Outlining your Speech


Imagine what we would look like if we had no skeleton. That is the description of a speech without an outline.


You are already familiar with outlining and have probably done many outlines summarizing chapters in a book or reviewing for a major exam.


A speech outline is a list, which is always handy for shopping, inviting people to a party, or making a list of chores or errands that need to be done for the day or weekend.


1. The first stage is developing a preparation outline.


Most speakers develop a preparation outline that includes major features.

·       A preparation outline includes main ideas, sub points, and supporting material.


·       A preparation outline may also include specific purpose, introduction, blueprint, conclusion, and signposts. Definition: Signposts are words and or gestures that allow you to move smoothly from one idea to the next throughout your speech, showing relationships between ideas and emphasizing important points.


·       Preparation outlines may begin with mapping, or “clustering” technique.


·       Final goal of a preparation outline is to produce a plan that allows you to judge the unity and coherence of your speech, to see how well the parts fit together.


Write your preparation outline in complete sentences, like those you will use when delivering your speech.


2. Use a standard outline form:


·       Use standard outline numbering.


·       Use at least two subdivisions, if any, for each point.


·       Indent main ideas, points, sub points, and supporting materials properly.


·       Write and label your specific purpose at the top of your preparation outline.


·       Add the blueprint, key signposts, and an introduction and conclusion to your outline.


·       Examine and follow the sample preparation outline on textbook pages 242-245.


3. Use completed preparation outline to analyze and possibly revise your speech, guided by these five analysis questions.


·       Does the speech as outlined fulfill the purpose you have specified?


·       Are the main ideas logical extensions (natural divisions, reasons, or steps) of the central idea?


·       Do the signposts enhance the comfortable flow of each idea into the next?


·       Does each sub point provide support for the points under which it falls?


·       Is your outline form correct?


Speakers Homepage is found in your textbook, page 244, with helpful exercises for your outlining.


The second stage is to develop a delivery outline.


A delivery outline is to be accomplished after completion of preparation outline and preliminary rehearsals.




Follow six steps to a good delivery outline.


1.   Make the outline as brief as possible, and write in single words or short phrases rather than complete sentences.


2.   Include supporting materials and signposts.


3.   Include the introduction and conclusion in a much more shortened form.


4.   I like to include the purpose statement in the delivery outline.


5.   Use standard outline form so that you can easily find the exact point or piece of supporting material you are seeking when you look down at your notes.


6.   Examine and follow the sample delivery outline found in your textbook, pages 246-248.


The final stage is developing speaker notes.


Speakers who have difficulty in handling the outline in paper form can highlight the pertinent ideas with a coloured highlighter pen.


Alternative to delivery outlines include “maps” or a combination of pictures, words and symbols.


A final addition to speaker notes is delivery cues and reminders, such as “louder” here, “pause”, “pick up hand held microphone” or “roll tape” for VHS visuals.





Beebe, Steven., and Beebe, Susan. (2003). Public Speaking. “An Audience-Centered Approach. Fifth Edition. Pearson Education Inc. Boston, Mass.


Villagran, Morris; Wise, Charles and Ivy, Diana. (2003). Public Speaking. “An Audience Centered Approach”. Instructor’s Resource Manual for Beebe and Beebe. Pearson Education Inc. Boston, Mass.





Zeuschner, Raymond. (1997). Communicating Today. Allyn and Bacon. Needham Heights, Massachusetts.