Organizational Patterns and Main Points Oct 8

We talked about a LOT of stuff today…I defs broke my number one public speaking rule: only give the audience what they can reasonably process. Here are the highlights:

Organizing Your Speech

  1. Find your theme. Put it in the central idea.
  2. Every main point needs that exact theme. You can use synonyms but the goal of the speech is THEMATIC coherence not topical coherence. In other words, prioritize information that keeps track of your theme and not so much information that is on your “topic.”
  3. In addition to sharing the same theme every main point needs to follow the same organizational pattern. Pick one of the basics discussed in your textbook. Never use topical because it tends to lead to violation of rule #2
  4. A 15 second scan of your outline should demonstrate the theme, organizational pattern, and discrete main points. If not, the outline isn’t ready.
  5. Select 3 – 4 main points. 2 isn’t enough to form a shape, only a line, and 5 isn’t doable in the time limit.
  6. Order main points (not SUPPORTS, just main points) from most obvious/most primary to most insightful/most complex. We call this “inferential” or “syllogistic” reasoning aka the snowball effect. Each main point needs to lead logically to the next point. In other words, the speech should be set up so that Main Point 2 could not occur unless Main Point 1 already occurred.


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I am a rhetorical scholar, public speaker, and teacher at the State University of New York at Geneseo. I study speech and contemporary U.S. political culture and teach courses in public speaking, interpersonal and visual communication, speech and media, and rhetorical theory and criticism. I have been featured on RabbitBox Storytelling and TEDx.

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