Speech Outline: What is it & Why is it Useful?

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on email
how to outline your speech to ensure a complete speech

A speech outline is exactly what it sounds like. There is nothing complex about it, which is probably the reason why most people tend to skip this part of the speech writing process when it comes to public speaking.

A speech outline is an outline that is used while delivering a speech. It includes brief phrases that remind the speaker of the points that he/she is supposed to make.

Besides the general introduction-body-conclusion, what else is really there to this? Well, when you go slightly deeper into it, I look at speech outlines as more of a checkbox to ensure I’ve covered everything in my speech and that it is flowing properly.

Here are two basic speech outlines that can get you started and can be applied to a wide array of speeches:

The General Speech Outline

This is something we were taught since we were kids back in essay writing.

Every speech should have an opening, body and conclusion.

Let’s break that down a little further:

The Opening – While it’s important to have a strong opening, your opening should seamlessly tie into your premise which is basically the core and the main reason for your speech.

To learn more about this read our extensively written article on How to NOT Start a Speech (And What You Can Do Instead)

The Body – The body, while being the larger chunk of your speech, shouldn’t be just that – a large chunk. Break the body up! Split your ideas within the core message of your speech and transition smoothly through each idea so your audience can digest what you’re trying to communicate.

The Conclusion – Here is where many new speakers fall short. While you must focus on having a bang ending, tell the audience what you want them to do! Give them a clear indication or a ‘call-to-action’. For example, if you’re giving a motivational speech to pump up your team or employees, after you’re done speaking, end with one, two or even three tangible actions that they can take to reach the goals you have stated. That makes it clear to the audience of what they can do to get to what you have just spoken about.

If you want to make an impact on the audience, you must read our article on 5 Ways to End Your Speech With Maximum Impact!

PREP

According to Brian Tracy, this technique is used by numerous professional speakers – and for good reason. It’s simple, yet gives us a good idea of what a wholesome speech should include.

This is what it stands for and what each abbreviation means:

P – Point of view

Start your speech with what your view is – what are you going to be talking about? For example, “Sadly, in the next 18 minutes when I do our chat, four Americans that are alive will be dead from the food that they eat.”

This is from Jamie Oliver’s TED talk Teach every child about food.

Right from the beginning the speaker has set his point of view and the audience knows what the talk will be about – it’s going to be a hard-hitting talk which talks about the truth of the American diet and how it affects children.

R – Reason

Give a reason for your point of view. Why are you talking about what you are talking about? State your reason for holding this point of view or idea.

For example, building on Jamie Oliver’s talk, he goes on to say “I profoundly believe that the power of food has a primal place in our homes that binds us to the best bits of life.” He then goes on to talk about why the food landscape of America is down and how it’s affecting the children.

It’s a beautifully structured speech and I must recommend that you watch it!

E – Example

Now it’s time to support your talk with something that actually happened or an analogy that the audience can relate to so they can digest and more easily consume what you are talking about.

Jamie Oliver went on to give examples of countries that are suffering from bad health due to the food they eat along with real-life examples of children who are going to live much shorter lives due to the food they eat. He said, “I want to show you a picture of my friend, Britney. She’s 16 years old. She’s got 6 years to live because of the food that she’s eaten.”

P – Point of view

This is all about the circle effect which I will talk about in more detail later. But stating the same point of view that you did in the beginning is a powerful way to emphasize your point or idea further.

Oliver ended his talk with a wish which stated, “I wish for everyone to help create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.”

See how he re-stated what he first spoke about – the talk is still about food, diet and children and how this statement is used to further emphasize his idea.

Speech Outline Template

Here is a basic speech template for you to get started. I was initially against putting one up as I believe each speech is unique and requires its own outline. But I was told that a basic structure is something that will help anyone write even the most basic (or advanced) speeches. So here goes:

An Intriguing Title

Have a speech title which intrigues your audience from the get-go. Something that is uncommon but yet ties back in with your main message. Some great speech titles from TED are:

  • Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I’m a model. (Cameron Russell)
  • Strange answers to the psychopath test (Jon Ronson)
  • 10 things you didn’t know about orgasm (Mary Roach)

Each of these speeches have killer titles.

