Organizing and Outlining Your Topic

Your research is gathered; now it is time to organize your information. Stop by the Ferguson Center for personal assistance with this important step, or read on to learn the basics. Sample student outlines are available for your examination in the Ferguson Center.

The secret to success lies in this old adage:

"Tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em."
"Tell 'em."
"Tell 'em what you told 'em."

In other words, include three major sections in your presentation: an introduction, body, and conclusion. While the introduction and conclusion are similar for all types of presentations, the organization of the body may differ.

This section includes information on the following:

Organizational Patterns for Informative Presentations

Organizational Patterns for Persuasive Presentations

Creating Introductions

Creating Conclusions

Using Transitions

Informative Presentations: Choosing an Organizational Pattern

Informative speeches include explanations of concepts, principles, rules, procedures and processes as well as descriptions of objects, places, people, characteristics, behavior, actions, events, and historical developments.

Causal - enumerates cause and effect relationships.

Chronological - presents events as they occur in time, from first to last.

Generalization - draws a general conclusion from specific examples. The speaker states a claim and then supports it by generalizing from several examples. This pattern is often used in law school to help students understand a legal concept.

Mind map - Uses the central point of the talk as the origin in the development of a radiant, associative pattern of ideas (Buzan, Tony and Barry Buzan.The Mind-Map; How to Use Radient Thinking to Maximize Your Brain's Untapped Potential. New York: Penguin Group, 1996.)

Spatial - orders material to describe the physical arrangement of things, areas, or places.

Topical – applies standard categories or natural divisions to a subject or topic: characteristics, parts, functions, uses, or purpose, for example.

Persuasive Speeches: Choosing an Organizational Pattern

Criteria-Satisfaction - the speaker establishes the criteria for evaluation and then defends the reasons a particular object, person, philosophy, event, or situation meets or exceeds the criteria.

Monroe Motivated Sequence -Long a favorite of the advertising world, the MMS is a useful organizational pattern for anyone wishing to spur others to action. This five-step pattern developed by speech professor Alan Monroe is an effective persuasive tool, equally advantageous for selling products or ideas. The steps are as follows:

I. Attention Step: Gain the attention of the audience

II. Need Step: Show the audience that a need exists that affects them. Show them that a problem exists with the current situation and something needs to change. This is a great opportunity for both pathos and logos.

III. Satisfaction Step: Having aroused a sense of need, satisfy it by presenting a solution to the problem. Show your plan and prove that it will work. Logos will be very important in this step.

IV. Visualization Step: Help the audience imagine how much better conditions will be once your plan is adopted. Or, paint a picture of disaster if your plan is not implemented. Pour on the pathos here!

V. Call to Action Step: Once the audience is convinced your policy is beneficial, state the exact action they must take.

Problem-Solution - the speaker outlines a problem and then presents a solution

Pro-Con - the speaker presents both sides of an issue.

Refutation Model - the speaker refutes another's claims by offering evidence to the contrary. A template for this type of speech follows:

I. State the point you will refute and explain its importance.

A. Explain how you will refute this point.

Some examples:

1. point out fallacies in reasoning

2. present your own evidence that contradicts the opposition

3. prove the opposition's evidence to be false

B. Present your evidence.

C. State your conclusion and its significance -- show how it discredits or damages the position of the opposition.

(You can further strengthen this design if you follow your refutation by proving a similar point of your own, thus balancing a negative refutation with a positive demonstration. This step follows in "D" below.)

D. State the point you will support and explain its importance.

1. Explain how you will support this point.

2. Present your evidence.

3. State your conclusion and its significance.

Statement of Reasons - the speaker states a claim and offers evidence in defense of that claim.

Tips for Stellar Introductions

"The introduction," according to Aristotle, "sets the mood or tone for the speech. The conclusion brings everything together in one final point or appeal."

A stellar introduction serves several purposes:

It gets the attention of the audience.

It establishes your credibility to speak on the topic.

It arouses curiosity and develops the desire of the audience to know more.

It informs the audience specifically what you’ll be talking about – the thesis statement.

It lets the audience know why the information is important to them, thereby motivating them to listen.

It gives you the power to begin your speech confidently and enthusiastically.

Techniques to make the introduction "ear-catching":

Startling statements or facts
Stories or personal examples
Audience involvement
Rhetorical questions
Series of facts
Short dramatic presentation

Following is an example for an introduction for a presentation on Nonverbal Communication. Does it serve the purposes of a stellar introduction?

"Actions speak louder than words." Did you know there is great wisdom in this tired cliché? Not only wisdom, but for the person who is the master in using and reading nonverbal communication, there is money in the cliché. As the top seller here at Hamden-Sydney Enterprises for three months running, I can attest to the value of the information I will share with you today. I’d like to help you increase your sales by letting you in on several secrets of nonverbal communication, or body language. We will see that using body language to lead to monetary advantage involves three steps: observing subtle signals, interpreting these signals, and displaying your own body language when appropriate.

Tips for Powerful Conclusions

"The introduction," Aristotle states, "sets the mood or tone for the speech. The conclusion brings everything together in one final point or appeal.

A powerful conclusion serves the following purposes:

It briefly reviews the information that has been presented.

It reviews the importance of the information to the audience.

It suggests the means for obtaining more information on the subject.

It gives the audience the feeling that the speech is complete by including a "final punch."

Techniques to make the conclusion "ear-catching":

Startling statements or facts
Stories or personal examples
Audience involvement
Rhetorical questions
Series of facts
Short dramatic presentation
Repetition of opening remarks

Following is an example of a conclusion for a presentation on Nonverbal Communication. How well does it work?

Observing subtle signs, interpreting these signals, and displaying your own body language are three sure ways to boost your sales at Hampden-Sydney Enterprises. Financial rewards and newfound respect are yours for the taking. If what I have said today has intrigued you and you want more information, please feel free to talk with me after our meeting. But you’d better hurry – I’m likely to be racing off to the bank to deposit my hard-earned cash! Do actions really speak louder than words? Take a peek inside my wallet for the answer! (Opens wallet and lets bills fall to the floor.)

Principles for Transitions

Transitions are used as signposts to keep the listener on track. They provide the bridge between one point and the next. You should use transitions between each of your main points.

Types of transitions:

Single-word transitions: Examples include: "and," "also," "therefore," "however," "as," "first," etc. You must stress these vocally for them to work.

Internal summaries: These are used to remind the audience of previous main points as you lead them to the next one. For example, "Now that you are aware of the risk factors for throat cancer and the physical symptoms of the disease, I would like to describe the various treatments currently available."