Organizing the Informative Speech

Learning Objectives

Discern the best organizational approach for types of informative speeches.

Like an essay, a speech should have a clear organizational structure with a recognizable beginning, middle, and end. But unlike an essay where your reader can go back and re-read sections they may not understand or follow, in a speech in front of a live audience your audience can’t stop, rewind, and re-listen to parts of your speech they didn’t follow. For that reason it is especially important to have a clear and easy-to-follow structure to a speech.

In this section, we introduce the characteristic organizational structures of an informative speech. Later on, we’ll explore each of the organizational structural elements in greater detail.

An informative speech can be broken up into three sections:

  • Section 1: Introduction. The first section of the speech contains an attention-getter to grab the interest of the audience and orient them to the topic of the speech, a clear thesis that states the purpose of the speech, and a preview of the main points of the speech.
  • Section 2: Body. The heart of the speech is the body. The body is where you provide your audience all the information they will need to understand your topic. To make the body of the speech easier for the audience to follow, divide it up into at least two but no more than five main points. Organize the main points in a clear structure appropriate to the topic and thesis and provide supporting examples and/or evidence for each main point.
  • Section 3: Conclusion. The conclusion is a short section that reinforces the thesis, summarizes the main points, and provides a sense of closure.

Video example

To see an example of an informative speech with a clear introduction, body, and conclusion, watch this speech where the speaker informs her audience how to manage the stress that comes with being a college student.

You can view the transcript for “Stress Informative Speech (with captions)” here (opens in new window).

Specific Purpose Statement

Once you have a speech topic selected, develop a specific purpose statement. Your purpose statement describes what you want your audience to know as a result of listening to your speech. Here are some examples of informative speech purpose statements:

  • To inform my audience about different types of coffee makers.
  • To inform my audience about the historical significance of Harriet Tubman.
  • To inform my audience about how to prune roses.

Central Idea

Your purpose statement helps you determine the thesis or central idea of your speech. You will present your central idea in the introduction to the speech and everything you say in the speech will support that central idea.

For example, if your purpose is to inform your audience about different types of coffee makers you could develop a central idea like this:

  • There are two main types of coffee makers, automatic drip machines and manual coffee makers.

Main Points

Once you have a purpose statement you want to develop your main points. The body of the speech is where you will present and provide support for the main points of the speech. Remember that you should generally aim to have at least two but no more than five main points. Keep time constraints in mind when developing your main points. If you are given four minutes to speak, for instance, trying to have four main points might be too ambitious, so you might instead focus on two or at the most three main points.

You’ll want to organize the body of the speech in a way that helps you present your main points in the most effective order. Your purpose statement helps you decide what kind of organizational pattern would make the most sense for your topic.

Organizational Patterns

There are many types of organizational patterns you can use for an informative speech, as you can see in more detail in Module 6: Organizing and Outlining Your Speech. Here are a few examples:

A silverware drawer organizer

In a topical organization structure, each point fits into one of a few topic categories.

Topical: This is a good, all-purpose organizational pattern where you divide your main points into topics. It works well for speeches where the main points are clearly distinct from each other and the order they are placed in isn’t critical like it would be for some other organizational patterns. The example above about coffee makers, for example, could be divided into two topical main points: 1) automatic drip coffee makers and 2) manual coffee makers. Each main point would be supported by subpoints that elaborate on the characteristics of each type of coffee maker.

Compare/contrast: With compare/contrast organizational patterns, you explain the similarities and differences between two or more things. A speech about the similarities and differences between video game consoles PlayStation and Xbox would fit this type of organizational pattern. You could devote one main point to the qualities they share in common and a second point to how they differ from each other.

Map of the mississippi River watershed

A spatially organized speech about the Mississippi River might follow the river from north to south.

Spatial: Do you have a topic that lends itself to being explained in a directional order such as from top to bottom, left to right, or east to west? If so, you could organize your speech in a spatial pattern. This can be a good organizational pattern to use when you want to describe a place to an audience. For instance, if you gave a speech about the major cities the Mississippi River passes through you could start in the north by describing its origin in Minnesota near Minneapolis and St. Paul, then work south and explain how it flows through other cities like St. Louis before it empties into the Gulf of Mexico in New Orleans.

Chronological: This is a speech that follows a time order. This is a good choice for speeches where you want to explain a sequence of events. For example, you could use a chronological pattern for a speech explaining the steps Apple took in developing the iPhone or the significant decisions made by the Supreme Court affecting rights of the LGBTQIA community. Chronological can also be a good organizational choice for speeches where you are explaining a process or demonstrating how to do something.

Step by step description of how to draw an airplane

To describe or demonstrate a process, step by step may be the best structure.

Step-by-Step: When you’re speaking about a process, the most logical organizational structure may be step by step. Step-by-step organization is useful for “how-to” or demonstration speeches where you are teaching or showing how to do a task. If you were speaking about how to spray-paint a mural, you might describe each layer of the painting step by step.

Biographical: A biographical organization tells the story of a person’s life. The person could be a well-known person or someone who is not. The subject of the speech could even be the speaker themselves. It can be similar to the chronological pattern in that it can be organized by time but it doesn’t have to be. A biographical speech could start by focusing on an important event late in someone’s life and then going back in time to explain how the person got to that point.

Close-up photo of dominoes falling

A causal structure talks about why something happened.

Causal: If you want to explain a cause/effect relationship, you want to use the causal organizational pattern. Typically with this pattern, you would have two main points: one focused on the causes of an event, the second about its effects. A speech about hurricanes might be organized this way, for example. One main point could be devoted to oceanic and atmospheric causes of hurricanes and the second main point about the effects of hurricanes such as storm surge, strong winds, and flooding.

We cover outlining in detail elsewhere, but at this point once you have a purpose statement, general idea, main points, and an organizational pattern, you are ready to develop an outline.


Some important reminders about outlines:

  • Working outlines are what you start with and they help you with speech preparation and planning. This isn’t the outline you will use for speaking.
  • The full-sentence outline develops the full details of the message. But, again, it is not the outline you use to speak.
  • The speaking outline includes key words or phrases and helps you stay organized in front of the audience without reading to them. This is the outline you will speak from so that you are speaking extemporaneously rather than reading your outline word for word.
  • Tip: Using notecards for your speaking outline helps with delivery and makes it easier to find information if you lose your place or draw a blank.

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