In this assignment, you will inform an audience by presenting orally on your research.  As you do so, you will need to take into account not only the content and organization of your speech but also its delivery.

To help you successfully develop, organize, and deliver your Informative Speech, this section of the Handbook will introduce you to the basics of oral presentation.  Familiarizing yourself with those basics will help you fulfill four objectives. By the end of the project, you should be able to

  • organize a speech using a manageable number of clearly-stated key ideas,
  • arrange key ideas in a logical order,
  • use organizational cues to help the audience follow a speech’s key ideas, and
  • develop strategies for delivering your speech with confidence.

This portion of the Handbook is not the only resource available to you as you work on preparing your informative speech and practicing its delivery. You also should make use of the section devoted to the Speech Analysis assignment. Looking at how another speaker developed, organized, and delivered her speech can provide ideas for developing organizing, and delivering your own speech.

Objective I. Organize a Speech Using a Manageable Number of Clearly-Stated Key Ideas.

This section of the Handbook will provide you with advice on how to deliver a clear message, divided into a manageable number of ideas, while demonstrating awareness of context and audience. To do so, it will provide you with answers to the following questions:

  1. What is the purpose of an informative speech?
  2. What is the difference between an informative speech and a persuasive speech?
  3. How can I make sure my message is clear and focused?
  4. How can I use language in ways that are appropriate for my audience?
  5. What are the different kinds of support that I can use to develop my main claim and my supporting claims?
  6. How do I know if I have enough support?
  7. How will my use of examples and evidence in CORE 102 differ from the use I made of them in CORE 101?
  8. How can I determine the best order for my support?
  9. When can support stand alone?

1. What is the purpose of an informative speech?

The purpose of an informative speech is to educate listeners by presenting and supporting a clear, focused message as objectively as possible, and without directing an audience toward taking a position on an issue. For example, speaking about the search for an airliner lost at sea, a transportation official focuses on conveying specific, straightforward information to a room of reporters:

The search for MH370 continues. Our efforts are now focused in the southern Indian Ocean, where a multi-national team, led by Australia, is combing the waters trying to find debris from the flight.

Our determination to find MH370 remains steadfast. As we have said all along, we will never give up trying to find the plane—in order to bring closure for the families, and to establish exactly what happened to MH370.

Australia, China and France have already released satellite images, showing objects that may be related to MH370.

Yesterday, on 25 March, the Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency (MRSA) received new satellite images from Airbus Defence and Space, which is based in France. The images were taken on 23 March.

MRSA analysed the images and – in one area of the ocean measuring some 400 square kilometres – were able to identify 122 potential objects. Some objects were a metre in length; others were as much as 23 metres in length. Some of the objects appeared to be bright, possibly indicating solid materials.

(Hussein, 2014, paras. 1-5)

Here an official reports on the progress of the search in plain and simple language. Similarly, informative speeches in the college classroom should strive to present ideas in a straightforward manner, with unadorned prose. If it becomes clear that your speech is presenting a biased point of view or advocating for a specific outcome, then it has ceased to be informative and has become persuasive.

2. What is the difference between an informative speech and a persuasive speech?

Unlike an informative speech, a persuasive speech overtly advocates for a change in the way people do or see things.  President John F. Kennedy’s “Civil Rights Address” provides a noteworthy example:

The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated. If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot eat lunch in a restaurant open to the public, if he cannot send his children to the best public school available, if he cannot vote for the public officials who will represent him, if, in short, he cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his place? Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience and delay? (Kennedy, 1963, para. 6)

 It is clear that Kennedy is advocating for a change of hearts and minds in the American public. Using the repetition of words, phrases, and rhetorical questions, Kennedy is working to persuade the American public that discriminatory practices against racial minorities are unconscionable, and immediate action is warranted to curb the injustices of the day.

3. How can I make sure my message is clear and focused?

Before you plan your speech, be sure you know what your message is. You should be able to summarize it quickly and clearly for a listener. In the speech itself, you will need to focus your listener’s attention on your message. Think of a speech as having the same general expectations as a written essay. In a speech, you present your main idea in a clear, focused, and specific claim, similar to the way a thesis statement functions in an essay. Emphasize your message clearly and precisely at a memorable point in the speech. You might choose to do so near the beginning of the speech, near the end, or both.

Remember that—just as in a paper—all parts of the speech should support the message. Your introduction, for example, shouldn’t only serve as an attention grabber; it should point directly towards your message.

Be sure to provide as many supporting points as you need to support the message, but do not clutter up the speech with unconnected content. As you research your speech, you likely will find information that is only partially related to your topic, or not related at all. Evaluate each piece of information to make sure it is relevant.

4. How can I use language in ways that are appropriate for my audience?

Be sure to keep your audience in mind when choosing the tone of your speech by considering questions such as these:

  • What is the context of my presentation? Is it a formal or informal situation?
  • What kinds of people are in the audience? What do they already know about the subject? What do they need to know about it? What kinds of preconceived notions might they have?
  • What is my relationship to the audience? Are we friends, acquaintances, or strangers? Are we equals or do I have greater/lesser power than my listeners? Is our relationship professional or casual?
  • Will a more or less formal tone be appropriate for my audience?

