Organizing Your Ideas

Learning Objectives

Articulate the reasons why messages need to be organized.

Consider the importance of message organization at three levels:

  • The order of the main points of your speech.
  • The order of supporting materials for each main point.
  • The order of a specific supporting material, including examples, statistics/research, testimonials, etc.

An organized message provides:

  1. Clarity
  2. Credibility
  3. Ease of Remembering
  4. Strategy
  5. Speaker Recall


Three-step instructions for unfolding a folding chair

Clarity is key! Make your message as easy to follow as possible.

Your goal as a speaker is to guide your audience’s understanding or beliefs on a topic. Following a logical structure will ensure your message is clear. When someone reads an article or book and is confused, they can easily re-read a passage or double-check a definition. In public speaking, there is no such opportunity, so it is especially important to use deliberate organization that makes sense to the audience. A confused audience will quickly lose interest, so use thoughtful organization to make your message as easy to follow as possible.


In the example about giving disorganized directions to a store, the passerby will receive those instructions with skepticism about your ability and understanding. Likewise, a speech that is difficult to follow organizationally will undermine your credibility as a speaker. Even if you have the most compelling statistics and examples to support your message, if they are presented in an illogical and disorganized way, your audience is not going to find you or your message to be credible.

Ease of Remembering

Another goal of public speaking is for your message to be memorable: your audience is much more likely to remember a well-organized speech. For example, if your speech is about the benefits of meditation and you follow a clear structure that introduces then provides in-depth support for three distinct benefits, then after your speech your audience will be able to more easily recall those three benefits along with some of the support you presented


As noted above, your goal as a speaker is to add to your audience’s understanding of a topic, to change their views or to inspire them in some way. You want your message to change them, and strategically guiding your audience’s thought process is a critical part of achieving that objective. For instance, if your purpose is to persuade your audience to never text and drive, you might choose to begin your speech with a highly emotional and relatable story about a young person who died because of distracted driving. From there, you might stack evidence and stories about the risks of texting and driving and only then present specific ways your audience can commit to never texting and driving. By starting with a compelling story, then adding relevant statistics, you will have connected with your audience’s emotions before building on that. The way you organize your main points, or build a story or case will strategically guide what and when you want your audience to think about each part of your message.

Similarly, consider how you can structure a particular message for maximum impact using suspense, surprise, or intentional misdirection. For example, contrast the impact of the following two phrases to begin your speech about Kanye West’s group Sunday service:

A: Hip Hop Legend. Fashion Designer. Billionaire . . . Preacher?
B: Hip Hop Legend. Preacher. Billionaire. Designer.

The order of example A builds curiosity and ends with a final entry that might seem incompatible with the preceding three. The order of Example B has no purpose and becomes a list rather than a strategy that piques your audience’s interest.

Speaker Recall

One of students’ biggest concerns for public speaking is forgetting where they are or what comes next in their speech. Not surprisingly then, an organized message is one of the key factors for building a speaker’s confidence and audience engagement. A well-organized speech allows speakers to be less concerned about remembering “what comes next” and more present and engaged with their audience. For instance, for your speech on the physical impact of concussions, you might follow the human body from top to bottom, starting with the impact on the brain and cognition followed by eyesight, balance (ears), speech (mouth), and so on. A speech organized like this is easier to recall and thus the speaker is less reliant on their notes and can have greater confidence and engagement.

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