You’ve now decided on a topic or key message for your presentation, so you are moving on to one of the next steps: organising your speech.
I strongly believe that when planning a speech you have to be messy before you get organised. This means get all of your ideas out.
You can do this in several ways. Some people like to use post-its and put one idea, story, fact or argument on each post-it. Other like to use mind maps. If you have a whiteboard handy you can even brainstorm on that. Even old-fashioned pen and paper will do.
The important thing is to write down every idea you have related to your key message. Even if it seems crazy or slightly off-topic (you can always discard the bad ideas later). It is only like this that you will recognise the best ideas and see what works together.
There are three things a presentation must have: an introduction, a body and a conclusion. Other than that, everything else is optional.
The introduction should obviously introduce the subject, but more importantly grab the attention of the audience. It is like giving your audience a map of where you plan to take them during your presentation.
Your body should continue to captivate the audience and present the main content of your presentation. Humans like when things are presented in patterns. The most basic pattern consists of three elements. Therefore, audiences like speeches that have three parts, so try dividing the ideas for your presentation into three sections.
Your conclusion should summarise any important points, as well as reinforce your key message. Most importantly, it should also be memorable, as this is the last thing the audience is going to hear you say. The audience will forget that you were nervous at the beginning and forgive you for any grammar mistakes during the body if you deliver a great conclusion.
Dale Carnegie, writer of many classic public speaking books, sums this up nicely.
“Tell the audience what you’re going to say, say it; then tell them what you’ve said
.” – Dale Carnegie
If you are really stuck and don’t know where to begin organising your speech. Try working with an outline. Just like in writing, preparing a speech is easier when you have a plan to follow.
Every topic has different features that will make it work better with certain outlines, so not every outline listed below will work for your presentation. Be creative and try something new!
Chronological: This simple outline presents information in a chronological order from the beginning to the end. It can be useful for a presentation that is telling a story or event from history. It also works for presentations that want to share a method step by step (e.g. First, you do this….Secondly, you open this etc.)
Comparative: In this outline you are comparing two objects, methods, opinions etc. You present the pros and cons of each idea and then end with your opinion. For instance, during a business meeting you might be presenting a comparison of two new product ideas and which one you think the company should develop.
Persuasive: You have an opinion and you want to convince your audience that you are right. This outline begins with your opinion or ideas, then you present your arguments or the benefits of this idea and then you end with a strong conclusion to convince the audience. This is a good outline to use the Rule of Three in your body – presenting three benefits, reasons or arguments.
Problem – Solution:
You present a problem to your audience and the follow-up with one or more solutions. You might use this outline at work if you presenting a solution to your client’s problem or discussing how to resolve a problem between co-workers.
Topical: This outline works well you are presenting facts or giving an overview of a subject. You first present a general category or subject and then go into detail on related subcategories. For instance, you are giving an introduction to economics presentation. You would begin by introducing what the term economics means and then would continue with an introduction to some elements such as microeconomics and macroeconomics.
Acrnonym: You can develop your content around an acronym to make it easier for the audience to remember the main points. For example, a teacher may want her students to be using the STAR method when writing their answers to certain essay questions. She would begin by presenting the situation when to use the acronym, then develop the acronym letter by letter and conclude telling the students why this acronym is important.
Spatial/geographical/descriptive: This outline is great for describing a device, place, piece of art etc. Here you would begin by speaking about the object generally, then in an organised way talk about each individual element that makes up the object and then conclude by talking about the entire object again. For instance, if you are talking about a museum you visited you could use this outline. Talk about the museum generally, then guide the audience through the different rooms of the museum in order of their location and then end with why you enjoyed visiting this museum.
Scientific Method: This outline presents information in a similar way to the scientific method (Problem, Hypothesis, Experiment, Analyse, Conclusion). This outline is not only for scientific topics. You could use this to talk about how you learned to fix a mechanical problem with your toaster or how you learned to teach your son to clean up his toys.
Do not feel limited to the outlines above. They are just some suggestions to get you going. There are other outlines that might be better suited to your topic. The important thing is to have a structure or outline so that your audience can clearly understand your presentation.