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Chapter 12 Organization and Outlines

Speech is power; speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Getting Started

Introductory Exercises

  1. Please read the following paragraph and rearrange the sentences in logical order:

    A. I saw “The Day After Tomorrow” recently. B. The Northern Seas got very cold, very quickly. C. People in the United States fled to Mexico. D. Have you ever seen a movie you just couldn’t forget? E. Soon it was hailing, snowing, and raining all around the world. F. In the movie there was a scientist who forecast a sudden change in the climate. G. They were declared illegal aliens and not allowed in the country. H. The film made me think about global warming and global politics. I. The U.S. president forgave their debts, and the Mexican president allowed U.S. citizens to cross the border.

  2. Consider the following words and find at least two ways to organize the words into groups.

    • Knife
    • Fork
    • Spoon
    • Corkscrew


  1. D, A, F, B, E, C, G, I, H
  2. Table service (knife, fork, spoon), sharp implements (knife, fork, corkscrew), Tools (all). Can you think of any other organizational principles by which to group these items?

In earlier stages of preparation for a speech, you have gained a good idea of who your audience is and what information you want to focus on. This chapter will help you consider how to organize the information to cover your topic. You may be tempted to think that you know enough about your topic that you can just “wing it” or go “freestyling.” Your organization might be something like this: “First, I’ll talk about this, then I’ll give this example, and I’ll wrap it up with this.” While knowledge on your topic is key to an effective speech, do not underestimate the importance of organization. You may start to give your speech thinking you’ll follow the “outline” in your mind, and then suddenly your mind will go blank. If it doesn’t go blank, you may finish what was planned as a five-minute speech with three minutes remaining, sit down, and then start to remember all the things you intended to say but didn’t. To your listeners, your presentation may have sounded like the first of the Note 12.1 "Introductory Exercises" for this chapter—a bunch of related ideas that were scattered and unorganized.

Organization in your speech is helpful both to you and to your audience. Your audience will appreciate hearing the information presented in an organized way, and being well organized will make the speaking situation much less stressful for you. You might forget a point and be able to glance at your outline and get back on track. Your listeners will see that you took your responsibility as a speaker seriously and will be able to listen more attentively. They’ll be able to link your key points in their minds, and the result will be a more effective speech.

An extemporaneous speech involves flexibility and organization. You know your material. You are prepared and follow an outline. You do not read a script or PowerPoint presentation, you do not memorize every single word in order (though some parts may be memorized), but you also do not make it up as you go along. Your presentation is scripted in the sense that it is completely planned from start to finish, yet every word is not explicitly planned, allowing for some spontaneity and adaptation to the audience’s needs in the moment. This extemporaneous approach is the most common form used in business and industry today.

Your organization plan will serve you and your audience as a guide, and help you present a more effective speech. If you are concerned with grades, it will no doubt help you improve your score as well. If you work in a career where your “grades” are sales, and a sales increase means getting an “A,” then your ability to organize will help you make the grade. Just as there is no substitute for practice and preparation, there is no substitute for organization and an outline when you need it the most: on stage. Do yourself and the audience a favour and create an outline with an organization pattern that best meets your needs.

In the 1991 film What about Bob? a psychiatrist presents the simple idea to the patient, played by actor Bill Murray. If the patient takes whatever he needs to do step by step, the process he once perceived as complex becomes simple. In this same way, your understanding of giving business presentations will develop step by step, as the process and its important elements unfold. Read and reflect on how each area might influence your speech, how it might involve or impact your audience, and how your purpose guides your strategies as you plan your speech.

If you take it step by step, presenting a speech can be an exhilarating experience not unlike winning a marathon or climbing a high peak. Every journey begins with a first step, and in terms of communication, you’ve already taken countless steps in your lifetime. Now we’ll take the next step and begin to analyze the process of public speaking.

12.1 Rhetorical Situation

Learning Objective

  1. Label and discuss the three main components of the rhetorical situation.

In the classical tradition, the art of public speaking is called rhetoric; the circumstances in which you give your speech or presentation are the rhetorical situation. By understanding the rhetorical situation, you can gauge the best ways to reach your listeners and get your points across. In so doing, you’ll make the transition from your viewpoint to that of your audience members. Remember that without an audience to listen and respond to you, it’s really not much of a speech. The audience gives you the space and time as a speaker to fulfil your role and, hopefully, their expectations. Just as a group makes a leader, an audience makes a speaker. By looking to your audience, you shift your attention from an internal focus (you) to an external (them/others) emphasis. This “other-orientation” is key to your success as an effective speaker.

Several of the first questions any audience member asks himself or herself are, “Why should I listen to you?” “What does what you are saying have to do with me?” and “How does this help me?” We communicate through the lens of personal experience and it’s only natural that we would relate what others say to our own needs and wants, but by recognizing that we share in our humanity many of the same basic motivations, we can find common ground of mutual interest. Generating interest in your speech is only the first step as you guide perception through selection, organization, and interpretation of content and ways to communicate your point. Your understanding of the rhetorical situation will guide you as you plan how to employ various strategies to guide your listeners as they perceive and interpret your message. Your awareness of the overall process of building a speech will allow you to take it step by step and focus on the immediate task at hand.

