How To Organize The Body Of A Speech

by Speaking Tips | November 17, 2003

A speech (or presentation) generally falls into three parts, the introduction, the main body and the conclusion (beginning, middle and end). Each of these serves an integral and essential role with it's own unique function. The body of the speech is the biggest and is where the majority of information is transferred. Consequently, it requires careful thought and consideration as well as some imagination to organize the body of a speech effectively.

To aid in planning the body of your speech it can be helpful to make use of concepts and themes which run through the body of your speech providing structure and tying thoughts together in unified manner. This isn't to say that your delivery must be uniform throughout. For example, a speaker might use several characters from a popular movie, television series or play to illustrate how a proposal might impact people in various roles within an organization. The characters and the attitudes they portray may differ significantly but their common source provides a unifying factor that the audience will pick up on and appreciate.

The time to consider the way to organize the body of your speech is after you have selected and ordered the points you want to make.  The best "organizers" act as a mechanism for the audience to grasp and remember what you say. Organizers make it easier to provide continuity between opening, body and ending. They help you connect with the audience quickly and are an aid to remembering the points you wish to make allowing you to deliver the speech with minimum use of notes.

Organization Ideas

Here are a few ideas for organizing a speech. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses and some may work better than others for a given topic or setting. They can be used individually or in combination. The list is far from complete and you should feel free to get creative and come up with your own ideas.

Acronyms: Organize your speech around an acronym with the individual letters representing a keyword which summarizes a component of your presentation. If at all possible, choose a word which is related in some way to your topic.

Color: Color can be used to organize a presentation and then be coordinated with props, visual aids and handouts. As an added bonus, many topics have associations with a particular color (environment - green) or have color as an important component (fine art, interior decoration). In such cases, using color as an organizational aid is quick and easy as well as being intuitively clear to your audience.

Issues: Issues can be financial, aesthetic, philosophical or political among others and can serve to simplify complex topics defuse areas where the audience has strong opinions or high emotions.

Opinions: Many topics have distinct vantage points depending upon a number of factors including, but not limited to, factors such as age, gender, political affiliation, faith, job function, etc. Exploring different view points can be excellent for political topics or topics related to changes in the workplace.

People: People can be actual, mythical, historical, political, or stereotypical. As with the illustration above, don't overlook well-known characters from literature, movies or television shows. You may also consider using characters based on stereotypical group behaviors. Examples of each of these include politicians, police detectives, teenagers and their concerned parents. Using characters can make for great entertaining speeches which derive humor from human frailties.

Places: People have a strong sense of place and often make generic associations with specific types of geography or with specific locations. Many topics, such as travel or history, are place-specific.

Problems and solutions: This is a good all-purpose organization and an excellent choice for emerging topics. It is flexible in that you don't necessarily need the same number of solutions as you have problems.

Shapes and patterns: Use shapes such as circles, squares, or triangles for identification and to illustrate relationships and how things work.

Storylines: Use a universal plot from literature, mythology, classic movies, popular novels or nursery rhymes. Alternatively, real stories and life experiences can make for powerful narratives.

Time: Try using themes from the past, present and future for topics that change over time. Create a project time line and compare it to significant calendar units such as the fiscal year.

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