In addition to the above, remember to engage your audience by expressing your enthusiasm for your topic. Speakers who are enthusiastic about their topic retain their audience’s attention more effectively than speakers who are disengaged.

5. What are the different kinds of support that I can use to develop my main claim and my supporting claims?

In addition to making use of the following information on examples and evidence, you may want to revisit the answer to these questions from the CORE 101 section of the Handbook. The first two questions are from the Approaches to Written Argument assignment; the third is from the Academic Argument assignment.

Support for a claim in speech, as in writing, may come from primary and secondary sources, as well as from your own observations and experiences. The particular forms that support may take include examples, descriptions, narratives, explanations, survey results, and statistics. In the case of statistics, remember that citing numbers alone will not be sufficient support for an argument without adequate context and discussion. Also keep in mind that a visual aid that clearly conveys statistical data may help your audience follow portions of a speech that rely on numerical data.

In addition to examples, descriptions, narratives, explanations, survey results, and statistics, other forms of support include the following:

  • Analogy: Analogies help readers understand unfamiliar concepts by comparing them with familiar ones. Analogies also point out that one situation is applicable to another:


The impossibility of enforcing Prohibition may have been one reason for its repeal. A similar argument could be made for the repeal of marijuana laws.

  • Common knowledge: What could a member of your audience be reasonably expected to know? The answer varies depending on many factors, including age, education, and professional background.


 The following information … …might be common knowledge for…
The atomic number of the element carbon… a chemist or a chemistry major.
The number of votes in the electoral college… a legislator or a political science major.
The names of actors who were prominent in the 60s… a member of the Baby Boomer generation or a media studies major.

Definition: Sometimes following a speaker’s reasoning hinges on the correct understanding of a term. Sometimes the meaning of a word is actually central to the speech. In general, avoid providing the simple dictionary definition, but provide a definition only when you’re using the word differently from how people might expect:


While most people think of an argument as a quarrel between two people, we are using the word argument to represent a claim supported by reasons known as premises.

  •  Testimony:  The words of an authority—either quoted or paraphrased—can help illustrate a point. Be certain that the source is credible, and if you quote, use only what you need so that the quotation doesn’t take over the speech.


 According to Aristotle, the definition of rhetoric is “the ability, in each case, to see the available means of persuasion” (Aristotle, 2007, p. 37).

6. How do I know if I have enough support?

In addition to making use of the information that follows, you may want to revisit the answers to these questions under the Academic Argument assignment in the CORE 101 section of the Handbook:

The STAR test can help you determine whether you have enough support for the points in your speech. The STAR test asks whether support is

  • Sufficient
  • Typical
  • Accurate, and
  • Relevant.

Clearly, if the speech lacks accurate and relevant support, you have not finished developing your points.

What about sufficient? Imagine that you are informing your audience about the cause of autism and that you rely heavily upon an article reporting on case studies for twelve children. That is a very small sample of the hundreds of thousands of children worldwide who have been diagnosed with autism, and as a rule, the smaller the sample size, the less reliable the results. So if you relied heavily on one article that itself was based on a small sample, probably the support for your informative speech would be insufficient.

Lastly, is your support typical? Imagine that you are speaking about traffic problems in Blacksburg near Virginia Tech and you share an anecdote about being caught in traffic. However, if your anecdote is about an incident that occurred immediately after a football game that decided whether the Tech football team would make the playoffs, then it may not be typical of traffic patterns overall. Without examples that are more typical, the support for your informative speech is insufficient.

7. How will my use of examples and evidence in CORE 102 differ from the use I made of them in CORE 101?

The answers to the last two questions included links back to the Academic Argument assignment under CORE 101. That fact suggests that in order to achieve your current objectives, you need to revisit knowledge and strengthen skills that were introduced for the earlier assignment. Keep in mind that word “strengthen.” You are not being asked to simply duplicate what you have already done. Instead, you are being asked to start where you left off and go further.

The differences between CORE 101 and 102 when it comes to using examples and evidence likely will be that you are expected to

  • use more evidence and examples,
  • use a different mix of types of evidence,
  • use more sources for your evidence and examples,
  • use a different mix of sources, and
  • locate those sources on your own.

8. How can I determine the best order for my support?

As you determine the best order for introducing your evidence, consider questions like these:

  • How strong is each piece of evidence?
  • How relevant is each?
  • How typical is each?
  • Are some more significant than others?
  • Are some more striking or dramatic than others?
  • Will some work better at certain locations in the speech?

These questions encourage you to think about the impact each piece of evidence may have and how that impact should affect your choice of where to place it. Imagine, for example, that you have chosen the following as support for a claim:

  • an example
  • another example
  • expert testimony
  • statistics

One example is very dramatic, but the other is important in another way: it is the most typical. The expert testimony will lend credibility to your speech, and the statistics will help your audience understand that the issue extends beyond a few isolated examples. However, neither the testimony nor the statistics are as memorable as the two examples. To develop the point, then, you might settle upon this order:

  • typical example—to introduce supporting claim with concrete illustration
  • statistics—to show that example is not an isolated one
  • expert testimony—to reinforce importance of supporting claim
  • dramatic example—to fix claim in audience’s memory

The above ‘sandwich’ approach will create a strong opening and closing impression. Please, note, however, that the above is an example and not a formula. In any particular instance, the audience, the message, and the context will determine the exact order in which you will introduce support for a claim. The only constant is that you should consider the impact your choices will have upon your audience.