The rhetorical situationInvolves three elements: the set of expectations inherent in the context, the audience, and the purpose of your speech or presentation. involves three elements: the set of expectations inherent in the context, audience, and the purpose of your speech or presentation.Kostelnick, C., & Roberts, D. (1998). Designing visual language: Strategies for professional communicators. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon. This means you need to consider, in essence, the “who, what, where, when, why, and how” of your speech from the audience’s perspective.


As we consider the rhetorical situation, we need to explore the concept in depth. Your speech is not given in a space that has no connection to the rest of the world. If you are going to be presenting a speech in class, your context will be the familiar space of your classroom. Other contexts might include a business conference room, a restaurant where you are the featured speaker for a dinner meeting, or a podium that has been set up outdoors for a sports award ceremony.

The time of your speech will relate to people’s natural patterns of behaviour. If you give a speech right after lunch, you can expect people to be a bit sleepy. Knowing this, you can take steps to counter this element of the context by making your presentation especially dynamic, such as having your audience get up from their seats or calling on them to answer questions at various points in your speech.

You can also place your topic within the frame of reference of current events. If you are presenting a speech on the importance of preventing climate change, and you are presenting it in the weeks leading up to a national election, the current events that exist outside your speech may be used to enhance it. Your listeners might be very aware of the political climate, and relating your topic to a larger context may effectively take into consideration the circumstances in which your readers will use, apply, or contemplate your information.


The receiver (i.e., listener or audience) is one of the basic components of communication. Without a receiver, the source (i.e., the speaker) has only himself or herself in which to send the message. By extension, without an audience you can’t have a speech. Your audience comes to you with expectations, prior knowledge, and experience. They have a purpose that makes them part of the audience instead of outside playing golf. They have a wide range of characteristics like social class, gender, age, race and ethnicity, cultural background, and language that make them unique and diverse. What kind of audience will you be speaking to? What do you know about their expectations, prior knowledge or backgrounds, and how they plan to use your information? Giving attention to this aspect of the rhetorical situation will allow you to gain insight into how to craft your message before you present it.


A speech or oral presentation may be designed to inform, demonstrate, persuade, motivate, or even entertain. You may also overlap by design and both inform and persuade. The purpose of your speech is central to its formation. You should be able to state your purpose in one sentence or less, much like an effective thesis statement in an essay. You also need to consider alternate perspectives, as we’ve seen previously in this chapter. Your purpose may be to persuade, but the audience after lunch may want to be entertained, and your ability to adapt can make use of a little entertainment that leads to persuasion.

Key Takeaway

The rhetorical situation has three components: the context, the audience, and the purpose of the speech.


  1. Is it important to consider the rhetorical situation? Why or why not? Discuss your opinion with a classmate.
  2. Think of an example (real or hypothetical) of a speech, a sales presentation, a news broadcast or television program. Using the elements listed in this section of the chapter, describe the rhetorical situation present in your example. Present your example to the class.
  3. Let’s take the topic of tattoos. Imagine you are going to present two informative speeches about tattoos: one to a group of middle school children, and the other to a group of college students. How would you adapt your topic for each audience and why? Write your results, provide an example or explanation, and discuss with classmates.
  4. Examine a communication interaction and identify the context, the audience, and the purpose of the exchange. Write a brief description and share with classmates.
  5. You’ve been assigned the task of arranging a meeting for your class to discuss an important topic. How do context, audience, and purpose influence your decisions? Write a brief statement of what you would want in terms of time, location, setting, and scene and why. Please share your results with classmates.

12.2 Strategies for Success

Learning Objective

  1. Identify and provide examples of at least five of the nine basic cognate strategies in communication.

Given the diverse nature of audiences, the complexity of the communication process, and the countless options and choices to make when preparing your speech, you may feel overwhelmed. One effective way to address this is to focus on ways to reach, interact, or stimulate your audience. Humans share many of the same basic needs, and meeting those needs provides various strategies for action.

Charles Kostelnick and David Roberts outline several cognate strategiesWays of framing, expressing and representing a message to an audience., or ways of framing, expressing, and representing a message to an audience, in Designing Visual Language: Strategies for Professional Communicators.Kostelnick, C., & Roberts, D. (1998). Designing visual language: Strategies for professional communicators. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon. The word “cognate” refers to knowledge, and these strategies are techniques to impart knowledge to your audience. Kostelnick and Roberts’s strategies are cross-disciplinary in that they can be applied to writing, graphic design, and verbal communication. They help the writer, designer, or speaker answer questions like “Does the audience understand how I’m arranging my information?” “Am I emphasizing my key points effectively?” and “How does my expression and representation of information contribute to a relationship with the audience?” They can serve you to better anticipate and meet your audience’s basic needs.

