This unit talks about organising your material

Structure of the Speech

A speech (or presentation) generally falls into three parts, the introduction, the main body and the conclusion (beginning, middle and end). Each of these serves an integral and essential role with its own unique function. The body of the speech is the biggest and is where the majority of information is transferred. Consequently, it requires careful thought and consideration as well as some imagination to organize the body of a speech effectively.

To aid in planning the body of your speech, it can be helpful to make use of concepts and themes which run through the body of your speech, providing structure and tying thoughts together in unified manner. This is not to say that your delivery must be uniform throughout. For example, a speaker might use several characters from a popular movie, television series or play to illustrate how a proposal might impact people in various roles within an organisation. The characters and the attitudes they portray may differ significantly but their common source provides a unifying factor that the audience will pick up and appreciate.

The time to consider the way to organize the body of your speech is after you have selected and ordered the points you want to make. The best “organizers” act as a mechanism for the audience to grasp and remember what you say. Organizers make it easier to provide continuity between opening, body and ending. They help you connect with the audience quickly and are an aid to remembering the points you wish to make, allowing you to deliver the speech with minimum use of notes.

Organisation Ideas

Here are a few ideas for organizing a speech. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses and some may work better than others for a given topic or setting. They can be used individually or in combination. The list is far from complete and you should feel free to get creative and come up with your own ideas.

Acronyms: Organise your speech around an acronym, with the individual letters representing a keyword, which summarizes a component of your presentation. If at all possible, choose a word which is related in some way to your topic.

Colour: Colour can be used to organise a presentation and then be coordinated with props, visual aids and handouts. As an added bonus, many topics have associations with a particular colour (environment – green) or have colour as an important component

(fine art, interior decoration). In such cases, using colour as an organisational aid is quick and easy as well as being intuitively clear to your audience.

Issues: Issues can be financial, aesthetic, philosophical or political among others and can serve to simplify complex topics defuse areas where the audience has strong opinions or high emotions.

Opinions: Many topics have distinct vantage points, depending upon a number of factors including, but not limited to, factors such as age, gender, political affiliation, faith, job function, etc. Exploring different viewpoints can be excellent for political topics or topics related to changes in the workplace.

People: People can be actual, mythical, historical, political, or stereotypical. As with the illustration above, don’t overlook well-known characters from literature, movies or television shows. You may also consider using characters based on stereotypical group behaviours. Examples of each of these include politicians, police detectives, teenagers and their concerned parents. Using characters can make for great entertaining speeches, which derive humour from human frailties.

Places: People have a strong sense of place and often make generic associations with specific types of geography or with specific locations. Many topics, such as travel or history, are place-specific.

Problems and solutions: This is a good all-purpose organisation and an excellent choice for emerging topics. It is flexible in that you do not necessarily need the same number of solutions as you have problems.

Shapes and patterns: Use shapes such as circles, squares, or triangles for identification and to illustrate relationships and how things work.

Storylines: Use a universal plot from literature, mythology, classic movies, popular novels or nursery rhymes. Alternatively, real stories and life experiences can make for powerful narratives.

Time: Try using themes from the past, present and future for topics that change over time. Create a project time line and compare it to significant calendar units such as the fiscal year.

For a clearer analysis, we present the Basic Structure of a Speech thus:

All speeches contain at least three parts:

a.An Introduction

b.A Body

c.A conclusion

a.In the Introduction, you state the topic of your speech. You tell the audience the main points of your speech. In other words, you say what you are going to speak about.

b.In the Body, you speak about each point in detail. For each point you must give the audience some evidence or information that will help explain and support each point. The Body is the longest of the three parts.

c.In the Conclusion, you should summarise the main points of your speech, and emphasise what you want the audience to remember.

Making a Simple Outline

An outline is a way to organise your ideas logically and clearly. Without making an outline, your speech will probably lack structure, and so be difficult to understand. By using a presentation outline, you can “see” the structure of your speech. In addition, it can also serve as your speaking script.

