Create a speech outline

Outlining is a popular pre-draft technique when writing and it is one I commonly recommend to aspiring speechwriters.

An outline is a hierarchical representation of the content of your speech. Think of it as the skeleton upon which you will add the flesh of your speech.

Let's take a Best Man Speech as an example. Start your outline at its very simplest:

  • Opening
  • Body
  • Closing

That was easy. It gets a little trickier though. The next step is try to flesh out some additional points, using the notes you have about the occasion, the theme, the subject and other information you have gathered from people relevant to the speech (family, friends and colleagues of the subject of the speech, other speechmakers etc.).

  • Opening
    • Introduce myself
  • Body
    • Pay tribute to key participants
    • Recount how I became friends with groom
    • Describe some of the groom's best traits - with humor
    • Words of advice to Groom from a married man
  • Closing
    • Ask the audience to be upstanding
    • Raise a toast to the bride and groom

For the first time, a speech is taking shape! Your speech will take further shape as you take each element of your outline and, where appropriate, you add more additional outlines.

Let's take the element Pay tribute to key participants above. The next level of outline might look like:

  • Pay tribute to key participants
    • Compliment & raise toast to the bride
    • Thank & compliment the bridesmaids
    • Pay tribute to parents of bride and groom

Continue to iterate through your outline until you feel you have captured the essence of your speech. Be sure not to mistake the outline for the speech itself. That's the next step. For now, be happy to achieve a great framework that will guide you as you write your speech.


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