Developing & Selecting the Main Ideas of a Speech

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  • 0:01 Purpose of Your Speech
  • 1:20 Main Points in a Speech
  • 3:28 Use of Main Points
  • 5:43 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kat Kadian-Baumeyer

Kat has a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Management and teaches Business courses.

The objective of a good speech is to persuade, inform or entertain an audience. To accomplish this, one must have a specific purpose for the speech. This is the main idea or thesis statement and it must be prevalent throughout the speech.

The Purpose of Your Speech

Think about the long hours spent developing an essay in your Comp 101 class. How many free throw shots did you actually make from the many crumbled-up sheets of paper wasted trying to find the right words? Well, if you're anything like me, plenty! But it really didn't need to be that difficult. In fact, if you follow a few simple rules, it can be quite simple.

Before we get to that, let's explore the main idea of a speech. It is the purpose of the speech and is probably the most important thing a speechwriter should think about. Now, once you have come up with the main idea of your speech, you should think about the smaller main points that you want to get across to your audience.

If your desire is to inform your audience, you may want to include factual information that will educate them on a topic. You may want to persuade the audience to accept your opinion. You can focus on compelling testimony or details that convince your audience to agree with you. There are times when you just want to entertain the attendees. In this case, you may interject humor into your speech to simply show people a good time - give them a few laughs.

So, now that we have the main idea down, just how do we develop this idea into smaller main points to keep the speech flowing nicely? Easy!

Using Main Points in a Speech

First, you can brainstorm the main idea or specific purpose of the speech. This involves a group or individual activity where a list of ideas are generated to either solve a problem or to generate new ideas. Let's use an example to help explain.

Suppose you want to write a persuasive speech about the benefits of eating lots of bacon. You can begin with your specific purpose: 'The purpose of my speech is to convince each and every one of you to eat more bacon! Like every day, several times a day, including most holidays!'

Now, you would break down this idea into smaller points. This is where brainstorming comes into play. Let's see:

  • 'Bacon is tasty.'
  • 'Bacon is full of protein.'
  • 'It's fun to fry and bake.'
  • 'It is conveniently available in stores everywhere.'
  • 'It's part of a balanced breakfast. Actually, it's not part of a balanced breakfast, but it should be.'

Okay, I think you have the idea. Now we have several smaller main points to talk about. Next, we can chunk, or narrow down the main points to smaller pieces of information to support the main points. So, for our bacon speech, we might try this:

  • Okay, Main Point 1: 'Bacon is tasty.'
  • Now, Minor Point 1: 'It is salty, crunchy and fatty so it hits all of the taste buds with a different sensation.'
  • Minor Point 2: 'It tastes better than oatmeal or toast.'

Then, move on to the next main point.

  • Main Point 2: 'Bacon is full of protein.'
  • Let's see, Minor Point 1: 'Bacon has three grams of protein.'
  • Now, Minor Point 2: 'Dry toast has 1.29 grams and orange juice has 0.6 grams of protein.'

There, that should convince them. You can see how that works. Once you have developed several main points with enough smaller, minor points, take a good look at the flow. Keep in mind that in a shorter speech, you may have only two main points while longer speeches may contain several.

Best Use of Main Points

At this point, you should see a connection between the main points. That's a good thing. But there are a few things we also need to think about. As you review the main points, do they unite to serve the specific purpose of the speech?

If the speech is about the benefits of bacon, does using the taste of bacon help to support the purpose? Well, I would say so. It's always a benefit to eat tasty food. Now, you don't want the points to unite so much that they become one. So, balancing the main points is important. You can do this by ensuring that the main points are related but not the same.

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