The following presentation outline is a very simple way to organise your material into a speech format. If you have time, you should look at the detailed speech outline. When making an outline, you should not write full sentences, but just key words and phrases.


a.What is the topic of your speech?

b.Why should the audience listen to your speech?

c.What will your main points be?

2.The body

a.What are your main points and ideas (sub-topics)?

b.What is your supporting evidence and information (sub-sub-topics)?

3.The conclusion

What were the main points of your speech, and what do you want the audience to remember?

Note that the presentation outline is not a word-for-word script for the speech but an outline of ideas to serve as an organisational and presentation tool for the speaker.

Preparing the Introduction

A good introduction should capture the audience’s attention, bring them together as a group and motivate them to listen attentively to the speaker. Here are some tips to help you do just that.

Expressions that can signal introductions:

Shall we start? May I have your attention, please? Let’s get started!

Before we start, let me remind you of our schedule. Let me first introduce myself briefly.

It is a great pleasure for me to be here with you today.

The title of my talk is…I will be proposing some solutions…

We can cover those points in about 20 minutes.

This will leave us 10 minutes for questions before the coffee break, if there is any

Let me start with an anecdote that will illustrate my topic. Who has not experienced/been affected by…?

Have you ever wondered how much time we waste when doing….?

Did you know that…? You will be surprised to hear that…

Let me report the words of our chairman.

Organising the Body of your Speech

The body of your speech contains the detailed information that you intend to convey to your audience. You can begin by Formulating an Organizing Question (Inherent questions). You then go on to assess the information you have gathered, and identify the ideas and information needed to develop your topic.

Always endeavour to divide the Speech into Key Ideas such as these:






f.Mnemonic or gimmick


The above mentioned organisational patterns are explained thus

a.Topical – topic divides itself into subdivisions. In topical order, your speech topic can also be divided into subsections, but talking about them in a logical way does not depend on time order or space order. If you were explaining about bias in the work place, for example, your main points could be the following:

1.Racial bias

2.Gender bias

3.Age bias

4.Physical disability bias

It does not matter which of the four main points you discuss first – they are all equally important. They do not depend on a time order or a space order to make sense. They are all subsections of the speech topic.

b.Chronological patterns – follows a time sequence (periods of time or processes).

When you discuss your main points in the time order in which they occurred, you are using a chronological pattern.

c.Spatial – divides into geography or physical proximity. Space or spatial order is used for describing things such as objects, organisations, or places. 

d.Causal – explores the causes and effects of the topic or vice versa; you need to use causal order especially when you are trying to convince your audience that “this” was caused by “that”, or that “this” was the result of “that”. You use this pattern all the time in your everyday conversations.

e.Pro-con – presents both sides of controversial issues.

f.Mnemonic or gimmick – organizes a speech according to a memory device. 

g.Problem-Solution: This organisational pattern is also one that you use regularly in your everyday conversations. “I see a problem. This is what we should do to solve it?”

Problem: Township children who start school in urban areas are at a disadvantage because their English language skills are not well developed.

Solution: Providing these children with extra English lessons would alleviate this problem.

You also need to be careful about the words you select to express the information contained in the body of your speech. You may need to ask yourself these questions:

Does your audience need a dictionary to decipher your speeches? Do you write your speeches with encyclopaedic diction?

Do you draw your speechwriting inspiration from legal documents?

Technical writing, essays, financial reports, and legal writings all have their place — but none of them belong in your speechwriting.

Speeches which use simple, conversational language are more enjoyable to listen to, easier to follow, and more likely to be remembered.

When involved in public speaking, you usually think about getting content from your expertise and experiences. However, to add the human touch to any presentation, consider including conversation. For example, a little boy went to his mother with a question. Since the mother was busy on the computer, she replied, “Why don’t you go ask your dad?” The boy’s response: “I don’t really care to know that much about it.” Although this is a joke, my guess is that the conversation is based on an actual dialogue between mother and child

With this objective of looking for real conversation for your next keynote presentation, have paper and pen always available to record key sentences. Listen to other people’s conversation. Write down clever sentences of people you talk to. People will be flattered if you say, “Do you mind if I take a moment to jot that down? That was so clever!” You might find just the right place for it in your next speech. Effective presentation skills come from a variety of sources as well as presentation skills delivery. Telling about a conversation you were involved with or overheard will also help you to deal with stage fright since it is a story that’s comfortable for you to tell.

