A writer chooses what speech to write based on how they want to reach their audience. While some speeches are meant to entertain, others are meant to persuade or inform. A definition speech is written to inform the audience by describing and explaining an object or concept. You might be called upon to deliver such a speech at your place of employment, for example, in order to describe a new business strategy. Or, you may be required to define a new initiative to help a worthy cause in your community. But, before you get to that point, you may first have to write a definition speech as part of a school assignment. Writing a definition speech isn't too difficult if you just follow some basic guidelines.
Create Your Purpose Statement
The first step in writing a definition speech is to write a purpose statement that indicates the direction the speech will take and focuses on its main goal. For example, if you intend to describe the school of philosophical thought known as "transcendentalism," the purpose of your speech might be stated as "to define the meaning of the term transcendentalism and describe its major tenets."
Emphasize the Central Idea
Next, you must state the central idea, which is akin to the thesis statement in an essay and consists of a complete sentence that expresses the main idea or ideas you intend to make. For example, you might say, "Transcendentalism is a philosophy that proposes that man can discover the nature of reality through thought and spiritual intuition, and its tenets were embraced by such 19th century writers as Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson."
Put Together the Introduction
Once you've written your purpose statement and determined the central idea of the speech, it's time to write the introduction, never forgetting the importance of first impressions. What you initially say either can immediately grab the audience's attention, or make everyone sigh in boredom. According to Stephen E. Lucus, author of "The Art of Public Speaking," you should get the audience's attention by revealing the topic of your speech, establishing your credibility and goodwill, and previewing the main points you intend to make.
Construct the Body of the Speech
After the introduction is complete, you can then start writing the body of the speech. Since you will have only a certain amount of time in which to deliver the speech, you cannot relate all the facts about a chosen topic. Decide which information is most important and how it will be presented. Begin with a general definition of the object or concept, then explain the major ideas or elements. Provide several illustrations or examples. End the speech by summarizing the main points and/or providing the listeners with sources for additional information. Before writing the body, remember that if you are going to use terms, words, or acronyms that are unfamiliar to the audience, provide the definitions.
Wrap It Up With a Strong Conclusion
To finish off your definition speech, you'll need to write a strong conclusion. Do not end with an abrupt statement such as "this concludes my speech" or "well, that's all I have to say on the topic." Instead, summarize the main ideas that you presented, reinforce the audience's understanding of those ideas and refer back to the central idea that was presented in the introduction. Depending upon the topic of the speech, you might also end with a personal anecdote, appropriate joke or a dramatic statement to leave everyone with something to think about.
Things to Keep in Mind
If you are a student and free to choose your own topic, remember that since a definition speech describes or explains an object or concept, you must select a topic that fits this category. However, as long as the object or concept is open to a description and/or explanation, it is usually appropriate for a definition speech.
When giving the speech, you may also decide to incorporate visual aids to help make your message clearer. Visual aides reinforce concepts, generate interest and capture the audience's attention. The visual aids you use will depend on your topic. For instance, if you are defining a neurotransmitter, present photos or other images on a PowerPoint slideshow. List the main points using bullets or numbers to call the audience's attention to each point as you progress through the speech. Before using visual aids, be sure to ask your professor whether or not they are permitted.