A well-written speech can draw in your audience and perfectly match the mood of the occasion. But if your speech is disorganized or meandering, your point will be lost on a snoozing audience. There's no single right way to organize a speech. Instead, you'll need to decide what will appeal to your audience most.
Role of Stories
Beginning with a story helps draw in your audience, and punctuating your speech with stories gives real-life examples of the principles you're discussing. You might also want to use a single story to demonstrate your point and tell bits and pieces of the story throughout your speech. Choose a story that's relevant to your audience; if you're talking to a group of professional women with children, for example, a story about work-life balance is in order. Overtly political or religious statements are rarely, if ever, appropriate.
Just the Facts
If you're teaching a subject matter, it may be best to stick with just the facts while trying to find ways to make them relevant to your audience. No matter what your topic, though, don't stray too far away from the purpose of your speech. You could lose the interest of your audience, and long, rambling speeches aren't particularly effective for getting any point across.
The order in which you tell your story or convey information has to make sense, and this usually means going in chronological order. If you're talking about business law, for example, you'll want to begin with older laws and convey a story about how laws have been changed or updated. It's possible to give a speech in reverse chronological order, but you'll need to ensure this is clear to your audience to prevent confusion. Provide plenty of context for the timing of your speech, periodically providing the audience with dates or other points of reference.
Outlining your speech can help ensure you go in the right order and focus on the most significant information rather than getting bogged down in details. Create a sketch of your speech, then rehearse it to make sure it makes sense before you deliver it. It's helpful to take a list of bullet points you know you want to cover in your speech, and ask someone who's knowledgeable about the topic for any missing or extraneous information to help you hit the right points.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.