Aristotle outlined three main forms of rhetorical proof: ethos, logos, and pathos. Ethos involves the speaker’s character and expertise. Logos is the logic of the speaker’s presentation—something that will be greatly enhanced by a good organizational plan. Aristotle discussed pathos as the use of emotion as a persuasive element in the speech,Wisse, J. (1989). Ethos and pathos: From Aristotle to Cicero. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Adolph M. Hakkert. or “the arousing of emotions in the audience.” We don’t always make decisions based on clear thinking. Sometimes we are moved by words, by a scene in a movie, or by other mediated forms of communication. As the speaker, you may create a message by selecting some aspects and rejecting others. A close-up picture of a child starving to death can capture attention and arouse emotions. If you use pathos in a strategic way, you are following Aristotle’s notion of rhetorical proof as the available means of persuasion. If logic and expertise don’t move the audience, a tragic picture may do so.

The cognate strategies are in many ways expressions of these three elements, but by focusing on individual characteristics, can work towards being more effective in their preparation and presentation. Many of these strategies build on basic ideas of communication, such as verbal and nonverbal delivery. By keeping that in mind, you’ll be more likely to see the connections and help yourself organize your presentation effectively.

Here we adapt and extend Kostelnick and Roberts’s strategies in order to highlight ways to approach the preparation and presentation of your message. Across the cognate strategies, we can see Aristotle’s rhetorical elements through a range of strategies to communicate better with our audience. There is a degree of overlap, and many of the strategies draw on related elements, but by examining each strategy as a technique for engaging your audience, you can better craft your message to meet their expectations.


From the choice of your words, to the choice of your dress, you contribute to the tone of the speech. ToneThe general manner of expression of the message., or the general manner of expression of the message, will contribute to the context of the presentation. First, consider your voice. Is it relaxed, or shaky and nervous? Your voice is like a musical instrument that, when played expressively, fulfills a central role in your ability to communicate your message to your audience. Next consider how your tone is expressed through your body language. Are your arms straight down at your sides, or crossed in front of you, or are they moving in a natural flow to the rhythm and cadence of your speech? Your dress, your use of space, and the degree to which you are comfortable with yourself will all play a part in the expression of your message.


If everyone speaks at the same time, it’s hard for anyone to listen. In the same way, if all your points are equally presented, it can be hard to distinguish one from another, or to focus on the points that are most important. As the speaker, you need to consider how you place emphasis—stress, importance, or prominence—on some aspects of your speech, and how you lessen the impact of others. Perhaps you have a visual aid to support your speech in the form of a visually arresting picture. Imagine that you want to present a persuasive speech on preventing skin cancer and you start with a photo of two people wearing very little clothing. While the image may capture attention, clearly placing emphasis on skin, it may prove to be more of a distraction than an addition. Emphasis as a cognate strategy asks you to consider relevance, and the degree to which your focal point of attention contributes to or detracts from your speech. You will need to consider how you link ideas through transitions, how you repeat and rephrase, and how you place your points in hierarchical order to address the strategy of emphasis in your presentation.


Before you start thinking about weddings, consider what key element is necessary for one to occur? If you guessed a relationship you were correct. Just as a couple forms an interpersonal relationship, the speaker forms a relationship with the audience members. Eye contact can be an engaging aspect of this strategy, and can help you form a connection—an engagement—with individual audience members. Looking at the floor or ceiling may not display interest to the audience. Engagement strategies develop the relationship with the audience, and you will need to consider how your words, visuals, and other relevant elements of your speech help this relationship grow.


As a speaker, you may have excellent ideas to present, but if they are not made clear to the audience, your speech will be a failure. “ClarityStrategies that help the receiver (audience) to decode the message, to understand it quickly and completely, and when necessary, to react without ambivalence. strategies help the receiver (audience) to decode the message, to understand it quickly and completely, and when necessary, to react without ambivalence.”Kostelnick, C., & Roberts, D. (1998). Designing visual language: Strategies for professional communicators (p. 17). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon. Your word choices, how you say them, and in what order, all relate to clarity. If you use euphemisms, or indirect expressions, to communicate a delicate idea, your audience may not follow you. If you use a story, or an arresting image, and fail to connect it clearly to your main point or idea, your audience will also fail to see the connection. Depending on the rhetorical situation, the use of jargon may clarify your message or confuse your audience. You’ll also need to consider the visual elements of your presentation and how they clarify your information. Is the font sufficiently large on your PowerPoint slide to be read in the back of the room? Is your slide so packed with words that the key ideas are lost in a noise of text? Will it be clear to your listeners how your pictures, motion clips, or audio files relate to the topic?

Figure 12.1

Dense graphics that are not legible from the back of the room can sabotage your presentation.


Being clear is part of being concise. ConcisenessBeing brief and direct in the visual and verbal delivery of your message, avoiding unnecessary intricacy. refers to being brief and direct in the visual and verbal delivery of your message, and avoiding unnecessary intricacy. It involves using as many words as necessary to get your message across, and no more. If you only have five to seven minutes, how will you budget your time? Being economical with your time is a pragmatic approach to ensuring that your attention, and the attention of your audience, is focused on the point at hand.


As the speaker, you will gather and present information in some form. How that form follows the function of communicating your message involves strategically grouping information. “ArrangementOrder; the organization of visual (and verbal) elements. means order, the organization of visual (and verbal) elementsKostelnick, C., & Roberts, D. (1998). Designing visual language: Strategies for professional communicators (p. 14). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon." in ways that allow the audience to correctly interpret the structure, hierarchy, and relationships among points of focus in your presentation. We will discuss the importance of hierarchy, and which point comes first and last, as we explore arguments and their impact on the perception of your message.