Conversation is not just an important part of interpersonal skills; conversation can become an integral part of your presentation.

Preparing the Conclusion

Audiences tend to put a lot of emphasis on their first and final impressions of a speaker (technically known as the primacy/recency effect). Because of this, it is very important to finish your speech with

something great. If you have ever seen a stand-up comedian perform, you will find that they save their best jokes for the end of their set, for this very reason.

To end your speech with impact, you can use a lot of the devices such as: quotations, jokes, anecdotes, audience involvement, questions, etc.

One of the best ways to conclude a speech is to tie the conclusion into the introduction. For example, you might have begun your speech by telling a suspenseful story that relates to your topic, but save the end of the story for the very end of your speech. Or refer back to the same quotation. Or refer to the joke that you told. Any of these strategies will give your speech a sense of connection and closure, and will leave the audience with a great final impression.

If you are delivering a persuasive speech, you might try a slightly different ending because your goal is not just to be remembered, it’s to inspire people to take action. One way to do this is to issue a call-to-action. This means that you specifically tell your audience what actions you expect them to take related to your speech. Another way to inspire action with the conclusion of your speech is to appeal to their emotions. If you create a desired emotion within your audience, and then leave them with that emotion, they will take that emotion with them. For example: If you leave them feeling guilty about not-recycling by painting a bleak picture about the state of the Earth that their grandchildren will live in, then they might recall that emotion the next time they choose not to recycle and alter their behaviour.

Leaving a strong final impression is the most important aspect of the conclusion, but there are some other necessary steps as well:

1.Making a smooth transition from the body of the speech to the conclusion is crucial. To do this, use a signpost known as a concluding statement. The most common concluding statements include: “in conclusion”, “I leave you with”, “finally today”, and other similarly obvious endings.

2.Just as it is important to preview a speech in the introduction, it is important to summarize the speech in the conclusion. The more the audience hears your main points, the more likely they are to remember them. By previewing, discussing, and summarizing your main points, your audience will be exposed to them at least three times during your speech.

A good conclusion should be about 5-10% of the total speech length. Anything shorter than 5% means that the ending has come too abruptly. Anything more that 10%, and the audience may

become restless. This brings up another point: If it sounds like a conclusion, you need to finish your speech in a reasonable amount of time. The conclusion is not the place to add new material.

The point being made here is that the beginning and conclusion of your talk are actually the most important parts. This is where you catch the attention and leave them with one final thought. Your closing moment is the main influential factor to persuade your listeners to do what you want them to do.

Here are some more suggestions for writing the conclusion of your speech:

  1. An effective way to conclude a speech is to review your points and connect all to your introduction text. Restate the most important point of your speech. Connect it with the central idea in the introduction lines. For example state it in other words or use the rhetorical technique of repetition by repeating a few important key phrases or words.
  1. In a speech conclusion you could briefly recap the main speech topics. Summarize the major supporting points or paragraphs. It helps your audience to absorb and retain all information, your central message and you make it easy for them to follow the logical steps you have informed them about.
  1. Conclusion writing can also be explained as offering the so-called moral of the story:
  • Restate the problem and provide your solution in two sentences
  • Show a benefit or valuable application
  • Give the ultimate answer on some big question or issue you proposed earlier or at the opening of your speech presentation
  • Offer them ‘how to do it’ steps; visualize a course, sequence or time path of action.
  1. Reaffirm the connection between the needs and interests of the listeners and your speech topics.
  1. Close with a dramatic but appropriate statement based on emotional appeals. Examples of this kind of a speech conclusion could be:
  • Finish with a heart-felt human interest story or personal experience anecdote
  • Connect the public speaking topics with the everyday feelings and lives of your public speaking audience.
  • Recite a couple of lines from a nostalgic song, poem or quotation from a historical speech and refer to its similarities
  • State a slogan – transform your central motto, idea or principle into an easy one to remember.

Source:National OpenUniversity of Nigeria

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