At some point in your life, you were asked to give a speech from your teacher– be it an extemporaneous one, declarative, or simply an impromptu. Whatever the case, maybe you were expecting it, maybe not. But one thing is for certain, you are never ready for it. We were all terrified in giving speeches especially in our high school and college days. The thought of losing your sense of focus and concentration as the crowd is fixing its eyes on you, just patiently waiting on what you will be saying next. Then it starts. The sweat coming from your forehead, the shakiness of your feet and arms, the continuous muttering of gibberish such as ‘uhm’ and ‘eh’ until you faint or just say ‘Thank you’ without really finishing your speech.
Do you know that research shows that people are more afraid of giving speeches than death itself? It is ironic but it is true.
Merriam-Webster defines speech as the power of expressing or communicating thoughts by speaking. In this case, it is usually public discourse.
But the biggest question to everyone who’s been given something to talk about in a room full of people remains the same: Where do I begin?
That is the tricky thing, isn’t it? The thing with speeches is that it tends to become so draggy that you eventually fall asleep and forget what the speech is about in the first place without giving a care in the world. Some speeches tend to get too humorous that all we recall are the jokes or the funny stories. But some speeches however, have managed to simply work because the speaker has been able to meet the right conditions. Take one of the greatest speeches of all time, I Have A Dream by Martin Luther King, Jr. whose words have inspired his fellow African-Americans in combat of racism and equal rights to all people alike on March 1963 in Washington, USA. A year after, King received the Nobel Peace Prize for fighting racial inequality through nonviolent resistance. Eventually, he had the honor of receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. And ever since, he has a special holiday named after him and hundreds of streets in the U.S. have been renamed to his name.
An outline is a blueprint for your presentation. According to Six Minutes Speaking and Presentation Skills, a speech outline can help with the following:
There is a story of a boy who fell in love with one of the most popular movie franchises in history, Star Wars. Due to his fandom and overall interest in the franchise which spanned eight movies in over four decades and billions of dollars of profit to boost, he made a speech about Star Wars during his college midterm exams.
Every start needs to have a finish. They say start strong and finish strong. But if you are not careful, you will be sure to stumble along the way. The basic speech outline template for structural elements includes:
You have to first establish your topic and core message to the public in order to give them an idea on what your speech is all about and what will be discussed. Afterwards, list supporting points in that said outline so that you won’t get sidetracked. It does not hurt to start off with a story or a joke or something flashy, and unexpected altogether. Back to the boy’s story, he started with saying the opening of every Star Wars movie, “A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away…”. Cue music! As he unbuttoned his formal polo shirt which ultimately revealed his Star Wars t-shirt, signifying his devotion to the franchise. Afterwards, he then began to dive further into the topic by asking his audience whether they knew what inspired George Lucas, creator and director of the original trilogy to make the success it has become today. After breaking down the topic and enumerating the points, he then proceeded to the meat of the speech.
It is a proven fact that adding too much text in a speech is self-defeating since it tends to be exhausting for the audience to scroll through such information and to keep it short and simple all the time. Along the way, it does not hurt to add pictures, videos, GIFs, or memes to keep your audience engaged in the speech itself. Back to the boy’s speech, he added Star Wars clips and quotes in order to prove their similarities. Make sure to allot more time for your body as it often requires more time for detailed explanation. The more your supporting points are, the trickier it might be to give equal time for all 3. So while standing in front of those people, make sure to always mind the clock and minutes that have passed as to be aware on how long you have to finish the said speech. Speaking too fast does not really help either, otherwise, you might leave your audience in a confused state on what you were blabbering about. It is crucial to filter out only the most important points that give relevance to the topic. Making the speech longer might result into a time extension in your speech.
Start strong and finish strong. This is often the part where everyone can breathe a little better knowing that their speech is almost done. All that’s left to do is to simply recap the main points, to summarize the core message to give the audience a little take-away should they forget everything else, and a call-to-action in case your speech is persuasive rather than informative. It is very surprising how well this simple three-part outline template works for a wide range of speech topics. This basic formula can be seen in novels, short stories, movies, plays, reports, business briefings, emails, memos, and many other forms of communication.
“When sequencing your outline points, try to avoid random order. Seek and extract the meaningful relationship.”
Take note that all of this is only appropriate for a short six to ten minute speech (in my case, it was just 5 minutes). Longer time windows will obviously allow for more detailed outlines.
You may be able to customize one of the generic speech outline formats for your speech; more likely, you will need to craft your own to fit your situation. A few other things to consider:
Remember that your presentation is much more than your set of slides. Your outline should reflect your speaking elements which the slides complement.
When sequencing your outline points, try to avoid random order. Seek and extract the meaningful relationship.
Your outline is not the same as cue cards, but they are related (if you use cue cards). An outline contains high-level speech elements; cue cards might additionally contain selected speech details (e.g. transition phrases, key words/phrases, key numbers, or punch lines).
At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong way as to how you begin your speech. As they say, the only limit is your imagination. If you are afraid, that’s a good thing. Sometimes fear keeps the blood running and gives you more concentration. But do not let it overtake you, instead, channel that fear and make it become your asset instead of a liability. Yes, it takes time to master but it will all be worth it once you hear that roaring applause and a pat on your back for a job well done. We hope that you will be able to rekindle the courage to deliver a good speech!