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12.4 Sample Speech Outlines

Learning Objective

  1. Understand how to create two different styles of outlines for a speech.

Chances are you have learned the basic principles of outlining in English writing courses: an outlineA framework that organizes main ideas and subordinate ideas in a hierarchical series. is a framework that organizes main ideas and subordinate ideas in a hierarchical series of roman numerals and alphabetical letters. The centre column of Table 12.4 "Speech Outline A" presents a generic outline in a classical style. In the left column, the five main structural elements of a speech are tied to the outline. Your task is to fill in the centre column outline with the actual ideas and points you are making in your speech. Feel free to adapt it and tailor it to your needs, depending on the specifics of your speech. Next, fill in the right column with the verbal and visual delivery features of your speech.

Table 12.4 Speech Outline A

Attention Statement Device Verbal and Visual Delivery
  • Main idea
  • Common ground
  • I. Main idea: Point 1
  • Subpoint 1
  • A.1 specific information 1
  • A.2 specific information 2
  • II. Main idea: Point 2
  • Subpoint 1
  • B.1 specific information 1
  • B.2 specific information 2
  • III. Main idea: Point 3
  • Subpoint 1
  • C.1 specific information 1
  • C.2 specific information 2
Conclusion Summary, main points 1–3
Residual Message Main idea

There is no law that says a speech outline has to follow a classical outline format, however. Table 12.5 "Speech Outline B" is an alternate outline form you may want to use to develop your speech. As you can see, this outline is similar to the one above in that it begins with the five basic structural elements of a speech. In this case, those elements are tied to the speech’s device, thesis, main points, summary, and recap of the thesis. In the right column, this outline allows you to fill in the cognate strategies you will use to get your points across to your audience. You may use this format as a model or modify it as needed.

Table 12.5 Speech Outline B

Attention Statement Device Cognate Strategies, Verbal and Visual
  • General purpose statement or thesis statement
  • Common ground
  • Point 1:
  • Point 2:
  • Point 3:
Conclusion Summarize main points and reinforce common ground
Residual Message Reiterate thesis

Key Takeaway

An outline is a framework that helps the speaker to organize ideas and tie them to the main structural elements of the speech.


  1. The next time you attend a class lecture, try to take notes in outline form, using the sample outlines in this chapter as a guide. You may want to do this as a class project: have all your classmates put their notes into outline form and then compare the different student outlines with the outline your professor began with in planning the lecture.
  2. Create an outline of your day, with main headings and detail points for your main tasks of the day. At the end of the day, review the outline and write a brief summary of your experience. Share with classmates.
  3. Diagram or create an outline from a sample speech. Do you notice any patterns? Share and compare your results with classmates.