9. When can support stand alone?

Usually support illustrates or helps explain a claim or supporting claim. Sometimes, however, the support seems to stand alone. When you describe a person or place or narrate an event, you might not state a claim and you might not state outright why certain details are significant. However, that does not mean that your speech will be pointless. When describing a person or place or narrating an event, determine what the main focus should be. After you settle upon that main focus, be selective when you choose what to include in your speech.

Imagine that in a speech you describe someone. You may know a lot about this person, but in your speech, you won’t try to catalogue all possible facts. Instead, ask yourself what is noteworthy about this particular individual. Then select and organize details that illustrate that noteworthy feature. The support will seem to stand alone, but only because by creating a main focus you made it unnecessary to state and elaborate upon a claim.

Objective II. Arrange Key Ideas in a Logical Order.

You must chose Sufficient, Typical, Accurate, and Relevant (STAR) evidence to support each claim you make in your speech. You must determine the order in which evidence will be introduced to develop or illustrate each particular key idea. However, you also must come up with a logical order for introducing the key ideas themselves into the speech. Which idea should be introduced first? Which second? Which third—and so forth?

Choosing an appropriate organizational pattern will help the audience follow your speech and understand the logical relationships between key ideas. The particular pattern that you choose may depend upon the speech’s purpose, as some organizational schemes are natural fits for accomplishing certain goals.

The answers to the following questions will help you arrange the key ideas in your speech in a logical order:

  1. What are the different ways to organize the body of a speech?
  2. Why should I outline my speech?
  3. What should I base my outline on?
  4. What are the guidelines for a properly formatted outline?
  5. Once the body is complete, what else should I include with the outline?

1. What are the different ways to organize the body of a speech?

The organizational patterns described below apply whether you are writing an essay or preparing a speech because their goal is to present information in a way that a reader or listener can process easily.

You can let the audience know during the introduction how you plan to organize your information by the careful wording of something called a preview step. You will find additional detail about preview steps under the question How do I do a preview step? For now, though, it is enough to know that a preview step is one or more sentences that outline the organization of your speech, which will likely correspond to one of the following patterns.

  • Spatial—Are you trying to recreate a place in the minds of your audience? This organizational pattern takes the audience through a sequence of key ideas organized according to where objects or features are located in space. For example, the organization may take the listener from the exterior to the interior, from right to left, or from top to bottom.
  • Chronological— Are you trying to recreate an event in which one incident follows another? This organizational pattern takes the audience through a sequence of key ideas organized according to where incidents or actions are located on a timeline. This is the customary pattern for how-to type speeches.
  • Cause/Effect— Are you setting out to show the cause of something or to recommend the steps that will result in a desired outcome?  Determine the sequence of events that leads to the outcome or end result, and follow that sequence in your speech. If the effect is stated at the outset and then the remainder of the speech focuses on the causes, the pattern is called Effect/Cause.
  • Problem/Solution—Are you describing the solution to a problem? Start by explaining the problem and then work your way through the elements of the solution. Organize sequentially if one part of the solution must be completed to set the stage for the next part.

This type of organizational pattern can be informative if you are describing a solution, but if you are attempting to convince the audience that a particular solution should be adopted, then it becomes persuasive in nature.  Because of this fact, this pattern is more often used in persuasive speeches.

  • Topical—Several of the previous patterns are sequential. That is, they require that the key ideas be brought up in a particular order (for example, chronologically). A topical organization, on the other hand, may be chosen when you have some leeway in deciding the order in which to bring up each key idea.

Imagine that you wanted to inform an audience about changes in a community and that each change occurred independently of the other changes—that is, one change did not have to take place in order to set the stage for the next change. A fire may have destroyed a major landmark; the building of a highway may have changed residential patterns; two high schools may have been consolidated into one. All these changes help you explain to your audience why a way of life has vanished, but since each change occurred independently, you have some freedom to decide the order in which to introduce them.

Does this mean that in topical organization key points will be introduced randomly? No. In topically organized speeches, audiences tend to remember the first and last main points, so order your key ideas with that in mind. In the previous example, you may decide that the loss of the landmark, while regrettable, did not change the community as much as the highway construction and the high-school consolidation, and so you may decide to open and close with those elements.

2. Why should I outline my speech?

Once you have your basic content and have decided on an overarching organizational pattern, it can be helpful to begin thinking of your speech in terms of an outline. Outlining will allow you to lay out the information in a clear and logical way that will help your audience follow and see connections. Speech outlines, when written in complete sentences, also give you an excellent source for rehearsing the presentation. While you don’t need to memorize the speech, practicing initially with the complete-sentence outline can help you feel more confident because you will know what words are going to come out of your mouth. Practicing with speech outlines also can help keep you from rambling during a presentation, a common problem with people who don’t have a clear idea of what they intend to say.

