Have you ever tried to find a small item in messy drawer or closet? If so, you know how frustrating a lack of organization can be. It might take some time to clear the clutter and arrange things so they’re easily accessible, but it’s worth the effort. The same is true with communication. When you take the time to organize your thoughts ahead of time, your message will be clear and can affect your listeners in a more enjoyable and compelling way.
As you may recall from our first discussion this week, there are several organizational methods to choose from when you prepare a message or speech. No single method works best for every topic or type of message, so it’s important to choose the most appropriate method for the goal of your message and subject matter. For example, if you want to persuade someone (or a group of people) to address a specific issue, you can use the Problem-Cause-Solution method, which points out the problem and the reason for it, and then offers a clear solution. When you want to call an audience to action, you may want to organize your message with Monroe’s Motivated Sequence. To show your audience why one product/service is better than another, you may want to use the Comparative Advantage method of organization.
No matter which method you use, it’s important to plan transitions between each of your main points.
Imagine being on the top floor of a three-story building and trying to get to the bottom without stairs (or an elevator). Stairs allow you to move to the next level easily and systematically. In a message or speech, transitions function the same way. Transitions are words, phrases, or sentences that keep your speech or message flowing and help your audience know when you move from point to point. Some common transitions include: In addition, on the other hand, more importantly, but, and however. To see examples of transitions for particular types of messages/speeches, read this article: Transitions in a Speech or Presentation
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(Zimmer, 2019). If you don’t use transitions, your audience will feel jarred when you move to a different point, like stepping off a ledge with no stairs beneath. It can be challenging to remember to include transitions while you’re speaking, so it’s a good idea to plan them and write them in your speaking outline.
An outline is a map that guides you from the beginning of your speech, through each main point, and to your conclusion. Preparing an outline helps you organize your ideas in a clear, persuasive way that flows logically and holds your audience’s interest. An outline also helps you save time writing your speech, because your outline lets you see how your whole speech fits together and where it may need more information, where you’ll need to cite experts, etc. A well-organized outline can even function as your notes when it comes time to deliver your speech. It’s important to include all the parts of a persuasive message in your outline, as you’ll see below.
State the goal of your speech (e.g., to persuade the audience to . . .) Although this is the first part of your outline, you DO NOT want to begin your speech delivery by stating your exact purpose. The first thing you say should be your attention-getting statement.
Attention Statement: to get your audience’s attention
Thesis Statement: concise sentence telling your audience exactly what your speech is about and what you hope to accomplish
Introduce Main Points or Arguments: let your audience know the main points you intend to cover in your speech.
Transition: Use a transition to connect your introduction to your first main point.
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