Components of a Speech



Introduction

The introduction of your speech establishes your speech’s purpose, previews your key points and tells your audience why they should listen.

Learning Objectives

Discuss why crafting a strong introduction is important when preparing a speech

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Your introduction should immediately capture your audience ‘s attention and interest.
  • Introduce yourself and who you are in your introduction to establish your credibility and authority to be speaking on your given subject.
  • Your introduction should give your audience a preview of what they can expect to hear for the duration of your speech.
  • When preparing your speech, it’s actually easier to write your introduction last, after you have written the rest of your speech.
  • When preparing your speech, it’s actually easier to write your introduction last, after you have written the rest of your speech.

Key Terms

  • anecdote: An account or story which supports an argument, but which is not supported by scientific or statistical analysis.
  • audience: A group of people within hearing; specifically a group of people listening to a performance, speech etc.; the crowd seeing a stage performance.

Your Introduction: Set the Tone for Your Speech

A picture of Aziza Brahim and Memona Mohamed during a press conference presentation of the movie "Wilaya" at the 10th Human Rights film festival in San Sebastian, Spain.

Introduction: Aziza Brahim and Memona Mohamed during a press conference presentation of the movie “Wilaya” at the 10th Human Rights film festival in San Sebastian, Spain.

“Begin at the beginning. ” While this might be a line from the fantastical world of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, it’s an excellent piece of advice when thinking about the introduction to your speech. The introduction is the first part of your speech that will ultimately set the tone for the rest of your speech.

With the introduction, you have the power to capture your audience’s attention and interest while simultaneously giving them an understanding of what they’re about to hear for the next five, ten or even sixty minutes. An introduction can make or break a speech, because if you can’t capture your audience’s attention right at the beginning, how will they possibly remain interested for the duration of your speech?

Capture Your Audience’s Attention

When crafting your speech, you’ll want to select an attention-getter to use in your introduction to instantly capture your audience’s attention right from the beginning of your speech. There are a variety of attention-getting techniques you can use, including humor, sharing an anecdote or quotation, or referencing historical or current events.

Using references is a simple and effective way to grab your audience’s attention. You may make reference to the event at which you’re speaking or share a personal reference to the topic about which you’re speaking. It’s important to remember that you want to select an attention-getter that is appropriate to your topic, your audience and the venue or occasion at which you are speaking.

State Your Purpose

When beginning your speech and as you capture your audience’s attention, you’ll want to express exactly why they should listen to you. You may be giving a speech arguing a certain point. You might be giving an informational speech about a specific topic. Your speech could even be spoken at a special event such as an awards banquet, wedding or political event. Regardless of the context of your speech, it is important to establish the purpose of your speech to your audience so your audience knows why they should listen to you.

Your introduction is not just an introduction of about what you plan to speak, but an introduction of who you are and why you are the appropriate individual to speak about your subject. In some speeches, you may be preceded by someone who will introduce you to your audience. If not, it’s important to establish your credibility and authority as the speech-giver to your audience.

Outline Your Agenda

It is helpful for your audience to know about what you plan to speak. Use your introduction as an opportunity to share your train of thought with your audience. You don’t have to break your speech organization down into minute detail; that’s what the body of your speech will accomplish. Give your audience an overview of your main points so they have an idea of what to expect as your continue with your speech.

Writing Your Introduction

As counterintuitive as this may seem, you actually want to write your introduction last. Since the introduction is often used as an outline for the key points of your speech, it’s helpful to have written the entire speech to be able to distill your speech into its major points and arguments. Once you have your entire speech written minus your introduction, it’s much easier to see just which points emerge as your major points.

You’ll also want to make sure that you write your introduction word for word. While extemporaneous speeches don’t give you this kind of freedom, writing your introduction verbatim, or word for word, is vital for any prepared remarks. By writing it down word for word, you can quickly see if you’ve left out any of your major points as you set up your speech outline. You can also see if you have the right attention-getter suitable to your topic, audience and venue. Finally, since your introduction sets the tone for the rest of your speech, preparing it word for word allows you to begin your speech with confidence.

image

.President William Howard Taft introducing the Springfield Municipal Group in Springfield, Massachusetts.: Your introduction should immediately capture your audience’s attention and interest.

Body

The body of your speech is the point at which you go into full detail about each of your main points. The body is where you tell your story.

Learning Objectives

Describe how to craft a strong body for a speech that entertains, informs, or argues a point

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Organize your thoughts into a cohesive, logical flow of ideas.
  • Each main point of your speech should support your speech’s purpose.
  • Use a variety of examples to illustrate the main points of your speech, from research, facts and figures, to personal anecdotes and references.
  • Don’t be afraid to let your personality come through; know your audience and tailor your approach accordingly. The body of your speech should be creative and engaging.
  • Don’t stray too far from your outline; you will quickly lose your audience’s interest if you begin wandering off topic into points or anecdotes that don’t support your speech’s purpose or objective. You don’t want to appear disorganized or sound overly verbose.