Here we can clearly see Aristotle’s ethos—character and expertise. You will naturally develop a relationship with your audience, and the need to make trust an element is key to that development. The word “credibility” comes from the word “credence,” or belief. CredibilityQualities, capabilities, or power to elicit from the audience belief in one’s character. involves your qualities, capabilities, or power to elicit from the audience belief in your character. Cultivating a sense of your character and credibility may involve displaying your sense of humour, your ability to laugh at yourself, your academic or profession-specific credentials, or your personal insight into the topic you are discussing.

For example, if you are going to present a persuasive speech on the dangers of drinking and driving, and start with a short story about how you helped implement a “designated driver” program, the audience will understand your relationship to the message, and form a positive perception of your credibility. If you are going to persuade the audience to give blood, practice safe sex, or get an HIV test, your credibility on the subject may come from your studies in the medical or public health field, from having volunteered at a blood drive, or perhaps from having had a loved one who needed a blood transfusion. Consider persuasive strategies that will appeal to your audience, build trust, and convey your understanding of the rhetorical situation.


Your audience, as we’ve addressed previously, will have inherent expectations of themselves and of you depending on the rhetorical situation. ExpectationsAnticipation of the norms, roles and outcomes of the speaker and the speech. involve the often unstated, eager anticipation of the norms, roles and outcomes of the speaker and the speech. If you are giving an after-dinner speech at a meeting where the audience members will have had plenty to eat and drink immediately before you get up to speak, you know that your audience’s attention may be influenced by their state of mind. The “after-dinner speech” often incorporates humour for this very reason, and the anticipation that you will be positive, lighthearted and funny is implicit in the rhetorical situation. If, on the other hand, you are going to address a high school assembly on the importance of graduating from high school and pursuing a college education, you may also be motivational, funny, and lighthearted, but there will be an expectation that you will also discuss some serious issues as a part of your speech.


No one person knows everything all the time at any given moment, and no two people have experienced life in the same way. For this reason, use references carefully. ReferenceAttention to the source and way you present your information. involves attention to the source and way you present your information. If you are a licensed pilot and want to inform your audience about the mistaken belief that flying is more dangerous than driving, your credibility will play a role. You might also say “according to the Civil Aviation Branch of Transport Canada” as you cite mortality statistics associated with aviation accidents in a given year. The audience won’t expect you to personally gather statistics and publish a study, but they will expect you to state where you got your information. If you are talking to a group of children who have never flown before, and lack a frame of reference to the experience of flying, you will need to consider how to reference key ideas within their scope of experience.

A good way to visualize this is as a frame, where some information you display to the audience is within the frame, and other information (that you do not display) lies outside the frame. You focus the information to improve clarity and conciseness, and the audience will want to know why the information you chose is included and where you got it. That same frame may also be related to experience, and your choice of terms, order or reliance on visual aids to communicate ideas. If you are giving a speech on harvesting crops on an incline, and your audience is made up of rural Bolivians who farm manually, talking about a combine may not be as effective as showing one in action in order to establish a frame of reference.

Table 12.1 "Nine Cognate Strategies" summarizes the nine cognate strategies in relation to Aristotle’s forms of rhetorical proof; it also provides areas on which to focus your attention as you design your message.

Table 12.1 Nine Cognate Strategies

Aristotle’s Forms of Rhetorical Proof Cognate Strategies Focus
  • Tone
  • Emphasis
  • Engagement
  • Expression
  • Relevance
  • Relationship
  • Clarity
  • Conciseness
  • Arrangement
  • Clear understanding
  • Key points
  • Order, hierarchy, placement
  • Credibility
  • Expectation
  • Reference
  • Character, trust
  • Norms and anticipated outcomes
  • Sources and frames of reference

You’ll want to consider the cognate strategies and how to address each area to make your speech as effective as possible, given your understanding of the rhetorical situation.

Key Takeaway

The nine cognate strategies all contribute to your success in conveying the speech to the audience.


  1. Make a copy of Table 12.2 "How I Will Apply the Cognate Strategies" and use it to help get yourself organized as you start to prepare your speech. Fill in the far right column according to how each rhetorical element, cognate strategy, and focus will apply to the specific speech you are preparing.

    Table 12.2 How I Will Apply the Cognate Strategies

    Aristotle’s Forms of Rhetorical Proof Cognate Strategies Focus My speech will address each element and strategy by (verbal and visual)
    • Tone
    • Emphasis
    • Engagement
    • Expression
    • Relevance
    • Relationship
    • Clarity
    • Conciseness
    • Arrangement
    • Clear understanding
    • Key points
    • Order, hierarchy, placement
    • Credibility
    • Expectation
    • Reference
    • Character, trust
    • Norms and anticipated outcomes
    • Sources and frames of reference
  2. In a group with your classmates, complete the above exercise using Table 12.2 "How I Will Apply the Cognate Strategies" and demonstrate your results.
  3. Find an example where a speaker was lacking ethos, pathos, or logos. Write a brief summary of the presentation, and make at least one suggestion for improvement. Compare your results with classmates.
  4. Does organizing a presentation involve ethics? Explain your response and discuss it with the class.

