What makes a great speech? The content, of course, but also the structure. All great speakers overlay their content on a well-known structure.
Your speech structure is the glue that binds your points together. Without it, you cannot really have the impact you desire to have on the audience.
The beauty of this is that a good structure is so subtle it is almost invisible. Its effectiveness is only evident in its impact.
Speech writing can be intimidating for some, however, we have incorporated plenty of speech examples to get a complete understanding. We aim to explain a proper structure that can be applied to any of your speeches.
There are four things you need to keep in mind about this:
Table of Contents
- Picking the right topic
- Writing the Introduction (Opening)
- Structuring your content (Body)
- Closing your speech (Conclusion)
- Wrapping Up:
Picking the right topic
The content of a speech can largely determine how the audience receives it. For this, you will need to accurately assess who is going to be listening to your speech. There are some questions you need to ask before sitting down to write this speech.
What is the purpose of your speech?
Do you intend to introduce a concept or argue on a controversial topic? Is your purpose of imparting knowledge or guiding the audience through a demonstration? It is essential to have your intentions cleared; otherwise, you can risk creating a speech with no direction.
Can too much content be harmful?
We understand that as daunting as speaking can be, it is, at the same time, fascinating. When you pick a topic that you are passionate about, it is easy to find yourself packing the speech with all kinds of information. However, in doing so, you can overwhelm your audience.
There is such a thing as too much information. You need to make sure that whatever information you do include is impactful and influential. Aim for something short but memorable. Pick one takeaway message and gear your speech towards that objective.
Who is the audience?
While it is vital to pick a topic that interests you, it is equally important to make sure that it can grab the audience’s attention. What is the target demographic for your speech? What is the setting for this speech? Is it a particularly controversial topic?
This is important because as humans, most people are likely to be more interested in your presentation if it benefits them somehow. At the same time, you have to consider the setting.
For instance: an office setting would not be the right setting for a controversial social speech. If your speech includes demonstration and requires volunteers, you need to ensure that this is an audience willing to participate.
Do you understand the various types of speeches?
Before you pen down your presentation, stop to wonder whether you understand the different types of speeches. Understanding what kind of speech you are going for can help you better structure it for maximum efficiency:
An informative speech intends to explain complex topics to your audience by providing engaging information. This can include objects, events, procedures, and more. It is better if you pick a topic that you are interested in so that your enthusiasm shines through.
When you give an informative speech, you are merely trying to educate your audiences about a particular topic. You refrain from becoming too argumentative as it might come across too strong for your listeners. If this is the type of speech you intend to give, you can check out 100 Informative Speech Topics and Ideas to make your job easier.
A persuasive speech intends to convince the audiences of your viewpoint. It uses compelling points to sway the listener’s opinions. The primary purpose of this type of speech is to affect the audiences’ thought process and persuade them to think about changing how they feel about a topic.
Some examples of a persuasive speech can be a politician’s speech, an animal activist’s speech, and so on. As you can see, the goal here is to persuade and obtain something ultimately. A politician might want to sway your vote in their favor, whereas ani activist has a cause that they’d like to advocate for.
An argumentative speech is more or less a persuasive speech. However, a persuasive speech does not always have to be argumentative. The purpose of an argumentative is to alter how the audience views a subject.
Changing the audience’s opinion is not an easy job. This is why you need to not only pick a persuasive topic but also believe in it. You need a strong claim along with irrefutable points to support it.
The best argumentative speeches utilize issues relating to current events. You can see this in the media in the form of mostly social, ethical, political, or religious arguments. Your arguments should make use of logic and realistic examples. Some examples of this type of speech can be: Dress codes shouldn’t be mandatory, Space exploration is a waste of money, etc.
If you’d like to see more topic ideas for an argumentative speech, you can browse the 200 Argumentative Speech Topics and ideas: A Complete Guide.
A demonstration speech, true to its name, demonstrates to the audience how something works. This type of presentation is more common for high school or college students. It makes use of props and useful body language to properly guide the audience through an activity.
This type of speech can fall under informative speech as you are informing the listeners on a task. While this type of speech is considered a basic speech, it is an excellent way to practice your expository speaking.