Key Terms

  • brainstorming: A method of problem solving in which individuals or members of a group contribute ideas spontaneously.

Your Speech Body: Deliver Your Main Points

A picture of Commander Naval Reserve Force Vice Adm. John G. Cotton in front of a Powerpoint slide. He is mapping out the Naval Reserve Force's future.

Body of the Speech: Commander Naval Reserve Force Vice Adm. John G. Cotton is silhouetted in front of a Powerpoint slide, mapping out the Naval Reserve Force’s future.

Once you’ve captured the attention of your audience with an smashing introduction, it’s time to move into the meat-and-potatoes of your speech: the body. The body should take up about three-quarters of your entire speech time, since this is where you will go into detail about your main points.

Organize Your Content

Establish Your Purpose

Typically, there are three general reasons why you might be giving a speech: to entertain, to inform, or to argue a point. Each of these purposes requires a slightly different approach in order to successfully communicate its objectives to an audience. Once you’ve established your purpose, you can formulate a strategy for achieving that purpose with your main points. To illustrate each main point, you will need to use a series of examples.

Determine Your Main Points

Once you have your purpose established, it’s time to decide what main points you will use to achieve that purpose. You’ll want to start by brainstorming a list of all possible main points to support your purpose. Once you’ve completed this list, begin to assign them weights and priorities. Consider which points more effectively communicate your purpose than others. You may want to nest some points under others, thereby creating a natural hierarchy of main points and sub-points.

Equally important is determining exactly what does not belong in your speech or is irrelevant to your subject. Ultimately, you’ll want to boil down your main points to no more than three or four points. While this may seem minimalistic, know that your audience will only be able to remember so much, and you don’t want to overwhelm them with too much information. Three or four main points allow you to develop complete arguments in order to support your purpose, while still enabling your audience to follow your logic.

Decide How You Will Tell Your Story

You’ll want to have compelling evidence to support each main point of your speech. This evidence can be in the form of researched data, facts and figures, or even personal anecdotes and references. You may cite quotations and historical or current events to further bolster your arguments. Depending on your subject, audience and venue, humor may also be appropriate to weave throughout your speech.

If the purpose of your speech is to inform, you will rely heavily on data, statistics and research to illustrate your points. You may even use an accompanying presentation, video, chart, or images to help support your purpose.

If the purpose of your speech is to argue, you may find yourself using a combination of research and anecdotes to get your points across. You may also use accompanying media to illustrate your points; however, your data should be tailored to best argue your particular case. This is not to say that you should manipulate your data; rather, present only the information that your audience needs to see and hear to support whatever argument you are trying to make.

If the purpose of your speech is to entertain, you’ll rely more heavily on anecdotes than on hard research to get your points across. Humor is more than appropriate in this situation, but use it in moderation: you don’t want to jeopardize your credibility in front of your audience.

No matter the purpose or order of your main points, it’s important that you remember to stick to the outline of your speech. If you begin to wander off topic by sharing too many anecdotes, or presenting extraneous data, your audience may not be able to keep up and you will quickly begin to lose their interest.

Writing the Body

Once you’ve brainstormed and refined the main points of your speech, you can begin to write the body of your speech. The easiest strategy is to create an outline of your main points and list the supporting evidence you’ll provide for each main point. Depending on how comfortable you are with memorization, this may be all you need when you get up in front of your audience.

Many professional speakers do not rely on anything other than a brief outline of their speech, either memorizing what they plan to say in advance or simply speaking extemporaneously with only a basic guide. If this is one of your first speeches, and the situation allows, you may want to write your complete body word for word.

Conclusion

The conclusion of your speech summarizes your purpose and main points while leaving a lasting impression with your audience.

Learning Objectives

Discuss the best practices for writing a strong conclusion for a speech

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Use your conclusion as an opportunity to summarize the main points of your speech.
  • Don’t repeat your main points word for word; rather, paraphrase the key themes and arguments you have just presented.
  • Consider ending your speech with an additional anecdote or quotation that captures the theme of your speech.
  • Don’t introduce any new points or supportive evidence into your conclusion as it will confuse your audience.
  • Use trigger phrases such as “in conclusion” or “in summary” to prepare your audience for the end of your speech.
  • Write your conclusion at the same time as the introduction (after you write the body) so that the introduction and conclusion complement one another.

Key Terms

  • summarize: To give a recapitulation of the salient facts; to recapitulate or review

Your Conclusion: Leave a Lasting Impression

A picture of a speaker showing the last slide in a presentation during the Wiki Conference in India.

