Article Category: Speechwriting

Toastmasters Speech 2: Organize Your Speech

Toastmasters Speech 2: Organize Your Speech

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.

  1. The Ice Breaker
  2. Organize Your Speech
  3. Get to the Point
  4. How To Say It
  5. Your Body Speaks
  6. Vocal Variety
  7. Research Your Topic
  8. Get Comfortable with Visual Aids (coming next)
  9. Persuade with Power
  10. Inspire Your Audience

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

Want to learn more?
Speech Transitions: Magical Words and Phrases has dozens of speech transition examples.

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:

  1. Opening – State topic: the what, who, and why of ODP.
  2. What is ODP?
    1. Large – 4.5 million sites
    2. Internet Directory (compared to a telephone book to aid understanding)
    3. Transition: “Something this large doesn’t just spring out of the earth. Someone has to build it.” (this leads naturally into the “who”)
  3. Who builds ODP? 67,000 volunteers!
    1. Volunteer demographics
    2. Volunteer roles
    3. Transition: “What inspires 67,000 people to volunteer their time?” (this leads naturally into the “why”)
  4. Why is ODP important?
    1. Anyone can join
    2. Data is free
    3. Data complements results of Google and other search engines
  5. Conclusion – Summary of 3 main points, and a call-to-action to check it out.
    1. “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:

  1. The Classic “Three Supporting Points”
  2. Chronological
  3. Geographical

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

  1. The Ice Breaker
  2. Organize Your Speech
  3. Get to the Point
  4. How To Say It
  5. Your Body Speaks
  6. Vocal Variety
  7. Research Your Topic
  8. Get Comfortable with Visual Aids (coming next)
  9. Persuade with Power
  10. Inspire Your Audience

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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Comments icon26 Comments

  1. Glenn says:

    This is an outstanding post. As VP-PR of my club, I’ll be passing along this and your other posts and recommending that club members subscribe to your blog.

  2. Terry Gault says:


    Another great article.

    Since this article is so extensive, I will only comment on segues, since they are so important for a fluid speech.

    Any time you have just finished any topic and want to move to your next topic, you must transition or segue. “Segue” comes from the Italian word for “to follow.” You want your audience to follow along with you as you transition from one topic area to another. Do you craft your segues? Are you even conscious of when you are making a segue? Most of us are entirely unconscious of our segues and it costs us dearly in trying to communicate effectively. Do you default to the standard statement segue, “The next point I want to address is … Now we will talk about …”? How do you craft more effective segues?

    Here are my 9 suggestions:

    1.“VISUAL METAPHOR” In many ways, a visual image can help your audience hold attention better as you go into a transition. For example, a visual image of a bridge is a metaphor for segues. Just like a bridge, the purpose of a segue is to get your audience from one point of land to another.
    Reiterate what you have covered so far in your presentation or demo, especially addressing the point you have just finished covering or tell them where you are going.
    Baseball announcers periodically provide a summary of what has taken place so far in the game. “We are in the top of the fifth, New York is leading 5 to 3 following Jeter’s home run to center field. (Where we’ve been.)
    Pettit is going to have to face the top of the Chicago line-up, and he will be facing some pretty hot bats. (Where we are going.)
    He has had some control problems in the early innings, and this next inning is no place to continue to walk batters. (Sign Posting: the importance of what is to come – see below.)
    All season the Yankees have finished well in the late innings; let’s see how they fare tonight. (Combining where we’ve been and where we are going.)
    4.“SIGN POSTING.” The last thing I want to do is . . . (identify where in the sequence of your points you currently are focused).
    5.“SPOT LIGHTING” The most dangerous point in the body of your presentation or demo is the one where you are most likely to lose your audience’s attention. If your audience is not following, you are not supporting the sales effort, in fact you are wasting your customer’s time as well as your own. Pay attention to this segue material.
    I have just provided an example of spotlighting. You tell the audience with verbal emphasis, dynamic gesture and an energetic voice, “Hey, pay attention! This is an important point that we are going to talk about here!”
    Show the relationship between an earlier point and your next point. For example, “Earlier we talked about how our product will deliver a return on your investment. You may be wondering, ‘What kind of investment can I expect?’ Studies by the Gartner group show …”
    7.“ASK A QUESTION” or “CONDUCT A POLL” Questions tend to garner more mindshare than statements. Turn your statements into questions. Example: The statement, “Segues are an opportunity to grab your audiences attention again,” could become, “Does anyone know the point in a presentation/demo where you could grab you customer’s attention once more?”
    You might take a poll of the entire group. “How many of you feel that XX is the most important aspect of the product’s capability?”
    8.“PROVIDE CONTEXT” Put the point that is about to follow in context with the overall presentation or relate it to a point you have already made. Example: “Remember in my opening/story when I talked to you about XX? Here’s where that principle really applies.”
    9.“IDENTIFY BENEFITS” There are techniques to segue that can be easily mastered, they merely require a little awareness. The benefit of knowing how to segue is that you can turn these high danger points into high opportunity points. Instead of segueing in ways that cause you to lose audience attention, you can make your segues points where you actually increase the mind share you have with your audience.