3. What should I base my outline on?

Like a paper, the speech outline will take several drafts. As you read and practice with what you’ve written, you likely will find places where you need to include more information, as well as places where unnecessary information should be cut. You also may discover ways of wording ideas that may feel more natural than the language included in the first version of the outline.

Outlines are based on the concept that ideas are logically connected in one of two ways. Ideas may be of equal weight, in which case they are said to be coordinate. On the other hand, one idea may function as support for another, in which case the supporting idea is said to be subordinate. These two logical relationships should be apparent in your outline.

Start by identifying the organizational pattern in the body of your speech. The key ideas in that pattern will be coordinate to each other. List these key ideas as capital Roman numerals.

Next, each key idea must be adequately supported. These supporting points are subordinate to the key ideas.  Under each key idea, list the subordinate ideas, labeling them with capital letters.

Remember that, just as in a paper, documentation is important. The outline should include both in-text (parenthetical) citations and a references page in appropriate APA format.

4. What are the guidelines for a properly formatted outline?

I.  Every subpoint must be related to the point main point it is under.

A.  Subpoints can be used to clarify the main point.

B.  Subpoints can provide support or examples of the main point.

C.  Subpoints can be used to further break down the main point.

II.  Every point or subpoint should contain only one idea.

A.  If there is more than one idea in a point, break it into multiple points.

B.  If a subpoint is repeating the main point in basic idea, reword the main point to delete the subpoint.

III.  Main points should be arranged for optimal logical flow.

A.  Do not randomly place main points, even if you’re using topical organization.

B.  Use one of the organizational patterns discussed to choose your main point order.

IV. If you only have one subpoint, it cannot stand alone.

A.  If there is an A, there must be a B.

B.  If there is a 1, there must be a 2.

C.  If you have a single subpoint and nothing to add, delete it and reword the main point to include that information.

V.  Key points should be concise and clear claims or truths, worded as complete sentences.

A.  Do not use the outline as a script when delivering the speech.

B.  Do use it to make sure your speech makes logical sense.

VI. Sources must be cited within the outline.

A. They can be transferred to your visual aid if appropriate.

B.  They will help remind you to orally cite necessary material.

The order of formatting for an outline is as follows:







A quick way to remember the order is that it is “number-letter-number-letter-number,” keeping in mind that “I” and “i” are Roman numerals.

The “number-letter” pattern is important for showing the relationships between ideas, but the indentation is important, too. Be certain to indent consistently as a way of signaling the level of each part of the outline.

5. Once the body is complete, what else should I include with the outline?

Because logical transitions are important to your audience and help them understand connections between information, it is often useful to go back and write them in, especially between main points.  These are not part of the outline format and are usually signaled through the use of italics.

Example of transition signaled through the use of italics:

I.  Some national parks are legally prohibited from charging entrance fees.

A.  These parks rely on money from the federal budget.

B.  They can suggest donations from visitors.

C.  They can charge for certain services within the park, like camping.

 But although some national parks are limited in the ways they can bring in revenue, other parks have more freedom to bolster their resources.

II. Other national parks charge fees for one week or sell one year passes as a way to bolster their budgets.

After you compose the body of the presentation, consider what you want to include in the introduction and conclusion. Because both sections are best delivered with excellent eye contact, it may be useful to memorize these parts. However, they are not part of the outline format and generally are included in paragraph form at the beginning and end of the outline.

Objective III: Use organizational cues to help the audience follow a speech’s key ideas.

No matter how well organized a speech may be in terms of its overall pattern, an audience will still benefit from the inclusion of organizational cues. These are signposts that provide directions for effective listening. They may, for example, alert the reader to points at which a key idea is about be introduced, or they may signal relationships between ideas.

To help you create organizational cues and use them effectively, this section of the Handbook will provide answers to the following questions:

  1. How do I help the audience follow the main points of my speech?
  2. What are some types of transitions?
  3. How can I use my delivery to emphasize my speech’s organization?
  4. How do I write an introduction to a speech?
  5. Why do I create an attention-getting step?
  6. What are some types of attention-getters?
  7. How do I know which type of attention-getter may be best for my topic and audience?
  8. How do I incorporate pathos into my attention-getter?
  9. How do I build credibility and rapport with the audience in the attention-getting step?
  10. How do I state my topic?
  11. How do I make my speech relevant to my audience?
  12. How do I do a preview step?
  13. How should each main point and its supporting information be organized?
  14. How do I compose a speech conclusion?

1. How do I help my audience follow the main points of my speech?

Remember that the audience may not “see” the organizational pattern you’re using unless you tell them what you are doing. You can make use of several strategies to help your audience recognize the pattern and identify the main points.