12.3 Building a Sample Speech

Learning Objectives

  1. Demonstrate how to build a sample speech by expanding on the main points you wish to convey.
  2. Demonstrate how to use the five structural parts of any speech.

As you begin to investigate your topic, make sure you consider several sides of an issue. Let’s say you are going to do a speech to inform on the history of the creation of the Canadian Pacific Railway. At first you may have looked at just one side, the Canadian government, which wanted to bring the country together—moving people, goods, and services in a more efficient way.

Take another look at this issue and you see that several other perspectives have bearing on this issue. Railway companies wanted to make money from this new contruction venture. Shipping was done primarily by boat prior to the railroad, so shippers would not want the competition. Recent Chinese immigrants were in need of work. Aboriginal peoples did not want to lose their culture or way of life, and a railroad that crossed the country would cut right through the buffalo’s migration patterns. We now have five perspectives to the central issue, which makes the topic all the more interesting.

The general purpose is to inform the audience on the Canadian Pacific Railway and its impact on a young but developing Canada. The thesis statement focuses on shipping, communication, and cultures across Canada.

  • Topic. Canadian Pacific Railway
  • General purpose statement. I want the audience to be more informed about the impact of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
  • Thesis statement. The Canadian Pacific Railway changed shipping, communication, and cultures across Canada.

With the information we have so far, we can now list three main points:

  1. Change in shipping
  2. Change in communication
  3. Change in cultures

Think of each one of these main points as a separate but shorter speech. The point is to develop each of these main points like you have developed your overall speech. What do you want to focus on? The major types of shipping at the time of the Canadian Pacific Railway? One aspect you may want consider is to what degree is your audience familiar with this time in history. If they are not very familiar, a little background and context can help make your speech more meaningful and enhance its relevance to your thesis statement. By taking time to consider what you want to accomplish with each point, you will help yourself begin to address how you need to approach each point. Once you have thought about what you want to focus on for each point, list each subheading next to the main points. For example,

  1. Change in shipping

    1. Navigating the waterways via barges and boats
    2. Overland stagecoaches
    3. Timetables for modes of travel
  2. Change in communication

    1. Letters in the early days of Canada's postal system
    2. How the Morse Code telegraph system followed railroad lines
    3. Bringing people together across distances
  3. Change in cultures

    1. Prerailroad immigration
    2. Impact on Aboriginal peoples
    3. Colonies and Territories become Provinces

By now you’ve identified your key points and are ready to start planning your speech in more detail. While your organizational structure will vary from speech to speech, there are nonetheless five main parts of any speech: attention statement, introduction, body, conclusion, and residual message. These are basic to the rhetorical process and you will see time and time again, regardless of audience or culture, these same elements in some form utilized to communicate in public. They will serve to guide you, and possibly even save you should you get a last minute request to do a speech or presentation.

Place your hand on the table or desk and you’ll more likely see a thumb and four fingers. Associate your hand with these five elements. Each digit is independently quite weak, but together they make a powerful fist. Your thumb is quite versatile and your most important digit. It’s a lot like your attention statement. If you don’t gain the audience’s attention, the rest of the speech will be ineffective.

Each successive digit can represent the remaining four parts of any speech. One day you will be asked to speak with little or no time for preparation. By focusing on this organizational model, and looking down at your hand, you can quickly and accurately prepare your speech. With the luxury of time for preparation, each step can even be further developed. Remember the five-finger model of public speakingConsists of the attention statement, introduction, body, conclusion, residual message., as summarized in Table 12.3 "Five-Finger Model of Public Speaking", and you will always stand out as a more effective speaker.

Table 12.3 Five-Finger Model of Public Speaking

Attention Statement The attention statementThe way you focus the audience’s attention on you and your speech. is the way you focus the audience’s attention on you and your speech.
Introduction Your introductionPart of a speech that establishes a relationship with your audience and clearly states your topic. introduces you and your topic, and should establish a relationship with your audience and state your topic clearly.
Body In the bodyMain content area of a speech., or main content area of your speech, you will naturally turn to one of the organizational patterns.
Conclusion Your conclusionPart of a speech that provides the audience with a sense of closure by summarizing the main points and relating the points to the overall topic. should provide the audience with a sense of closure by summarizing the main points and relating the points to the overall topic.
Residual Message The residual messageIdea or thought that stays with your audience well after the speech. is an idea or thought that stays with your audience well after the speech.

Key Takeaway

Speeches are built by identifying the main points to be communicated and by following five structural elements (attention statement, introduction, body, conclusion, and residual message).


  1. By visiting the library or doing an Internet search, find a speech given by someone you admire. The speech may be published in a book or newspaper, recorded in an audio file, or recorded on video. It may be a political speech, a business speech, or even a commercial sales pitch. Read or listen to the speech and identify the five structural elements as this speaker has used them. Post your results, discuss with classmates, and if a link to the speech is available, please be sure to include it.
  2. By visiting the library or doing an Internet search, find a speech that would benefit from significant improvement. The speech may be published in a book or newspaper, recorded in an audio file, or recorded on video. It may be a political speech, a business speech, or even a commercial sales pitch. Read or listen to the speech and identify the five structural elements as this speaker has used them, noting specifically where they could improve their performance. Post your results, discuss with classmates, and if a link to the speech is available, please be sure to include it.
  3. What functions does organization serve in a speech? Can organization influence or sway the audience? Explain your response and position.