Concluding Your Speech: The conclusion of your speech summarizes your main points and purpose while leaving a lasting impression on your audience.

If your body is the meat and potatoes of your speech, then the conclusion is the icing on the cake. Your conclusion is delivered at the end of the speech and is often what most people remember immediately after your speech has ended. As important as your introduction is for grabbing the audience’s attention, the conclusion is doubly important as it leaves the audience with a lasting impression.

Summarize Your Main Points

The purpose of the conclusion is to summarize your main points and to prepare the audience for the end of your speech. You’ll want to recapture the essence of your speech: your main points and the purpose of why you spoke. It is especially important to remember that the conclusion of your speech is not the time to introduce new points or new supporting evidence; doing so will only confuse the audience. Try to think of your conclusion like tying a bow or a ribbon: it’s the final touch that makes your project stand out.

Paraphrasing Versus Repeating

While summarizing your main points is important, be wary of simply repeating your main points word for word. You’ll want to paraphrase your main points rather than directly repeat them from your speech’s body. Paraphrasing allows you to capture the essence of your speech, unlike rote repetition of identical sentences you may have spoken just minutes earlier.

End on a High Note

Your conclusion is the last thing your audience hears from you. Just as an introduction can make or break a speech, you always want to end your speech on a high note with something memorable. The conclusion is where you’ll insert your take-away message: what do you want the audience to remember after you’ve finished speaking? What do you want them to recall in the days or weeks after your speech?

To create a memorable ending, you may want to share a quotation or anecdote. It’s important to remain relatable and credible to the audience up until your final word, so be sure to craft your conclusion in a way that is still appropriate to the topic, audience, and venue.

Writing Your Conclusion

Like the introduction, you’ll want to write your conclusion last. The introduction and conclusion of your speech serve as bookends to your speech’s body, so it only makes sense that you’ll want to craft them after you’ve written your body.

Review your speech’s body and ensure that you’ve touched upon all the main points you wish to discuss, then rephrase those main points in your conclusion. Determine the take-home message that you want to leave with your audience and either include it word for word in your conclusion or use it as a guiding theme for how you’ll end your speech. If you have any final anecdotes or quotations to share that either drive home a particular point or capture the theme of your speech, include it here.

While there is no set time or sentence limit for your conclusion, make sure you don’t finish your speech so suddenly that your audience is caught off guard when the speech ends. Using trigger phrases such as “in conclusion” or “in summary” signify to your audience that the speech is about to end and that they should pay special attention to your final thoughts.

Transitions

Transitions allow your speech to flow smoothly from one section or point to another.

Learning Objectives

List the different types of transitions used in speeches

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Transitions are used to show the linkage or connection between main points.
  • Types of transitions include temporal, equality, causality, compare and contrast, and summary.
  • After you determine the main points of your speech, order them logically and then determine how you will transition from one point to the next.

Key Terms

  • transition: The process of change from one form, state, style, or place to another.
  • segue: To make a smooth transition from one theme to another.

Transitions: Find the Right Flow of Ideas

A picture of a young woman talking into a microphone during a public speech at a park.

Giving a Public Speech: Your speech should flow logically and smoothly from one point to the next.

As you craft your speech, you will need to transition from one point to the next to fully articulate your purpose or objectives. When read aloud, your speech should flow smoothly from introduction to body, from main point to main point and then finally into your conclusion. Transitions are essential in order to help your audience follow along your line of reasoning.

Types of Transitions

There are different types of transitions often used in speeches, including:

  • Temporal- using words like before and after
  • Equality-highlighting points of equal importance like in addition or moreover
  • Causality- using words that show cause and effect
  • Compare and Contrast- using words and phrases that compare one part of the speech to the next, like contrarily or on the other hand
  • Introductions and summaries are also types of transitions to let listeners know what a person will be speaking about and offering a way to understand the important parts of a speech

The Art of the Segue

To move from one point and into the next, you’ll want to segue into your new point. Sometimes your points may share similar themes or concepts – order your points in such a way as to capitalize on those similarities. You can also use opposition to present opposing main points. If you have multiple pieces of supporting evidence, you may need to transition between examples so that your audience knows you are furthering a point with another example, anecdote or set of researched data.

However you decide to transition, you’ll want to use triggering keywords that let your audience know you’re moving on to a new point. Ordinal words like “next,” “second and “third” give your audience the heads up that you’re about to proceed in a new or continued direction of thought.

Writing Transitions

After you have identified your main points and outlined what evidence you’ll use to support them, begin to prioritize and sort your main points so they follow in the most logical order. From there, you’ll be able to pinpoint how you’ll want to transition your speech from one point to the next. Try to think of transitions as a way to connect the dots of your speech’s purpose.