  • Memorize your main points.  Most of the speech can be done extemporaneously, which means well-rehearsed but off-the-cuff and usually with the aid of notecards with carefully selected words to keep you on track. However, certain parts of the speech are best delivered completely from memory. Memorizing your main points will allow you to have excellent eye contact with your audience. It will also allow you to interact with your visual aid if necessary, and it will reinforce your ethos as a speaker by demonstrating your confidence and your mastery of your subject. All of these factors help the audience know that what you are saying is very important and should be remembered.
  • Use signpost words or phrases to let your audience know that you’re introducing a new main point. Without signposts, the audience may think that the new key idea is actually a sub-point of a previous main point. Signposts fall into several categories. For example, they can be ordinal (ordering numbers), as in “first,” “second,” or “third.” They can be sequential, as in “next” or “afterward” or “finally.” They can convey that you are about to provide a reason or a cause or an outcome of something, as in “because of” or “as a result.” They can indicate that you are about to introduce a point than is in contrast with a previous one, such as in “however” or “on the other hand.”

Be careful when using words like “so” and “then” as signals because often they are not strong enough for the audience to realize that they are being used to introduce a new main point.

  • Include transitional statements to show connections between main points. Transitional statements indicate how a previous point is related to a new one that you are introducing. Carefully constructed transitional statements reinforce your ethos and show the audience you’re prepared. In addition, if you are nervous or anxious, they can help you keep yourself from rambling. Transitional statements come in several major types, but all are designed to show the relationships between your ideas.

To review the concept of transition, read the answer to these two questions under the Personal Essay assignment in the CORE 101 section of the Handbook:

2. What are some types of transitions?

Although there are several types of transitions, notice that in all the examples below, the previous main point is referred to so that the audience is able to grasp how the newly introduced main point is related to the previous one.

  • Additive transitions show that the second main point is equal in value to the first.

While you can get around Acadia National Park by car on the park loop, there also are extensive carriage roads that allow visitors to travel in either direction.

  • Contrast transitions show that the second main point is different or opposite from the first.

Although some research shows that a low carb diet can help you lose weight while eating as much as you want, other research shows that a calorie-restricted diet is a better choice.

  • Consequence transitions show that the second main point is related causally to the first.

Because of the decision to not dam the Colorado River to generate electricity, a coal plant is heavily polluting the Grand Canyon.

  • Chronological transitions show the relationship through time of the two main points.

After the chain on the bike has been cleaned, it’s time to apply fresh chain lube.

  • Spatial transitions show how the second main point is related in space to the first.

 While the crumple zone in the front of the car is useful, many other safety features are located behind the windshield.

Notice that the italicized words in the above examples—while, also, although, because of, after, behind—play important roles in signaling how the ideas in the transitional statements are related.

3. How can I use my delivery to emphasize my speech’s organization?

Several techniques of nonverbal delivery will allow you to emphasize the signposts and transitional statements that mark your speech’s organization. In western culture, it is common to nod your head while saying a signpost word or phrase and to gesture with your hands while making transitional statements.

Appropriately interacting with your visual aid—pointing out a key element, for example—also may help you emphasize that you are introducing of a new point.

One action to avoid when moving to a new point: shuffling your notecards. Such distracting behavior may imply to the audience that you don’t know your next point. In addition, shuffling through your note cards does not allow for appropriate eye contact.

4.  How do I write an introduction to a speech?

Once you have the body of a speech or essay organized and composed, start working on the introduction. Do not start writing the introduction before having completed the content. Very often students who write the introduction too soon engage in what’s called “throat clearing.” Since they have not written the body of the speech, they have not completely sorted out their ideas. As a result, in the introduction they meander their way toward the speech’s point (or never reach it at all) instead of moving toward it efficiently.

An introduction consists of four major steps:

  1. Attention-getter,
  2. statement of topic,
  3. relation of the topic to the audience, and
  4. preview of the main points and organizational pattern.

An introduction should be relatively brief—no more than 10% of your total speech time. Comparatively, in an essay of about 1,000 words, an introduction would take up no more than two paragraphs.

Throughout the introduction, work on building your credibility as a speaker. You may do so through excellent delivery, by being articulate, and by making choices that are appropriate for the audience.

You also may want to take a moment to mention any reason your audience should consider you a master of the subject, especially if it is a topic you have a background in or a field you have done research on.

5.  Why do I create an attention-getting step?

To capture your audience’s interest, open your speech with an attention-getting step. This step is the equivalent of what journalists call the “lead” of a story, the hook that is used to get people to read an article. In a speech, it is your chance to convince the audience that what you have to say is interesting and worth paying attention to.

Sometimes beginning speakers may skip the attention-getter and jump straight to the speech’s topic, opening with a phrase such as “My speech is about….”This kind of opening statement would bore most audiences. Especially keep in mind that you may have a captive audience; your classmates are present, but that doesn’t mean that they want to listen. Offer them a more exciting opener than “Hi! My name is…” or “Today I want to talk about….”

The attention-getter should be clearly relevant to your topic. It should be memorized, and it should be communicated with both excellent eye contact and strong vocal delivery.

6.  What are some types of attention-getters?

You may choose from among several strategies for getting your audience’s attention. Your choice may depend upon the topic and the context, your assessment of the audience, and your sense of your own strengths as a speaker.

  • Tell a joke.

