Having an organized structure to your speech is important for keeping your audience interested and your speech on track. That’s why it helps to have a speech outline, which is a simple, bulleted list of what you want to cover during your speech.
Speech outlines should do exactly what their name suggests — outline your speech. That does not mean that it should be your speech written out. Each bullet on your outline should have three to five words each; just enough to help you remeber the points you wanted to touch on.
Why should you have a speech outline? Isn’t it better to just memorize the speech and go paperless?
No! You should never memorize your speech because, rather than forming a connection with your audience, you are distracted because you are trying to remember word for word what you wanted to say. Instead of focusing on your audience, you are searching the back of your head, which really gives you a “blank” look and your audience notices this. When you are missing the connection with your audience, you are also missing valuable feedback from them, which tells you if they are comprehending, appreciating, and respecting what you’re saying. Further, what happens when you have memorized your speech and then while presenting, you slip up? Your entire presentation becomes derailed and your chances of a successful presentation quickly dwindle. So, never memorize your speech, and remember to make a speech outline.
Because people most often and most easily remember things in threes, our favorite simple and basic speech structure is what is known as “the three tells”. In this structure, the idea is to tell your audience what you’re going to tell them, or what they can expect to gain from your presentation, tell them, and then tell them what you told them. You mention your main points or ideas three different times.
In the introduction, you tell your audience what you’re going to be talking about in your presentation. Think of this as an overview. What should they expect to take away? Then in the main body, that’s where you tell them. This is the time that you present your argument on a topic and back them up with facts or other evidence. Finally, in the conclusion, you give a quick summary of what you just covered and the main points you wanted to get across. And there you have it, the “three tells”.
Studies show that people need to hear information at least three times to really retain it. That’s why this method is so useful. You want your audience to remember the information you’re sending to them and to gain something from it themselves. Not only does your message become memorable, but you do too because when you reiterate your point, you emit confidence. Your audience feels assurance that you know what you’re talking about and your chances of success are higher.
Listen to this Communication Training episode of Communication Nation to hear more about making a speech outline, the “three tells” (skip to 18:13) and other tips on public speaking and speech writing.
Written by Impromptu Guru Director of Operations, Christina Miller.