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.

12.5 Organizing Principles for Your Speech

Learning Objective

  1. Identify and understand how to use at least five different organizing principles for a speech.

There are many different ways to organize a speech, and none is “better” or “more correct” than the others. The choice of an organizing principleA core assumption around which everything else is arranged., or a core assumption around which everything else is arranged, depends on the subject matter, the rhetorical situation, and many other factors, including your preference as speaker.

The left column of Table 12.6 "Sample Organizing Principles for a Speech" presents seventeen different organizing principles to consider. The centre column explains how the principle works, and the right column provides an applied example based on our sample speech about the Canadian Pacific Railway. For example, using a biographical organizing principle, you might describe the journey of Alexander MacKenzie in 1793, the founding of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1881, and the completion of the first transcontinental train trip in 1886. As another example, using a spatial organizing principle, you might describe the mechanics of how a steam locomotive engine works to turn the train wheels, which move on a track to travel across distances.

As you read each organizational structure, consider how the main points and subheadings might change or be adapted to meet each pattern.

Table 12.6 Sample Organizing Principles for a Speech

Organizing Principle Explanation Applied Example
1. Time (Chronological) Structuring your speech by time shows a series of events or steps in a process, which typically has a beginning, middle, and end. “Once upon a time stories” follow a chronological pattern. Before the Canadian Pacific Railway, the events that led to its construction, and its impact on early Canada.
2. Comparison Structuring your speech by comparison focuses on the similarities and/or differences between points or concepts. A comparison of pre– and post–Canadian Pacific Railway, showing how health and life expectancy improved with the increased access to goods and services.
3. Contrast Structuring your speech by using contrasting points highlights the differences between items and concepts. A contrast of pre– and post–Canadian Pacific Railway showing how much time it took to communicate via letter, or how long it took to move out West.
4. Cause and Effect Structuring your speech by cause and effect establishes a relationship between two events or situations, making the connection clear. The movement of people and goods out West grew considerably from 1885 to 1914. With the availability of a new and faster way to go West, people generally supported its construction.
Organizing Principle Explanation Applied Example
5. Problem and Solution Structuring your speech by problem and solution means you state the problem and detail how it was solved. This approach is effective for persuasive speeches. Manufacturers were producing better goods for less money at the start of the Industrial Revolution, but they lack a fast, effective method of getting their goods to growing markets. The Canadian Pacific Railway gave them speed, economy, and access to new markets.
6. Classification (Categorical) Structuring your speech by classification establishes categories. At the time Canada considered the Canadian Pacific Railway, there were three main types of transportation: by water, by horse, and by foot.
7. Biographical Structuring your speech by biography means examining specific people as they relate to the central topic.
  • 1793: Alexander MacKenzie reaches the Pacific Ocean and completes first east to west crossing of North America north of Mexico.
  • 1881: Canadian Pacific Railway founded.
  • 1886: First transcontinental train from Montreal arrives in Port Moody, B.C. on July 4; the journey takes 134 hours.
  • 2012: Prime Minister Harper can fly from Montreal to Vancouver in 4.5 hours.
8. Space (Spatial) Structuring your speech by space involves the parts of something and how they fit to form the whole. A train uses a heat source to heat water, create stream, and turn a turbine, which moves a lever that causes a wheel to move on a track.
9. Ascending and Descending Structuring your speech by ascending or descending order involves focusing on quantity and quality. One good story (quality) leads to the larger picture, or the reverse. A day in the life of a traveller in 1800. Incremental developments in transportation to the present, expressed through statistics, graphs, maps and charts.
10. Psychological It is also called “Monroe’s Motivated Sequence.”Ayres, J., & Miller, J. (1994). Effective public speaking (4th ed., p 274). Madison, WI: Brown & Benchmark. Structuring your speech on the psychological aspects of the audience involves focusing on their inherent needs and wants. See MaslowMaslow, A. (1970). Motivation and personality (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Harper & Row. and Shutz.Shutz, W. (1966). The interpersonal underworld. Palo Alto, CA: Science and Behavior Books. The speaker calls attention to a need, then focuses on the satisfaction of the need, visualization of the solution, and ends with a proposed or historical action. This is useful for a persuasive speech. When families in the year 1800 went out West, they rarely returned to see family and friends. The country as a whole was an extension of this distended family, separated by time and distance. The railroad brought families and the country together.
11. Elimination Structuring your speech using the process of elimination involves outlining all the possibilities. The government’s use of the Canadian Pacific Railway during the North-West Rebellion assisted in the destruction of the Aboriginal people’s way of life in 1885. After examining treaties, relocation and reservations, loss of the buffalo, disease and war, the railroad can be accurately considered a catalyst for the end of an era.
12. Ceremonial: Events, Ceremonies, or Celebrations Structure your speech by focusing on the following:
  1. Thank dignitaries and representatives.
  2. Mention the importance of the event.
  3. Mention the relationship of the event to the audience.
  4. Thank the audience for their participation in the event, ceremony, or celebration.
Thanking the representatives, builders, and everyone involved with the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The railroad will unite Canada, and bring us closer in terms of trade, communication and family. Thank you for participating in today’s dedication.
13. Awards Structure your speech by focusing on the following:
  1. Thank everyone for coming together.
  2. Discuss the history and importance of the award.
  3. Give a brief biography of the person who will receive the award (often nonspecific to keep people guessing and to build suspense).
  4. Announce the name of the award recipient.
  5. Present the award (present award with left hand, shake with right).
  6. Award recipient may give a speech.
  7. Transition to the next item or thank everyone for participating.
Thank everyone for coming together. The Golden Spike Award was created in honour of all the great men and women that made today possible. The person receiving this award needs no introduction. His/her tireless efforts to build partnerships, coalitions, and raise support for the railroad have been unwavering. (Name), please come and receive the Golden Spike Award. (Speech/no speech.) Thank you, everyone, for coming.
14. Toast: Weddings or Similar Gatherings Structure your speech by focusing on the following:
  1. Thank everyone for coming together.
  2. Discuss the importance of the event (wedding).
  3. Mention the relationship of the couple to the audience or the speaker to the person being celebrated.
  4. Add one short sentence.
  5. Optional: Conclude, thanking the audience for participation in the event, ceremony, or celebration.
Thank everyone for coming together. I’ve know the groom since he played with toy trains and only now, with (partner’s name), can I see how far his involvement in our new cross-country train got him. “All the best of health and happiness.” Thank you everyone for joining us in this celebration of (name) and (name) (point 5 is optional).
15. Speaker Introductions Structure your speech by focusing on the following:
  1. Thank everyone for coming together.
  2. Provide a brief biography of the person who will speak or establish their credibility.
  3. Discuss the speaker and his or her topic.
  4. Announce the name of the speaker, and possibly once their speech has concluded.
  5. Transition to the next item or thank everyone for participating.
Thank everyone for coming together. Today’s speaker has a long history in the development of the train, including engineering technical aspects of steam locomotion. Today he/she will address the steps that led to our very own cross-country railroad. Please help me welcome (name). (Optional after speech: Thank you, everyone. Next we have…)
16. After-Dinner Speech Structure your speech by focusing on the following:
  1. Thank everyone for coming together.
  2. Provide a fun or humourous attention statement.
  3. Discuss the topic in a light-hearted manner with connected stories, anecdotes, or even a joke or two.
  4. Connect the humour to the topic of importance
  5. Thank everyone for participating.
Thank you for coming together to celebrate the driving of the Golden Spike. There have been many challenging moments along the way that I would like to share tonight (stories, anecdotes, or even a joke). While it’s been a long journey, we’ve made it. Thank you for coming tonight.
17. Oral Interpretation Structure your speech by focusing on the following:
  1. Draw attention to the piece of literature.
  2. Explain its significance, context, and background.
  3. Interpret the manuscript for the audience.
  4. Conclude with key points from the reading.
  5. Reiterate the main point of the piece of literature.
Today I would like to share with you the proclamation that led to the railroad you see before you today. (Interpret the proclamation, using your voice to bring the written word alive.) Without the foresight, vision and leadership we can now see, this railroad might still be a dream.