    Thanks for the food for thought Andrew

  3. CK says:

    Amazing work ! I’ve publicized this site to Toastmasters in India and many havew ritten back to say how useful it is !
    Here is a three point formula that I use for organising a speech.
    DEFINE: What is this subject all about ?

    DESCRIBE: Two to three points supporting my view

    ILLUSTRATE (examples, analogies, metaphors).


  4. Jef Menguin says:

    Hello Andrew,

    Thank you very much for all of these wonderful ideas. I have been sharing this page to my new members (I already have 9 for the last two months) and they find your tips easy to understand.

    I am even inspired to write my own so that I can be of help to other toastmasters around the world.

    Thank you. Please write more often.

    Jef Menguin
    President, TOPS Toastmasters

  5. Kevin Kane says:

    These tips helped me get a standing ovation (sort of) after my second speech! You can see the video here:’t-get-me-started-on-her-eyes/

  6. Andy says:

    How many minutes are each of the basic ten speeches?

    1. Andrew Dlugan says:

      Most are 5-7 minutes, but all timings are given in the manual.

  7. kashif says:

    Good Good…I have to prepare my second speech..this truly helps

  8. Alan Deacon says:

    thank you. as a recent toasty your info is very helpfull

  9. Andrew B says:

    I am the editor of a Toastmasters District Newsletter and would like to use your articles on the first ten Toastmasters in my newsletter. I will of course give you due recognition and will include your website to direct users to your site. These articles are what I have been looking for, a sort of review of each of the competent communicator speeches. Would like to hear back.

    1. Andrew Dlugan says:

      Please do not republish any articles from Six Minutes in your newsletter. To ensure the most value for the reader, it is important that all links, videos, etc. work, and viewing the original articles guarantees that.

      You are welcome, however, to link to the articles from your newsletter, perhaps with a small introduction. This is similar to how we link out to articles of quality.

      Please see our permissions policy for complete details.

  10. Heather Buen says:

    I’m doing my second speech today. Thanks for the tips!

  11. Steve Zhang says:

    Nice article! I would like to share my CC#2 speech as well. This is my review and my written speech:

  12. Gerry says:

    Thank you so much for providing this service. I am a long-time Toastmaster who thoroughly enjoys being informed, educated and entertained by Toastmasters from all walks of life but avoids speaking except when a cause outside myself presses me to overcome my natural timidity. I am presently engaged in such a goal but have misplaced my manual so you came to my rescue. Thanks again, now might I impose on you further by requesting direction to evaluation of cc manual speeches?
    Thanks in advance;-).

  13. Alex Pronove says:

    Thanks for this useful post Andrew.

    Tonight’s toastmaster sent out a broadcast looking for members who had ready speeches and that’s how I found you!

  14. Kumaresh says:

    Very good ideas for a TM

  15. Glenn says:


    THANKS for these articles. I wanted a few bullets to add to a speech intro for a Toastmasters demo meeting today at a nearby research institute filled with PhDs and PhDs-in-the-making. Cheers to you!

  16. Harold Gee says:

    Thank you in advance. I would like to receive Speaking Tips.

  17. Vesna says:

    Hi Andrew,
    Thank you so much for writing this article. It gave me the confidence to prepare my Toastmaster Speech 2. I’d like to ask you a question, if that’s ok, can we use a photo or illustration to introduce our topic? Thanks

    1. nayan says:

      Yes. You are right.
      I need a sample speech .
      Can you help me?????


  18. Ken says:

    Thanks for the info. I’m on vacation and don’t have my book with me, but was think about prepping for my second speech. This was very helpful.

  19. ramona encinares says:

    I want to learn much on your Six Minutes. Please include me by sending your free articles.

    Thank you and God Bless


  20. Raja M says:

    Please help me to select some interesting topics for 2 nd toastmasters speech.

  21. Mary says:

    Thanks Andrew! Very helpful! I’m new to Toastmasters so I’m sure I’ll be back for more.

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