Telling a joke is sometimes difficult to pull off. If timing is important, a speaker’s nerves may get in the way of a successful delivery. Consider this option only if the joke is truly funny to strangers and you are confident of your delivery.

  • Tell a story.

A story may be a very strong introduction to a topic. It can be taken from personal experience or told from someone else’s point of view. A story can be a great way to build pathos for your topic. It is often one of the easiest attention getters because you need to be familiar with the story, but not necessarily memorize it.

  • Ask a question.

Questions should be considered carefully. They should be appropriate for the audience and relevant to the topic.

The type of question will affect your audience interaction. Closed questions ask for ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers or for responses that may include a show of hands or nodding. Open questions lack set answers and may ask more of the audience.

Example of a closed question: “Show of hands, who here has been out of the country?”

Example of an open question: “If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?”

Sometimes no one will volunteer to answer an open question, so you may have to ask someone from the audience to respond. You may need to single out audience members by name or through eye contact to get them to speak up. On the other hand, you may be able to build ethos and rapport by having a short discussion with your audience about their answers.

  • Use multimedia.

You can show a video clip or play a song segment. Videos or songs should be relevant to the speech’s topic and not take up more than a quarter of your introduction. (That is 25% of the 10% of your speech allowed for the introduction. In the introduction to a 10 minute speech, for example, videos or songs would take up no more than 15-20 seconds.)

Be aware that your choice for multimedia will set the tone for the rest of the presentation. If your selection is fun, witty, and high energy, the audience will expect you to be as well. A mismatch between your delivery and a multimedia selection may diminish your ethos and cause you audience to become bored once you start talking.

  • Rely upon a quotation, a paraphrase of a striking idea, or an interesting fact about your topic. Of the three, the paraphrase or the interesting fact may be most practical. Direct quotations from written sources may not work in the context of an oral delivery. Something that was written to be read silently may not sound as good when read out loud.

Also remember that the attention getting step should be delivered with excellent eye contact. Paraphrases and the statement of an interesting fact can be delivered off the cuff, making it easier to achieve that eye contact. Exact quotations, on the other hand, must be memorized.

If you use rely upon a quotation, paraphrase, or interesting fact as an attention-getter, be certain to appropriately attribute its source through an oral citation*.

  • Consider unusual attention-getters. These can include games, role-playing, and audience interactions, etc. These can be effective in convincing the audience that what you have to say will be interesting and worth listening. Make certain, though, that any such attention-getters set an appropriate tone and energy level for the rest of the presentation.

*Oral citation: An oral citation is the spoken equivalent of an attribution, which is a phrase used in writing to signal that you are using a source. For more information, see the answer to this question under the Approaches to Written Argument assignment in the CORE 101 section of the Handbook: How does an author signal that she is using a source?

7.  How do I know which type of attention-getter may be best for my topic and audience?

There is never one correct way to get your audience’s attention, but you can keep a few factors in mind as you plan your speech’s introduction.

  • The attention-getter needs to be relevant to your topic. Hitting yourself in the face with a pie will get an audience’s attention, but unless your speech is about your time in Clown College, such an approach probably won’t be relevant, and if it’s not relevant it’s not an effective attention-getter.
  • The attention-getter needs to be appropriate to the context. Take, for example, the example of a student who pulled out a (toy) gun in class in the year 1981. This attention-getter could not be used today because the context—in this case, the academic and legal climate—has changed dramatically since 1981.

Context also included the immediate circumstances of the speech. Where is it taking place? What is the occasion? Some attention-getters may be more appropriate for some settings and occasions than others.

  • Consider your audience—its age, its educational or professional background, its expectations for the type of speech you are delivering. Some audiences may, for example, be more receptive to jokes, role playing and games than other audiences.

8.  How do I incorporate pathos into my attention-getter?

Depending upon the topic of your informative speech, you may rely more or less on pathos. Your attention-getter is an especially good opportunity to appeal to your audience’s emotions. A powerful image or an emotional quotation is a good way to pique your audience’s interest in your topic. A personal story can be even better. By appealing to emotions, you draw the audience in so that they will be receptive to the logos and ethos-based elements of your informative speech.

9.  How do I build credibility and rapport with the audience in the attention-getting step?

In addition to appealing to pathos, the attention-getting step is also a good time to build ethos. A catchy, relevant attention-getter shows your audience from the start that you have worked hard to put together a speech that they will find interesting.

The attention-getting step also can be a good time to mention any personal observations or experiences that may be relevant to your topic. For example, if you are giving a speech about the effects of video games on children and you have a niece who plays a lot of video games, you could start with a story about how she behaves after playing video games. A well-told personal story like this can both capture the audience’s interest and show that your personal experiences make you passionate about the topic.

You also may mention research or experiences that may make you an expert or master of the topic. For a speech about how to pack and organize a backpack for a week-long hiking trip, the speaker might start with an exciting story from her three-week trip backpacking along the Appalachian Trail. That anecdote would let the audience know that she is a master of the information and topic.

