Know the Rules
Organisation - ESU's guidance for speakers(4)
A five minute public speech only gives your audience one chance to take in and understand everything you’re saying, which may be of considerable complexity. This means you’re going to have to think carefully about how
you structure your speech.
Have a speech outline
It helps the audience to follow your speech if you tell them at the start of the speech what your main reasons and pieces of evidence are going to be, and then again at the end, after you have delivered the bulk of material in the speech, remind them of what the key points are that they should take away with them.
• Open with an introduction, which lets the audience know who you are, what you are going to be speaking about and why and what you hope to achieve by the end of the speech.
• Provide a preview of your points, telling the audience what you will be saying that will help you to achieve your aim, and in what order. Think of this as a ‘map’ for the speech to help the audience follow you.
• Move on to your main points, covering them in a logical order that builds your argument up (starting with the most basic or fundamental of your claims, or any necessary description you have to give in order to help your audience understand, and then moving towards your conclusion). Remember all the time to support your claims with evidence, and then show how that evidence supports the claim.
Let the audience know when you’re moving from one part of your speech to the next with transition words or phrases, like “So we’ve looked at the effect of global warming on poorer countries – now I’d like to examine the effect on richer countries...”, for example.
• Summarise the points you have made – so that the audience can feel confident that they haveunderstood everything in your speech, and they are sure what they have to consider.
• Conclude. The conclusion ties together everything you have said and reminds them what you wanted to convince them of, and why they should be persuaded.
Having a clear outline and structure to your speech enables you to make very simple notes. Each person will find a particular notation style that suits them, but remember never to write out any of your speech in full.
Having a few large key words written on a card in front of you will enable you to pick up your speech more easily if you stumble or get lost. It also has advantages for your speaking style, which we will look at in the next section.
Giving your structure a theme
Your speech acquires more of a sense of unity if you can find a single theme that links the names you are using for your different points. This theme may be an analogy to a familiar ‘set’ of words or concepts, a popular story, song or well known person, place or event. For example, you may wish to theme a speech about climate change in following way:
“What I want to talk about today – the effect humans are having on the environment – is of elemental importance. I want to speak about environmental impact today on the four elements known to ancient man – earth, air, water and fire.
First, earth – the erosion of the earth’s soils resulting from deforestation, intensive farming and urbanisation.
Second, air – the emission of heavy metals, acids and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that are slowly but surely poisoning humans, the ecosystem and
suffocating the whole planet.
Third, water – the contamination of our water courses and oceans, traditionally thought of as ‘flushing away’ our waste, until they no longer contain life and we can’t even drink them.
And finally, fire – man’s most elemental source of energy, though we now use many different forms of energy to power our world. I want to examine how we generate power, and show you how new solutions to our energy crisis could help us to solve our other probelms.”
Reproduced by permission from the Centre for Speech and Debate of ESU (The English-Speaking Union)
Competition Handbook 2007
©The English-Speaking Union
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