Key Takeaway

A speech may be organized according to any of many different organizing principles.


  1. Choose at least three different organizing principles from the left column of Table 12.6 "Sample Organizing Principles for a Speech". Take the thesis of a speech you are preparing and write an applied example, similar to the ones provided about the Canadian Pacific Railway that shows how you would apply each of your chosen organizing principles to your speech.
  2. Think of one technology or application that you perceive has transformed your world. Choose two organizing principles and create two sample outlines for speeches about your topic. Share and compare with classmates.

12.6 Transitions

Learning Objective

  1. Understand and demonstrate how to use transitions effectively within your speech.

By now you have identified your main points, chosen your organizational model, and are ready to begin putting your speech together. If you were going to build a house, you would need a strong foundation. Could the columns and beams hold your roof in place without anything to keep them from falling down? Of course not. In the same way, the columns or beams are like the main ideas of your speech, and identifying them is one important step. Another is to consider how to position them securely to rest on a solid foundation, have sufficient connection to each other that they become interdependent, and to make sure they stay where you want them to so your house, or your speech, doesn’t come crashing down.

TransitionsBridges between ideas, thoughts or concepts; words, phrases, or visual devices that help the audience follow the speaker’s ideas, connect the main points to each other, and see the relationships in a speech. are words, phrases, or visual devices that help the audience follow the speaker’s ideas, connect the main points to each other, and see the relationships you’ve created in the information you are presenting. They are often described as bridges between ideas, thought or concepts, providing some sense of where you’ve been and where you are going with your speech. Transitions are used by the speaker to guide the audience in the progression from one significant idea, concept or point to the next issue. They can also show the relationship between the main point and the support the speaker uses to illustrate, provide examples for, or reference outside sources. Depending on your purpose, transitions can serve different roles as you help create the glue that will connect your points together in a way the audience can easily follow.