10.  How do I state my topic?

After your attention-getter is complete, it’s important to clearly and concisely state the topic. What do you want the audience to remember and take away from the presentation? This step usually is accomplished in a single sentence. Give thought to how to word it because a strong statement of topic continues building your ethos but a vague or poorly planned one can diminish it.

  • Example of a vague, unplanned statement of topic:Today I’m going to tell you about what to do if you get hurt while hiking.
  • Example of a clear, planned statement of topic:

You’re going to learn three first-aid techniques to take care of the most common hiking injuries.

11.  How do I make my speech relevant to my audience?

When choosing a topic for a presentation, speakers typically consider their audience. During a presentation, it is useful to explain to them why they should care about the topic—especially if it is one that they might think has no relevance to them. If you asked the audience questions during your attention-getting step, you may be able to build in that discussion during this step. Otherwise, you can explain to the audience why they should listen.

Example of making a topic relevant to an audience of college-age students:

Dropping art from elementary and middle school affects some of your sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews, and one day will affect your own children. Earlier most of you said that art and music classes were very important and memorable for you when you were kids, so you can see why it’s important to talk about the situation facing children today and why they aren’t getting the same opportunities.

If you find it difficult to explain why the audience should care about the topic, you may need to reconsider the topic you’ve chosen. Keep in mind that the act of communication includes the listener, not just the speaker, and take into account the fact that your audience likely won’t remember your ideas if they don’t care about them.

12.  How do I do a preview step?

The final step in the introduction is to preview the organizational pattern for the audience. Provide a quick overview of your main points and use words and phrases that signal the logical connections between them. By doing so, you alert audience members as to whether they should expect an organization that is spatial, chronological, cause/effect, problem/solution, or topical.

  • Spatial preview step:

When looking at the Eiffel Tower’s architecture, we’ll first talk about the base of the structure, then describe the body of the monument, and end in a discussion of the architecture of the observation deck at the top.

  • Chronological preview step:

When we talk about how to tune a guitar, I’ll be breaking it down into 6 easy steps: tuning the sixth string, the A, the D, the G, the B, and finally the E.

  • Cause/Effect preview step:

Noise pollution comes in many forms, including those that are reducible and those that are an unavoidable part of the ambient environment. This pollution has short and long term effects on people, including physical stress and mental tension.

  • Problem/Solution preview step:

Because of the increased number of residents and tourists in the Grand Canyon, energy and water resources are no sufficient. A coal burning power plant and water pump were installed, but they create pollution levels in the National Park that many think are unacceptable. In this presentation, I’ll suggest some new solutions that are being considered.

  • Topical preview step:

Oddly, the TSA allows these three types of items as airplane carry-ons: food with gels, some compressed-gas canisters, and certain types of pigs.

13.  How should each main point and its supporting information be organized?

After you give the introduction and move into the body of the presentation, each main point should be organized using the following five steps. These steps will help the audience follow along, understand, and remember what they were told and will add SPICE to your speech.

Guidelines for Organizing Key Ideas and Support in the Body of an Informative Speech (Elder-Taylor)

  1. Signal each new point. Use words or phrases that indicate to the audience that you are done with one point and are starting a new point.
  2. Proclaim your key idea. Make sure the statement is clear and concise and delivered with excellent eye contact.
  3. Identify your support. Make sure it’s relevant, sufficient, and credible.
  4. Connect your support to your key idea. Summarize your support and explain how it works together to develop or illustrate your point.
  5. Explain how your point is related to the next. Use logically related transitions to connect with the next main point. In written work, this step would be the first sentence of a succeeding paragraph.


(1) Secondly, genetically modified foods usually result in more nutrients available per serving of food. (2) Foods that are modified to include more nutrients can help provide balanced diets for people who might not otherwise have access to variety in their food options. (3) One example of this is the Golden Rice Project, whose mission is outlined at goldenrice.org. They are a group of bioengineers looking for ways to fortify basic staples, like rice, with beta-carotene. This nutrient often is missing from diets of people in less developed areas, and its absence can have devastating effects on health, including high incidences of blindness and premature death among children. According to the Golden Rice Project, 25% of the last 10 million children who died in the world could have been saved by food fortified with zinc and beta-carotene. (4) Saving children’s lives and preventing blindness are two reasons that people create genetically modified foods with more nutrients than their organic counterparts.  (5) Using GMOs can add nutrients to otherwise unhealthy food options for people in places where food options are available, but generally GMOs are used to make products disease or pest resistant.

14. How do I compose a speech conclusion?

Leave yourself time to deliver a well-composed conclusion. The conclusion is an opportunity to drive home your thesis and main points. A strong conclusion can resonate with audience members and help them remember and, if appropriate, act on what you have said.

The conclusion of speech should be brief, taking up about 10% of the total time allotted. Brief as the conclusion may be, however, it is an important part of the speech. The conclusion accomplishes the following four steps:

  • Signaling the end of your talk.

Let the audience know that you are done with your final main point and are wrapping up. You may include a final slide or frame on your visual aid that indicates the shift, and using signal words or phrases such as “before I wrap this up….”

  • Summarizing the key ideas.

If stated as complete sentences, each of your main points can be strung together to recreate the backbone of your speech. Repeating these for your audience gives them one last opportunity to remember what you want them to take away from their time spent listening.