If this is the type of speech you’d like to give, here’s a list of 279 Demonstration Speech Topics and Ideas: A Complete Guide, so that you can better perfect your speech.
A humorous speech is the perfect light-hearted solution for adding a fun twist to your speech. This type of presentation aims to entertain the audience. A humorous speech can incorporate any of the above examples. It is, thus, very versatile. And what’s more? You get to have just as much fun delivering it!
The thing to keep in mind with this kind of speech is that you need to pick a proper topic. You intend to garner a joyful response to its best not to pick a sensitive topic. To help you out, you can browse the 300 Funny Speech Topics to Tickle Some Funny Bones! to structure your humorous speech.
Writing the Introduction (Opening)
The introduction of your speech is vital to the success of your speech. It is what sets the tone of your entire speech. It determines whether or not you grab the attention of the listeners. You will get only one chance to charm your audience and make sure they follow the rest of your speech.
So, how can you make this happen? There are a few different ways you can approach this:
Asking a question is an excellent way to grab your audience’s attention. It piques their curiosity and ensures that they will listen to get an answer to said question. The question can be either rhetorical or literal. For instance, “Have you ever wondered what it’d be like to live in a world without technology?” or “Have you ever felt broken-hearted?”.
Either the audience resonates with your question, or it generates curiosity. This is also a great way to get some audience participation. If you say, “With a show of hands, how many of us here have tried to change our habits and failed?” you can not only garner interest but also physically get the audience invested in your speech.
A question is a great way to get your listeners thinking about your topic while introducing your topic, all in a matter of seconds!
A strong statement is also an excellent way to create a compelling introduction. You must know Martin Luther King’s iconic, “I have a dream.” The intensity that radiates from that sentence immediately captures an audiences’ attention and creates a commanding presence.
Similarly, an excellent example of this type of opening is from Larry Smith’s speech. “I want to discuss with you this afternoon why you’re going to fail to have a great career.” This immediately generates intrigue and curiosity. That’s what you’re going for.
This statement does not have to just be cold facts. It can be a part of a personal story as well. For instance, the statement “Last week, I found out that my childhood friend got in a car accident” is bound to create a powerful silence. If your speech has such a strong emotive statement, you can use it in your introduction to engage your audience better.
Another helpful tip that goes with a strong statement in silence. Give your listener’s a chance to absorb the statement that you have put in front of them with a couple of seconds of silence before diving in further.
Visual Prop or Demonstration
A prop can be a fantastic addition to your speech. Not only does it help emphasize your point, but it also helps the audience stay focused on your speech. Props are especially good for a demonstrative speech. Or you can simply incorporate demonstrations as part of your speech.
Body language speaks much louder than words can for us humans. This is why using colorful bags, a deck of cards, colored papers, etc. can be so effective as an opener for your speech. Once, I attended a speech where the speaker brought a heavy bag and simply set it on the table, talking about the bag. The audience was hooked, waiting eagerly till the end to find out what was in the bag.
A quotation can be the perfect way to capture your audience’s attention. It also helps set a tone for the speech that is to come. The quote you pick can be a well-known saying such as “They say all that glitters is not gold, well I beg to differ.” Doing so, you can ignite curiosity.
Similarly, you can also quote a person or a publication and tie it to your speech. For instance, for a motivational speech, you can take the example of someone like Bill Gates- “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” When you use a quote from a big name, you will definitely get people wanting to hear and learn more.
Humor is always a great tool to have in your arsenal. A good icebreaker can warm the listeners up to you and make them more receptive to the rest of your speech. Humor is a very endearing trait for a skilled speaker. Some ideas for your opening can be:
“It’s the funniest thing. As I was coming up to the stage, I began thinking we actually have quite a lot in common. None of us have a clue about what I’m going to say!”
“I know we are all busy, and I want to honor your time. So I will make sure to be accurate and brief, no matter long it takes me.”
The great thing about using humor is that it works on your audience subconsciously. You seem at ease with yourself and radiate confidence. You have to remember that for humor to be effective; it has to be effortless. If you seem unsure about your lines, the audience is sure to pick up on it.
A strong statistic will always add validity to your speeches. Presenting the audience with irrefutable facts backed up by a strong source is a surefire way to gain credibility. It can also add gravity to the scale of the issue that you want to draw attention to.
