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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 center column explains how the principle works, and the right column provides an applied example based on our sample speech about the First Transcontinental Railroad. For example, using a biographical organizing principle, you might describe the journey of the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1804; the signing of the Pacific Railroad Act in 1862, and the completion of the first Transcontinental Express train trip in 1876. 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 First Transcontinental Railroad, the events that led to its construction, and its impact on early America…|
|2. Comparison||Structuring your speech by comparison focuses on the similarities and/or differences between points or concepts.||A comparison of pre– and post–First Transcontinental Railroad North America, showing how health and life expectancy remained the same.|
|3. Contrast||Structure your speech by using contrasting points highlights the differences between items and concepts.||A contrast of pre– and post–First Transcontinental Railroad North America, by shipping times, 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 1750 to 1850. 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 First Transcontinental Railroad gave them speed, economy, and access to new markets.|
|6. Classification (Categorical)||Structuring your speech by classification establishes categories.||At the time the nation considered the First Transcontinental Railroad, 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.||
|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 traveler 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 First Transcontinental Railroad helped pave the way for the destruction of the Native American way of life in 1870. After examining treaties, relocation and reservations, loss of the buffalo, disease and war, the railroad can be accurately considered the catalyst for the end of an era.|
|12. Ceremonial: Events, Ceremonies, or Celebrations||Structure your speech by focusing on the following:
||Thanking the representatives, builders, and everyone involved with the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad. The railroad will unite America, 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:
||>Thank everyone for coming together. The Golden Spike Award was created in honor 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:
||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 healthy 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:
||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 lead 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:
||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:
||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.|
A speech may be organized according to any of many different organizing principles.