Preparing an Outline For A Speech Help

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Updated on Sep 28, 2011

Introduction to Preparing an Outline For A Speech

The beginning of an acquaintance whether with persons or things is to get a definite outline of our ignorance.

—George Eliot, 1819–1880

Before you can begin writing your speech, you must make an outline. This is like the roadmap of your speech, showing you your destination and how you'll get there.

No matter what type of speech you make, regardless of the occasion, and no matter how you deliver it—you will want to start with an outline! The outline is the skeleton on which you will build a living speech, and it will determine exactly what that speech will look like and what it will accomplish.

There are several important things that you'll gain by creating a preliminary outline. First, you'll discover what you know—and what you don't know. A person never knows how much he or she knows until he or she tries to explain it to someone else. You won't know how much knowledge you really have about your topic until you sit down and outline a speech on that topic.

Another benefit of outlining is that it enables you to accomplish your goal. If you're making a persuasive speech, the outline will force you to specify what your sub-points are (the evidence that proves your thesis), what examples you'll provide for each sub-point, how the sub-points prove your thesis, and so forth.

You probably would not dream of getting up at the podium on the day of your speech and just making it up as you go along; that would lead to disaster, and you would fail to accomplish whatever goal you were trying to achieve. Yet the same principle holds true if you sit down to write a speech without first creating an outline: You'll simply be making it up as you go along without any clear sense of where you're going and how you'll get there.

Hit the Target

If you were engaged in archery practice, what would be the first thing you'd do? You might check your arrow supply, test the bowstring, see which way the wind is blowing—but first and foremost you'd want to set up a target and know just where it stood. After all, you can't hit a target if you don't have one, or if you're not sure where it's hidden.

Here's another saying: If you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time! Before you can begin writing a speech, or even outlining one, you need to know your goal. If you used the exercise at the end of Lesson 5, you have already set up your target. Perhaps you're giving a persuasive speech, and you're intending to persuade your audience that the government should not set speed limits on the highway. The exercise in Lesson 5 helped you to enumerate the various points intended to prove that speed limits are bad, and it even had you list certain illustrations that will demonstrate each point.

If you skipped the exercise in the last lesson, go back and do it now! It will provide you with the bare bones you'll need to create this skeleton, and without bones and a skeleton, you'll find it difficult to bring your speech to life.

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