However, it is easy to overdo things when it comes to numbers. It can be tempting to add strong statistics to the rest of your speech as well. But remember, the strongest points are ones that linger in an audience’s mind. If you give them too many numbers, none of them will stick out in their heads, and they are bound to feel lost.
Some examples can be: “Look to your right. Now, look to your left. One in three women and one in four women are known to have suffered physical violence. A statement like this not only ignites awareness but also physically makes your listener feel involved in your speech.
An anecdote is a short story taken from your life itself. The story usually adds to the theme of your story. Short and light-hearted anecdotes can add a lot of enthusiasm and charm to your speech. However, you don’t have to make them humorous. Even more, touching stories can be equally, if not more engaging.
When used correctly, a personal anecdote makes for the perfect introduction that draws your listeners towards your central message. Not only does it create empathy, but it also sparks interest. If you don’t have a personal anecdote itself, you can go for a third-person anecdote that speaks to you as well.
Problem or Strong Statement
Opening with a problem can make for a strong opening. This method generates interest and keeps the audience listening with the promise of an upcoming solution. Try to aim for a problem that caters to a wider demographic for a higher relatability.
Problems that relate to current events can have a better draw. For instance: “Why should remote working be implemented even after quarantine?”
In a similar vein, a powerful statement can be an excellent way to capture your audience’s attention. A statement, when paired with silence, can make for an effective tool. Example: “The top 20% of our society makes 80% of all the money. Would you like to be part of this 20%? If so, I’m going to give you some pointers on how you can align yourself in that direction. Does that sound like something you might be interested in?”
Summary on Writing Your Introduction:
- Your opening plays a big role in whether or not you can grab your listener’s attention straight off the bat.
- Give your audience a reason to pay attention by clearly stating the purpose of your speech.
- If you are giving a speech regarding a field you have some experience with, remember to establish credibility early on.
- Give a short highlight reel of your main points.
- Quotations or powerful statements are a great way to catch the audience’s attention.
- Including current events or statistics will make your speech seem more relevant to a wider range of listeners.
- Asking a question will get your audience more involved and add intrigue to the rest of your presentation.
Structuring your content (Body)
The body of your speech will hold all of your main points. Since this is the longest section of your speech, you need to ensure that it is interesting enough to keep everyone’s attention. Depending on the objective of your speech, you will need to add examples, opinions, and facts to back up your points. What helps during this time is proper organization.
Here are some things you want to keep in mind while drafting the body of your speech:
No matter how much you believe in your point, you still need to give your audience a credible reason to take your word for it. This can be done by adding examples, detailed descriptions, statistics, and so on. Always remember to credit the source when using a statistic. You can also add a strong testimonial to add a touch of personalized support if that applies to your objective.
When you have a lot of content packed into your speech, transitions become vital to the effectiveness of your speech. You can consider these as points of a refresh in your speech. Here, the audience can reengage and follow along more attentively.
The best transitions are always invisible. They can seamlessly add flow to your speech without giving any indication of such to your audience. There are many ways to incorporate this into your speech.
Some examples can be:
A connective transition is where you reiterate a previous point and introduce a connecting point. The way this method works is that it rehashes an important aspect while relating it to what’s next.
The most effective way to use this is in a problem/solution module. This is where you begin by stating a problem and transition towards a solution.
Example: Now that we’ve understood the various negative effects of junk food, let me tell you how we can plan a better diet to combat obesity.
When you do this, you are providing a summary of the problem and swiftly leading them towards a solution. If you jump straight to the next section, it can feel rushed. Besides, pauses are another important element of speech delivery.
Keywords, as the name suggests, have a certain draw to them. These are words that are central to the theme of your speech. Repetition is a very effective tool in conveying your message.
For instance: If your speech is about the scarcity of running water in rural communities, you can draw attention by repeating the factors that cause this issue. Doing so will also let you explain in better detail these factors while keeping your audience hooked to the main theme.
