Meeting Recap 12.03.13 (Speech Outline)

Tuesday’s meeting focused on two big challenges that every forensicator faces, especially our newest members: how to outline a speech & how to cut a piece. This post will focus on speech outlines, and I’ll follow up with the piece cutting in the next post.

Don’t do what I did when I was in forensics. I thought that I was a talented enough writer to skip outlining. My ideas and my research and my wit would be enough! Not true. Without fail, I floundered and ended up polishing my speech in the wee hours of the morning before the first tournament of the year. With only a couple hours of sleep, I then frantically memorized on the bus en route to the tournament. It’s not worth the hassle. I know now that I was not better than the process, and neither are you.


Before you begin outlining, ask yourself the following question: What is my speech about? You’d be surprised how many speech writers forget to answer this simple question before putting pen to paper. Your premise, or thesis for those of you in composition, should be one or two sentences and completely convey the point of your entire speech. If you can’t break down your premise into a couple sentences, then chances are it’s too big or vague for a 4-, 6-, 8- or 10-minute speech. Try again.

Value Statement/Call to Action

Every speech should also include some statement that demonstrates why your ideas are valuable or worth acting upon. Really great speakers don’t just inform their audience, they inspire them. Generally the value statement/call to action comes toward the end of your speech, but it can pop up throughout the speech as well. Again, it’s important to establish this early on, because if you can’t convince your audience that your topic is important, then you shouldn’t be doing a speech about it.


Develop 2, 3, or 4 arguments (with supporting evidence where appropriate) that back up your premise/thesis. If you can’t think of more than one, start over. If you can’t be convincing with less than five, start over. Remember, you want to convey your thoughts succinctly, and there is a time limit.


This is not rocket science, and I’m certain you’ve seen this structure for other writing projects. But it’s used so much because it works!

  1. Introduction
    Should include your premise
  2. Argument 1
  3. Argument 2
  4. Argument 3 (if necessary)
  5. Argument 4 (if necessary)
  6. Conclusion
    Should reference your introduction and touch on your premise again

A quick word on introductions and conclusions: Don’t worry so much about being clever, funny or shocking that you can’t make your introduction connect with your premise. First and foremost, you should begin and end your speech being relevant.

Once you’ve outlined your speech, then you can begin writing. You’ll find that the structure allows you to think more clearly and gives you direction and goals to achieve as you work.



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