Someone who hears the title is naturally drawn to the speech and wants to know more!

Introducing the topic

a) Gripping opening statement

b) The problem at hand (preview)

The introduction of a speech contains the opening statements of a speech. This is important. A strong opening sets the tone for the remainder of your speech. So make sure to spend enough time on this.

The introduction is kind of like a preview for your speech where you introduce what the problem at hand is and typically should take about 15-20% of your delivery time.

Learn more about how to have a powerful opening in your speech by reading our article on 15 Powerful Speech Opening Lines (And How to Create Your Own)

Transition from the introduction to the body of your speech.

Having trouble establishing the flow of your speech? Learn ways to make your transition smooth by reading our article on Effective Speech Transitions: How to Make Your Speech Flow

Essence of the speech: Body

Now it’s time to jump into the center of your speech – what is your main message? Use 70% of your speech (the body) to convey these points.

a) Main story (or stories)

b) Supporting statements to your story

c) Statistics from credible sources to add more weight to your points

d) Cue in of visual aids

This is a small checklist for your speeches body in no particular order. You don’t necessarily need to aid visual aids or stats unless they are aiding your speech in any manner.

You may have citations to lend credibility or quotes to draw in your audience as well.

You might have different methods or outlines to structure your speech body such as the following:

  • 3 anecdotes
  • Problem-Solution
  • Bed time story
  • Demonstration

You can read more about it here:

The Ultimate Guide to Structuring a Speech

Transition from the body to the conclusion of your speech.

End with a conclusion

a) Summing up your main message

b) A call-to-action (CTA) for your audience

Typically this aspect of the speech will comprise 10% of your delivery time.

The ending is what is most likely to be remembered by your audience, so ensure that it is bang-on!

A speech outline does not take much time to create but it is highly effective to ensure you don’t miss out on any parts of your speech which make a speech complete.

How to write a speech outline for kids?

Writing a speech outline for kids can be a little difficult as holding their attention can be a task. However, there are a few pointers to keep in mind while making a speech outline for kids.

1. Background research

This is important as once you know the age group of the kids, their interests, their level of vocabulary it is easier to hold their attention. Moreover, how much the kids know with respect to the topic can also give you a heads up for your speech. 

2. Keep it simple

It should be kept in mind to use simple and clear language in order to make sure that the kids understand the matter. Avoid using difficult vocabulary. Moreover, the use of formal language should also be limited as kids tend to get bored easily. Rather, conversational language should be used.

3. Use humour and personal stories

Kids like laughing and it is one of the best ways to grab their attention. Incorporating humor in the form of jokes can prove helpful. Personal stories or anecdotes can also help you get your point across.

4. Use props

Using props to make your speech more interesting and engaging can help you retain the attention from the kids. If possible, pass on the props to the kids so that they can see and understand the content of the speech better. 

Introduction speech outline

1. Start with a greeting

The first thing the audience would want to know is about the person delivering the information that they are hearing. If someone has already given an introduction of you, then you’d want to thank that person. 

If the introduction is not detailed, try giving one once you get up on the stage. However, keep in mind to not give a very lengthy introduction about oneself.

2. An attention-getter

After introducing yourself, the next thing to be done is to get their attention. This can be done by telling a joke or a personal story. Make sure to think about topics that would interest the audience. 

This initial attention getter is crucial so that the audience doesn’t lose interest and is focused on your speech.

3. Speech content

You have to give the audience a valid reason to listen to you. This mainly includes talking briefly about what all you are going to cover in your speech and also the importance of your topic.

It is advisable to keep this straightforward and to the point.

4. Scope of the speech

In this, the main content of the speech is to be delivered. This gives the audience a general idea as to what matter is going to be like and your way of delivering the speech. 

This might be confused with the previous point but it’s different in the sense that this mainly includes the main content of the speech whereas the previous one acts as an introduction of the speech. 

Speech outline examples

Here is an example of the speech of Hillary Clinton on Women’s Rights.

Watch the Youtube video to hear the entire speech.