Depending on your speech, there are various ways to approach how you frame your content. We all know that content is king; however, without the right approach, it’s easy for your message to get lost along the way. This is why it’s so important to keep your subject matter relevant and interesting. Make sure the content is as compact and concise as you can make it. Some of the methods by which you can ensure this is as follows:
Cause and Effect:
Cause and effect is a great way to present your ideas. This method works best for explaining events and consequences or results. Make sure to include all the appropriate details to add emphasis. The element of ‘what’s next’ is what keeps the audience hooked to your speech. As you unfold a cause and follow it with the effects, it will feel both interesting as well as rewarding to your audience.
Problems and Solutions:
Problem and solution is a speech method as old as time. But it is so because of its reliability. This approach works best for a motivational speech. This type of speech intends to address a problem and offer a systematic solution that benefits the listeners. It is also a common approach for pushing an audience to buy into a service or product. You pose a problem and then offer a solution, including a whole package. Make sure the solution you offer is versatile so that it applies to a wider range of people, thereby increasing appeal.
A narrative approach is excellent for anybody who wants to sharpen their storytelling skills. The important ingredients for a narrative speech are chronology and a simple organization pattern. Typically, any story will have a beginning, middle, and end. Going in order, with smooth transitions will make your story easy to follow.
This type of speech is most effective for presenting events, life lessons, experiences, rituals, and personal beliefs. Try to stick to the core of the story without too many unnecessary details. Just because a narrative includes storytelling does not mean it can’t have an end goal. For instance: a personal experience of failure might be a great story of caution for the listeners.
The most important thing for a successful narrative speech is build-up. You want your audience to be invested, to care about what comes next, to raise the stakes so that when you provide the conclusion, it is that much more effective. You must always ask yourself, “What do I want the audience to remember after this speech?”.
The best way to write this would be to outline a sketch of events that are relevant to your narrative. After that, you can think about the best way to escalate the stakes. Remember that eye contact is an important visual medium in a narrative speech. It will help your audience connect better to your story.
Lucky Number Three
The number three is impactful. Even the general structure of a speech is divided into three parts: Opening, Body, and Conclusion. When you want to make a point that people remember, you should consider splitting it into three, where the first two act as a build-up while your final point brings the unexpected impact.
The best thing about this method is that you can apply it to just about any kind of speech. This, in fact, adds more structure to your speech and makes it more easily digestible. The key ingredient here becomes balance and transition. Make sure you focus on all three elements of your story equally, so it does not feel rushed. Add in a seamless transition to make your story structure seem effortless.
Summary on Writing Your Body:
- Make sure you have designed your content to suit your audience.
- Divide your body into easily digestible sections so that your main points come across clearly.
- Stress on keywords and clever repetitions to drive your point home.
- Work on your transitions to establish clear sections but a seamless switch to keep your listeners hooked.
- When using facts or statistics, always back it up with a credible source.
Closing your speech (Conclusion)
The conclusion is vital to the success of your speech. This is the parting thought that you will be leaving your audience with, so you have to make sure that it’s a good one. The conclusion is where you reiterate your key point. This is why there is so much importance put on a conclusion to be powerful enough to stay in your memory.
Here are some possible ways you can approach your conclusion:
Call to Action
A call-to-action refers to a statement or material that intends to encourage the listener or viewer to take the initiative. It can also be considered as instruction as it usually directs the audience towards something.
The most effective way to approach this is to manage both your energy as well as your tempo. While it is essential to maintain a clear and well-enunciated speech throughout, when you reach a conclusion, you are going to want to speed up just a little bit.
What this does is add a sense of urgency to the message that you are giving. Similarly, higher energy makes the audience resonate and respond equally. They will associate this high energy with your message and remember your speech for longer.
Some examples of this can be: “As we can see, the effects of depression can be life-threatening. So I encourage each and every one of you to go home today and reach out to your friends, talk to them and open up a platform where they know they can come to talk to you for anything. Because you’d rather hear their problems than hear about their death.”
For speeches that are over 5-6 minutes long, the audience can sometimes lose track of the earlier points. This is why it is necessary to summarize your main points before you leave the stage. You don’t have to take them through the entire story, but make sure you include the keywords that trigger in them the memory of that portion.
You can do this by saying something along the lines of “Let me briefly run you through what we discussed” or “So, we talked about three main things today.” This not only does a great job of reiterating and reconfirming your main points but also signals to the audience that you are drawing towards the end of your presentation.
Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.