  • Activating your audience.

Ask yourself what you want the audience to do with the information you have provided them. If the speech is informative, consider what you want the audience to remember, know, or understand about your topic. If you want them to take the information and apply it later, then remind them of when it would be useful. For example, if you have presented an informative speech about recycling, you might conclude with a sentence like this one: “So now that you know how recycling plants work, I hope you’ll remember what you’ve learned when deciding what should—and shouldn’t —be recycled.”

  • Providing psychological closure.

This final step can have a great impact. It can be a statement that is witty, interesting, or moving. If you don’t plan out this step, you may end your speech by trailing off and saying something like “Well, that’s it.” Trailing off may be especially likely to occur if you are nervous.

 One way to create a powerful closing statement is by using a circular conclusion. Circular conclusions are created when the final step of the conclusion refers back to the attention-getting step of the introduction.


So the next time you’re dreaming of your toes in the sand and a tropical drink in your hand, remember that traveling internationally can be an affordable experience.

Objective IV: Develop strategies for delivering your speech with confidence.

Your hard work in developing and organizing your speech should help you feel confident. However, even the best-prepared, most experienced speakers may feel some anxiety when speaking in public. Still, when you properly control and channel the nervous feelings, you can translate them into an energetic and engaging presentation. The answer to the following questions will help you achieve with controlling and channeling any anxiety you might feel.

  1. What are some physical and mental strategies for minimizing nerves/discomfort when giving an oral presentation?
  2. How do I best deliver a speech introduction?
  3. How do I best deliver a speech conclusion?

1. What are some physical and mental strategies for minimizing nerves/discomfort when giving an oral presentation?

The following strategies can help you minimize discomfort when you give an oral presentation. If fact, they can help you to enjoy the experience.

  • Practice your speech. Be sure you are comfortable with your material. The more prepared you are, the more confident you will feel.
  • Be aware of how you feel when you are nervous. Try to prepare for the specific way your body expresses nervousness. If your hands shake when you get nervous, for example, you might want to use a podium.
  • Slow down your breathing. Sometimes when we get nervous, we breathe more quickly, which can make us feel even more nervous. To calm yourself down, pay attention to your breathing and moderate it as necessary.
  • Go easy on yourself. Remember that you are harder on yourself than your peers would be. While we often notice every mistake, our listeners don’t.
  • Rethink the experience. Remember that you are excited about your topic and that this is your chance to share it with others.

In addition to the above advice, remember that you can find material about delivering, specifically, the introduction and the conclusion of your speech in the answers to these two questions:

2.  How do I best deliver a speech introduction?

Follow the four-steps listed under How do I write an introduction to a speech? In addition, though, it is very important to build ethos throughout the beginning of the speech. First impressions are very important, and audience members generally will decide whether they will pay attention to what you say within the first few minutes of a speech. With that in mind, make sure to exude confidence, preparedness, and trustworthiness

  • When using a visual aid, open on a title screen that’s appropriate and professional. For example, don’t project a slide that introduces your first main point when you have not even previewed your speech.
  • Look the part through your clothing and grooming choices the day of the presentation. Think of your outfit as a uniform for a job, and keep in mind that dressing up can help calm anxiety about public speaking.
  • Keep excellent eye contact throughout the introduction. Be especially sure to have memorized the first and last steps of the introduction (attention-getter, preview of the main points and organizational pattern).
  • Avoid distracting mannerisms. Don’t shuffle your notecards, play with your hair, click a pen, etc. If you need to channel excess energy in the beginning of the presentation do it through meaningful gestures and strong vocal delivery to show that you really do care about your topic and want the audience to as well.

3.  How do I best deliver a speech conclusion?

Conclusions are your final chance to get the audience to listen, pay attention, and care about what you’ve said. Strong delivery in the conclusion can help you regain any energy that may have been lost during the body of the presentation.

  • Include a slide or frame on your visual aid to accompany your conclusion.
  • Make as much eye contact as possible. If a speaker looks at her notes during the conclusion, the audience is likely to conclude that she does not have a thorough mastery of her material.
  • Gesture appropriately. Hold your arms away from your body, and lift you palms face up when that gesture fits with what you’re saying. If you are comfortable leaving the lectern, a step toward the audience during the conclusion can help draw in the audience. Nodding your head as you summarize your main points may also help the audience react positively to what you are saying.
  • If your energy as a speaker has flagged during the presentation, increase your volume slightly during the wrap-up.


Aristotle. (2007). On rhetoric: A theory of civic discourse. 2nd ed. Trans. George A. Kennedy. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Hussein, H. (2014, March 26). Crash of MH370: Full transcript of Hishammuddin’s press briefing on March 26. Straits Times. Retrieved March 27, 2014 from http://www.straitstimes.com/breaking-news/se-asia/story/crash-mh370-full-transcript-hishammuddins-press-briefing-march-26-201403

Kennedy, J. F. (1963, June 11). Civil rights address. American Rhetoric. Retrieved December 18, 2013 from http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/jfkcivilrights.htm



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