When you speak, does your audience get it?
If your audience doesn’t grasp your message (even though your topic is one you know they are interested in), you need to rethink the way you present it. You need to organize your ideas to promote understanding.
The second Toastmasters speech project addresses organizing your speech. This article of the Toastmasters Speech Series examines the primary goals of this project, provides tips and techniques, and links to numerous sample speeches.
Why is This Speech Important?
There are four aims for this speech:
- Use an outline which aids understanding.
I previously discussed several speech outline examples in detail.
- Transition smoothly from one point to the next.
- Craft an effective speech opening.
- Craft an effective speech conclusion.
These are fundamental skills that you apply to every speech you’ll ever deliver, whether it is a 2 minute off-the-cuff speech, a 15 minute business proposal, or a 60 minute keynote.
Transitions are the Key
Of the four elements, appropriate transitions are most lacking in the majority of presentations that I have seen. Most speakers have an introduction and conclusion, with supporting material arranged in some form of outline. But, there is often little in the way of transition phrases that link the speech together in a cohesive unit.
- In a written piece (like this article), headings, bullets, and punctuation provide cues to the reader that help them understand the macro-organization.
- In a verbal speech, use pauses and transition phrases to achieve this effect so that the audience knows when one point ends, and the next begins.
What I Did for Speech 2
For my second speech topic, I chose The Open Directory Project (ODP). Here’s a brief outline and the key transitions I used:
- Opening – State topic: the what, who, and why of ODP.
- What is ODP?
- Large – 4.5 million sites
- Internet Directory (compared to a telephone book to aid understanding)
- Transition: “Something this large doesn’t just spring out of the earth. Someone has to build it.” (this leads naturally into the “who”)
- Who builds ODP? 67,000 volunteers!
- Volunteer demographics
- Volunteer roles
- Transition: “What inspires 67,000 people to volunteer their time?” (this leads naturally into the “why”)
- Why is ODP important?
- Anyone can join
- Data is free
- Data complements results of Google and other search engines
- Conclusion – Summary of 3 main points, and a call-to-action to check it out.
- “I hope this talk has whet your appetite to find out more.” This was a reference back to the speech title: A Taste of ODP.
Topic Ideas for Toastmasters Speech 2
Select a straightforward outline to organize your speech:
- The Classic “Three Supporting Points”
Idea #1: The Classic “Three Supporting Points”
In this outline, you begin by stating a premise in your introduction, support it with three reasons or three supporting points in your body, and then summarize in your conclusion. It doesn’t need to be 3 points, but this is a convenient number that fits well with a five to seven minute speech.
Example: Maile provides an excellent example of clear and parallel structure for a speech with How Dance has Helped Me In the Real Estate Business (video). Her basic structure is:
- Opening: “20 pounds and nine years ago, I was a dancer…” which leads into stating 3 dance principles which help in real estate.
- Principle 1: Practice Perfect Performance
- Principle 2: Visualize the Result You Desire
- Principle 3: Get Out and See the People
- Conclusion: restate three principles
This speech was especially strong because of a consistent pattern that was used for each of the three points, along with a parallel structure. The pattern applied was:
- Transition: “the second principle I’d like to share…[name principle]“
- Lesson from dance: “… as a dancer… [explain principle in dancing context]“
- Relate to real estate: “… this technique has also served me well in the real estate arena… [explain principle in real estate context]“
Maile used this parallel pattern for all three points, and the speech is very easy to understand. The Toastmaster evaluation of this speech (video) is also available.
Example: Tanya Huang also demonstrates this classic method in a speech titled Cougarlicious (written). Her basic structure is:
- Open with a surprising revelation: she wants to be a “cougar” when she grows up.
- Definition of a cougar.
- Reason 1: Fashion.
- Transition: “So, why do I want to be a cougar when I grow old? My first reason is…”
- Reason 2: Confidence
- Transition: “Confidence is another quality …”
- Reason 3: Aggression
- Transition: “Aggression is another cougar characteristic…”
- Conclusion: Sums up speech by reiterating the three reasons, and explicitly saying “These are the cougar qualities and the reason I want to be a cougar.”
Idea #2: Chronological
A chronological outline is appropriate for many speeches that describe a sequence of events. It is also appropriate for describing a process or a step-by-step technique.
Example: Brian demonstrates this technique with a speech about Six Sigma (video).
- Introduction to Jack Welch and origins of Six Sigma
- Definition: What is six sigma?
- List the 5 Stages: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control (and then stepped through each stage with explanation)
- Conclusion to reinforce importance of Six Sigma
Note his transition phrases which give a direction or imply a sequence (“… from there, we…” or “… after analyzing, we…”).
Idea #3: Geographical
A geographical outline is a convenient method to organize a speech about travels, or where you are contrasting your topic (e.g. pastries) across many locations (e.g. French pastries vs. German pastries vs. Dutch pastries).
Example: Elizabeth Mitchell uses this method in Seven Lessons from Seven Continents.
Of note, the introductory words for each segment (“My first continent…”, “My second continent…”) clearly mark the boundaries for each of the seven segments of the speech.
More Examples of Organize Your Speech
Here are a few more sample written and video speeches which may provide inspiration for you.
Written Speech Examples
Video Speech Examples
Next in the Toastmasters Speech Series
The next article in this series examines Speech 3: Get to the Point.
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