTING EVIDENCE FOR EACH MAIN POINT
Once you have decided which main points to use, you need to make sure that you find different examples to prove that your main points are true. Facts and figures always make an impact, because your audience will see that you’ve done your homework, and that experts will agree with your conclusions. Check out a variety of different sources, such as websites, newspaper articles, books, or studies reported in professional journals. While combing through your sources, make sure that you write down where specifically you find your information (note down the name of the author and the title of the article or book, or the website URL) so that you can find it again later on and so that you can cite it properly in your speech. Any time you use information from someone or somewhere else, you need to tell your audience where that information came from.
In the example of the speech on the dangers of bottled water, the main points could, for example, be proven with this supporting information:
1) Using bottled water may be LESS healthy than using tap water.
- Bottled water industry is unregulated. Found arsenic and traces of feces. Chemicals called phthalates, which are known to disrupt testosterone and other hormones, can leach into bottled water over time. One study found that water that had been stored for 10 weeks in plastic and in glass bottles contain phthalates, suggesting that the chemicals could be coming from the plastic cap or liner.
- Tap water must be tested 100+ times per month, bottled water once a week or less.
2) Using bottled water has disastrous effects on our environment.
- High cost of making bottles and shipping them to us. Fill up ¼ of each bottle with oil. Enough to gas up 1,000,000 cars for a whole year.
- Across its entire life cycle, bottled water takes anywhere from 1,100 to 2,000 times as much energy to produce as tap water.
- It takes 1.63 liters of water to make every liter of Dasani—and the company is doing it in drought-plagued California. It takes up to 3 liters of water to produce 1 liter of bottled water.
- Only 31% of bottles are recycled – the rest end up in landfills and our oceans. That bottle that takes just three minutes to drink can take up to a thousand years to biodegrade.
3) Using bottled water is socially irresponsible and causes undue hardship for the poorest people on earth.
- Village in India where Coca Cola set up shop: wells ran dry. Same thing happening in the island nation Fiji, where nearly 53% of the population doesn’t have a clean, safe source of drinking water.
- We are taking water from people who have no running water or safe plumbing even though we have plenty of healthy water. It shows bad citizenship on our part.
One important thing to note about this example is that the supporting information is all from outside sources. However, when speaking in front of an audience, you should consider including anecdotes or personal stories to add some personal flair and to help the audience connect with you. Stories engage the audience in ways that facts and figures cannot, and if you do not have room for a personal story anywhere in the body of your speech, find a way to add one in your introduction and/or conclusion.
Now that you have the bare bones of your speech, you are ready to put it all together with an engaging introduction, transitions between your main ideas, and a suitable conclusion. All of those things will be discussed in other blogs.
If you’d like to learn more about how to improve your speeches or presentations, 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
- Spend time on brainstorming.
- Construct your main points in the form of a statement that contains an argument that you can support or defend.
- Ensure that each main point is directly related to your thesis.
- Include a variety of supporting information for each main point.
- Cite your sources
- 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.
- Do research and write down information from other sources without noting what those sources are.