The outline of this speech would be as follows:

Introduction with greetings
I would like to thank the Secretary-General of the United Nations for inviting me to be part of the Fourth World Conference on Women. This is truly a celebration – It is also a coming together

(Speech contents)

Our goals for this Conference, to strengthen families and societies by empowering women to take greater control over their own destinies, cannot be fully achieved unless all governments – here and around the world – accept their responsibility to protect and promote internationally recognized human rights. 

Body

The international community has long acknowledged that both women and men are entitled to a range of protections and personal freedoms, from the right of personal security to the right to determine freely the number and spacing of the children they bear. 

No one should be forced to remain silent for fear of religious or political persecution, arrest, abuse or torture. Tragically, women are most often the ones whose human rights are violated. 

Even in the late 20th century, the rape of women continues to be used as an instrument of armed conflict. Women and children make up a large majority of the world’s refugees. When women are excluded from the political process, they become even more vulnerable to abuse. 

I believe that it is time to break our silence. It is time for us to say here in Beijing, and the world to hear, that it is no longer acceptable to discuss women’s rights as separate from human rights. 

These abuses have continued because, for too long, the history of women has been a history of silence. Even today, there are those who are trying to silence our words. The voices of this conference must be heard loud and clear: It is a violation of human rights when babies are denied food, or drowned, or suffocated, or their spines broken, simply because they are born girls. 

(Effective use of rhetorical devices)

It is a violation of human rights when women and girls are sold into the slavery of prostitution. 

It is a violation of human rights when women are doused with gasoline, set on fire and burned to 

death because their marriage dowries are deemed too small. 

It is a violation of human rights when individual women are raped in their own communities and when thousands of women are subjected to rape as a tactic or prize of war. 

It is a violation of human rights when a leading cause of death worldwide among women ages 14 to 44 is the violence they are subjected to in their own homes. 

It is a violation of human rights when women are denied the right to plan their own families, and that includes being forced to have abortions or being sterilized against their will. 

If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, it is that human rights are women’s rights – and women’s rights are human rights. 

Let us not forget that among those rights are the right to speak freely – and the right to be heard. Women must enjoy the right to participate fully in the social and political lives of their countries if we want freedom and democracy to thrive and endure.

Let me be clear. Freedom means the right of people to assemble, organize, and debate openly. It means respecting the views of those who may disagree with the views of their governments. It means not taking citizens away from their loved ones and jailing them, mistreating them, or denying them their freedom or dignity because of the peaceful expression of their ideas and opinions.

Conclusion

Now it is time to act on behalf of women everywhere. If we take bold steps to better the lives of women, we will be taking bold steps to better the lives of children and families too. 

As long as discrimination and inequities remain so commonplace around the world – as long as girls and women are valued less, fed less, fed last, overworked, underpaid, not schooled and subjected to violence in and out of their homes – the potential of the human family to create a peaceful, prosperous world will not be realized. 

Let this Conference be our – and the world’s – call to action. And let us heed the call so that we can create a world in which every woman is treated with respect and dignity, every boy and girl is loved and cared for equally, and every family has the hope of a strong and stable future. God’s blessings on you, your work and all who will benefit from it. Thank you very much.

Motivational speech outline

The speech outline for any motivational speech also has a similar format as the one shown above.

Here’s a video of Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address.

Here is just a part of the speech given by Steve Jobs used to prepare the outline, which would be something similar to what is written below.

Introduction and starting with greetings
I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world.

(Humor)
I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. 

(Speech content)

Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

Body
(Anecdote)
I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: “We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” They said: “Of course.” My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned Coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus, every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and sans serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But 10 years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do.

(Take away from the speech)

Of course, it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backward 10 years later. 

Conclusion

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward.
Trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. Trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

Final words…

A speech outline is necessary as it will act as a guide while delivering a speech and also as a speaker make you more organised in terms of your thoughts and ideas. It will ensure that you touch upon all the main points of your speech and also stick to the essence of the speech rather than blabbering. 

Although speech outlines are usually omitted, having one will help you organise the message you want the audience to receive. 

Enroll in our transformative
1:1 Coaching Program

Schedule a call with our expert communication coach to know if this program would be the right fit for you

Scroll to Top

Kindly drop your contact details so that we can arrange call back

    Free Public Speaking Virtual MASTERCLASS

    4th December, 10 am EST