This post continues my series of how to write great content for your Toastmasters speeches. If you’re unfamiliar with Toastmasters, read my Toastmasters overview or view this guide to become familiar with the first ten Toastmasters speeches.
The purpose of this project is to get you comfortable presenting your ideas in a clear and concise manner that is easy for your audience to follow. Even if you are the most energetic, charismatic person who basks in the presence of an audience, your speech will flop if it is hard-to-follow or seems unorganized with no clear flow between one topic and the next.
Select your topic
The first step to organizing your speech is selecting a topic. Many of my Toastmasters club members seem to have difficulty selecting topics, but the truth is, just about anything can make a great topic, as long as it interests you. Many people choose to talk about their hobbies – we have several cyclists and runners in our club . Some people choose to talk about things that annoy them – one lady in my club wrote a speech reminding people to stand on the right side of the escalator when exiting the subway, so that other people can easily pass by on the left. Other people choose to talk about something they’ve learned that they’d like to share. A lady in my club gave a very entertaining speech on how to fit 5 servings of fruits and vegetables into your day.
Create an outline
Once you have a topic, start working on your outline. I find that some people in my club get into trouble when they skip this step. Without a clear outline, their speech lacks focus and they end up repeating the same point several times, or wandering aimlessly between topics. I always come up with an outline before I start writing anything. In many ways a speech is similar to an oral essay, so when developing my outline, I go back to the basic essay structure I was taught in grade school.
- Main point 1
- Main point 2
- Main point 3
Write your speech
For the Intro you want to come up with something compelling that will “hook” your audience. This should be something that will grab your audience’s attention and set the stage for what your speech is about. One intro that I have used in several of my speeches is to start with a question or survey. This gets the audience involved and makes your speech relatable to them. Other good intros would be to tell a captivating story or quote, or display a picture or object. As I develop my outline, I try to keep in mind ideas for a good intro “hook” for that particular speech.
If you’ve written your outline as suggested above, then you already have three main points for your body. Dedicate a paragraph to each main point and expand upon your idea using stories or facts that support your main point. As you finish discussing each point, transition into the next point. The key to a smooth transition is that each point should seem to build upon the next or should be the next logical thing that you would talk about. For example, if you’ve told your audience you will give them 3 reasons why they should do xyz, then your transition sentences could include the words “First”, “Second”, “Third” to indicate that you are moving between reasons. Another option is to introduce a new point by building upon what you’ve already told your audience. You can do this by using phrases such as, “In addition to”, or “Given that [main point 1], it follows that [introduce main point 2]“.
Finally, in your last paragraph, conclude by tying it all together. One conclusion that works is to quickly summarize all of your main points. If you started with a question in your introduction, then you can answer that question in your conclusion, or rephrase the question. You can also end with a quote, anecdote, or challenge to your audience.
Organizing your speech is the first step toward giving a great presentation. Hopefully this post gave you some great ideas for how to effectively organize your next Toastmasters speech. You can get more great tips from Andrew Dlugan’s Six Minutes blog. Here’s a quick summary of everything covered above.
- Select your topic. Choose something that interests you, excites you, or makes you angry.
- Create an outline.
- Think about how you will create a compelling introduction. Come up with a “hook” that will grab your audience, such as a question, quote, story, picture, or object.
- Come up with 3 main points that support your speech. This is your body.
- Create a conclusion that ties it all together.
- Write your speech using your outline. Think about how you want to transition between each of the parts – from intro to body; from each point to the next; from body to conclusion