Outlining a Speech: Standard Form & Organization Pattern

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  • 0:01 Outlining a Speech
  • 0:43 Formatting Your Speech
  • 2:47 Components of a Speech
  • 4:32 Organizational Patterns
  • 6:14 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Cathryn Jackson

Cat has taught a variety of subjects, including communications, mathematics, and technology. Cat has a master's degree in education and is currently working on her Ph.D.

Sometimes understanding how to outline a speech can be one of the more difficult and confusing parts of speech construction. In this lesson, you will learn about the formatting and components of a speech.

Outlining a Speech

Sandy is creating a speech about volunteering in the community. She has a lot of information and has brainstormed some ideas for her speech. Now she needs to put this information together in an outline, but she isn't sure where to start.

One of the more crucial parts of constructing a speech is the outlining. This part should occur early in the speechwriting process, after or near the end of your researching. The first outline you will construct is called a preparation outline, which is the full sentence outline used to construct and organize all of the components in your speech. In this lesson, you will learn how to format your speech outline, the components of a speech outline, and using organizational patterns in an outline.

Formatting Your Speech

Some speech teachers and professors have a very specific expectation for formatting an outline of a speech. It is important to pay attention to these expectations and instructions in your class. However, there are some general guidelines you can follow. Please pay attention to:

  • Heading/page numbers
  • Numbering/bullets
  • Bolded words
  • Bibliography/citations

First, you'll want to make sure your speech is titled, has a proper heading, and page numbers. Usually your heading will include your name, the date, the class, and the teacher's name. Your title for your speech should be catchy but still accurately describing the speech. Generally, page numbers will go on the top right of the page. Some teachers will ask you for your general purpose, specific purpose, central idea, and organizational pattern. Even if you aren't required to include these in your speech, it is important to know this information before creating your outline.

Second, the numbering format for your outline is important. Most speeches require that you outline your speech with the following hierarchy. The main sections of your speech will use Roman numerals. These are for your introduction, main points, and conclusion. The next level should be capital letters. These are for each of the sub-points of your introduction, main points and conclusion. We'll talk more about these components in the next section of this lesson. If you have a sub sub-point, use a number, and your support will have a lower case letter.

Third, you will need to bold some elements of your speech. It is important to put these elements in first, so you don't forget a required part of your speech. These elements are labels for each of the sections of your speech. Some teachers prefer this method, but some do not, so make sure you clarify before you label your speech.

Fourth, it is extremely important to include a bibliography, or works cited page. Most likely, you will need to format your bibliography in APA. Check out our lesson on 'Citing Sources While Researching a Speech' for more information!

Components of a Speech

Now, let's discuss the components of your speech outline. There are certain components of a speech that you should never leave out. You will notice that repetition is an important element of the speech components. Repetition is important because an audience member can't re-listen to your speech like a reader can re-read a sentence.

  • Introduction (attention getter, reveal topic, credibility position, thesis, and preview main points)
  • Main points (statement, supporting materials, and research)
  • Conclusion (refer back to attention getter, review main points, and closing statement)
  • Transition sentences

Each of these components are discussed in greater detail in the rest of this chapter. The important thing to note here is how to outline each of these components properly.

Remember, the introduction, main points, and conclusion will each get their own Roman numeral. Each element of the introduction and conclusion, such as the attention getter and closing statement, will need a capital letter. For the main points, your sub-point will have a capital letter, while the sub sub-points and supporting material will have numbers and lower case letters.

Also, it is important to walk your audience through your speech and prepare them for what is coming next. You can do this by inserting transition sentences before each section of your speech. Notice that a transition sentence is before each main point and the conclusion. This is also known as sign-posting, kind of like the signs on a road alert you to where you are going and which roads are coming up next, sign-posting helps the audience follow your speech. You should use transitional words, like first, second, third, next, lastly, however, therefore, moreover, etc. to help you develop your transition sentences.

Organizational Patterns

Depending on the type of speech you are creating, your outline will change slightly. You can apply organizational patterns to your outline to help you keep track of the direction of your speech. A few examples of organizational patterns for informative speeches are:

  • Topical
  • Chronological
  • Spatial

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