Even though you might be well familiarized with your speech, it is safe to assume that most of the audience is hearing it for the first time. For this reason, you need to drive your point home by essentially drilling it into their minds. Now, you can’t simply repeat the central theme over and over as that isn’t an effective strategy. But there can be an art to repetition as well.
You should aim to rephrase and reinforce your central idea as you conclude your speech. Don’t go for a word-for-word repetition, but aim to reframe your key themes and arguments. Paraphrasing, in this way, makes sure that you capture the essence of your speech without running the risk of boring your listeners with identical sentences.
We don’t even need to look too far for examples of this method. In Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial, he used this method of repetition paired with a rising momentum to create impact. Repetition works best when it is subtle and works on the listeners subconsciously.
Ending your speech on a light note is a great way to brighten moods and make sure the audience remembers your message. Your joke can also be a good way to repeat your central message. If you do decide to end with a humorous story, remember to carve out more time for it. Make sure your conclusion doesn’t distract from your main message.
Some people tend to get too excited and give away the upcoming punchline. Remember that the most effective humor approach is one you don’t see coming. How you can add the subtlety to your conclusion is by following this formula:
Set up – pause – Build up – pause – Punchline
Motivational conclusions are always an upbeat way to close your speech. You will be leaving the stage on high energy that is sure to be contagious. This also ensures that your audience will be taking a piece of your conclusion with them, making sure that it is not only memorable but also useful.
There are many ways to approach an inspirational closing. You can go with an anecdote, a quote, a poem, and so on. The purpose is to give a push, to add strength, to ignite a can-do attitude.
The trick to a powerful inspirational speech is emotion. Humans are excellent at empathizing. If you can adequately emote throughout your story, adding drama into your storytelling, then it is bound to have a more substantial effect. Vocal variety can also be an excellent element for this. Alter your tempo to weave excitement into your story. You can also use smart pauses to add more intrigue.
Your facial expressions play a significant role in how the audience receives your speech. Whether it is a sad or happy story, make sure that your face conveys it. It can be addictive to have the audience’s attention like this, but don’t get too greedy. Remember to end on your highest note, leaving a lasting impression.
There are many types of speeches out there. For instance: you might think that a humorous speech is just that: humorous. But think again. All the best speeches have at least one key takeaway.
A takeaway message is quite similar to an inspirational conclusion. The question you have to ask yourself is this: What is the purpose of my speech? Even if you’ve got a fantastic anecdotal story to share, you have to remember that the audience will always wonder what they are getting from the speech. That will be your takeaway.
For an effective conclusion, you have to step back and overview your speech. From your introduction to the body, what is the message you are trying to convey? Make sure your conclusion reflects it. For example: if your speech is about a drowning story, you can probably try to include what you could’ve done and how the audience can avoid being in a similar situation.
A call-back is a fun twist to add to your conclusion. There is a reason why a circle is one of the most pleasing shapes; it gives you a sense of completion. Even if you aren’t aware of it, it works on your mind subliminally. An effective way to conduct this method is to find a way to tie your ending to your introduction.
You can understand a call-back as a reference. It doesn’t have to be limited to just the introduction; you can reference the body of your speech as well. This not only makes for a great repetition tool but also adds a feeling of completion into your presentation.
However, you should pick something that the audience can connect to. This helps create a special and unique bond as if it were an inside joke just between you two.
Summary of Writing Your Conclusion:
- Signal your audience when you’re drawing to your conclusion.
- Add trigger transitions like “In conclusion,” “In summary,” “That brings us towards the end,” and so on.
- Try to end on a high note with something memorable.
- Write your conclusion last so that it complements your introduction.
- Try to paraphrase your words without repeating the same words over and over.
- Your audience is more likely to remember your speech if you end with something useful to them or with a call to action.
- Leave on an attention-grabbing note.
A speech typically has one of four purposes: to inform, to entertain, to instruct, or to persuade. To deliver an effective speech, you need to first make sure you understand what your objective is. Then, you can follow our guidelines to construct a solid structure and deliver a well-rounded and impactful presentation. Now that you know how to create an effective speech structure, you are ready to dominate the stage!
The best speech structures are invisible and effective. Learn the tips and tricks to deliver the perfect opening, body, and conclusion and wow the stage.