Table 12.7 Types of Transitions in Speeches

Type Definition Examples
1. Internal Previews An internal preview is a brief statement referring to a point you are going to make. It can forecast or foreshadow a main point coming in your speech. If we look ahead to, next we’ll examine, now we can focus our attention on, first we’ll look at, then we’ll examine
2. Signposts A signpost alerts the audience that you are moving from one topic to the next. Signposts or signal words draw attention to themselves and focus the audience’s attention. Stop and consider, we can now address, next I’d like to explain, turning from/to, another, this reminds me of, I would like to emphasize
3. Internal Summaries An internal summary briefly covers information or alludes to information introduced previously. It can remind an audience of a previous point and reinforce information covered in your speech. As I have said, as we have seen, as mentioned earlier, in any event, in other words, in short, on the whole, therefore, to summarize, as a result, as I’ve noted previously, in conclusion
4. Sequence Transition A sequence transition outlines a hierarchical order or series of steps in your speech. It can illustrate order or steps in a logical process. First…second…third, furthermore, next, last, still, also, and then, besides, finally
5. Time A time transition focuses on the chronological aspects of your speech order. Particularly useful in a speech utilizing a story, this transition can illustrate for the audience progression of time. Before, earlier, immediately, in the meantime, in the past, lately, later, meanwhile, now, presently, shortly, simultaneously, since, so far, soon as long as, as soon as, at last, at length, at that time, then, until, afterward
6. Addition An addition or additive transition contributes to a previous point. This transition can build on a previous point and extend the discussion. In addition to, furthermore, either, neither, besides, moreover, in fact, as a matter of fact, actually, not only, but also, as well as, not to mention
7. Similarity A transition by similarity draws a parallel between two ideas, concepts, or examples. It can indicate a common area between points for the audience. In the same way, by the same token, equally, similarly, just as we have seen, in the same vein
8. Comparison A transition by comparison draws a distinction between two ideas, concepts, or examples. It can indicate a common or divergent area between points for the audience. Like, in relation to, bigger than, smaller than, the fastest, than any other, is greater than, both, either…or, likewise, even more important
9. Contrast A transition by contrast draws a distinction of difference, opposition, or irregularity between two ideas, concepts, or examples. This transition can indicate a key distinction between points for the audience. But, neither…nor, however, on the other hand, although, even though, in contrast, in spite of, despite, on the contrary, conversely, unlike, while, instead, nevertheless, nonetheless, regardless, still, though, yet
10. Cause and Effect or Result A transition by cause and effect or result illustrates a relationship between two ideas, concepts, or examples and may focus on the outcome or result. It can illustrate a relationship between points for the audience. As a result, because, consequently, for this purpose, accordingly, so, then, therefore, thereupon, thus, to this end, for this reason, as a consequence, and the result was
11. Examples A transition by example illustrates a connection between a point and an example or examples. You may find visual aids work well with this type of transition. In fact, as we can see, after all, even, for example, for instance, of course, specifically, such as, in the following example, to illustrate my point
12. Place A place transition refers to a location, often in a spatially organized speech, of one point of emphasis to another. Again, visual aids work well when discussing physical location with an audience. Opposite to, there, to the left, to the right, above, below, adjacent to, elsewhere, far, farther on, beyond, closer to, here, near, nearby, next to
13. Clarification A clarification transition restates or further develops a main idea or point. It can also serve as a signal to a key point. To clarify, that is, I mean, in other words, to put it another way, that is to say, to rephrase it, in order to explain, this means
14. Concession A concession transition indicates knowledge of contrary information. It can address a perception the audience may hold and allow for clarification. We can see that while, although it is true that, granted that, while it may appear that, naturally, of course, I can see that, I admit that even though

Table 12.7 "Types of Transitions in Speeches" is a summary of fourteen distinct types of transitions. As you contemplate how to bring together your information, consider how you will use various transitions, and note them on your outline.

Key Takeaway

A speech needs transitions to help the audience understand how the speaker’s main ideas are connected to one another.


  1. By visiting the library or doing an Internet search, find a speech that teaches you one new skill or idea. The speech may be published in a book or newspaper, recorded in an audio file, or recorded on video. Read or listen to the speech and identify the transitions the speaker has used.
  2. Listen to your favourite comedian. Write a brief summary of how they transition from topic to topic. Share and compare with classmates.
  3. Listen to a conversation with friends and observe how they transition from topic to topic. Write a brief summary. Share and compare with classmates.

12.7 Additional Resources

The commercial site from Inc. magazine presents an article on organizing your speech by Patricia Fripp, former president of the National Speakers Association.

Read a straightforward tutorial on speech organization by Robert Gwynne on this University of Central Florida site.

Read a straightforward tutorial on speech organization on the University of Tennessee Toastmasters website.

View an eHow video on how to organize a speech. How does the advice in this video differ from organizing advice given in this chapter?

Read more about how to outline a speech on this site from John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Learn more about how to outline a speech from the Six Minutes public speaking and presentation skills blog.