Why Is It Important to Outline Your Speeches

One question every public speaker should be able to answer is “Why is it important to outline your speeches?”. However, this question is commonly overlooked. So, let’s dive in and see why it is critical that every public speaker outline their speeches.

Creating a clear and well-organized speech is crucial for effective communication, and outlining is an essential tool in achieving this goal. Outlining a speech allows you to structure your thoughts and ideas in a logical and coherent way, making it easier for your audience to understand and follow your message. It also helps you stay focused on your main points and prevents you from rambling or getting sidetracked during your presentation. By outlining your speech, you can ensure that you cover all the necessary information and provide a comprehensive and engaging presentation. Ultimately, a well-crafted outline can help you deliver a more impactful and memorable speech.

Why Is it Important to Outline Your Speeches?

man giving speech
image via: pexels.com

So, why is it important to outline your speeches? Outlining your speeches saves you hours of headache, allowing you to see at a glance both the content and scope of your speech, assess if every section of the speech is developed fully, and help you create a logical structure for the speech.

Many people who give speeches struggle with public speaking. However, with the help of an outline and a bit of confidence, anyone can deliver an effective speech. An outline helps you organize your ideas by creating an ordered overview of your speech and group your ideas into main points. Once you know the key points you want to address, you can see how your ideas relate to each other and present your points logically.

Outlining your speeches is an essential step in the speechwriting and preparation process. Here are some reasons why outlining your speeches is important:

  • Organization: Outlining helps you organize your thoughts and ideas in a logical manner, which makes it easier for your audience to follow your speech.
  • Clarity: An outline can help you clarify the main points of your speech, making it easier for you to stay on track and avoid getting sidetracked.
  • Time management: An outline can help you manage your time more effectively by ensuring that you have allocated sufficient time to each point of your speech.
  • Memory aid: An outline can serve as a memory aid, helping you remember important points and keeping you from forgetting key information.
  • Improvisation: An outline provides a solid framework that you can use to improvise and adapt your speech to the needs of your audience.
  • Feedback: An outline can be a useful tool for getting feedback from others, such as speech coaches, colleagues, or friends. It makes it easier for them to provide constructive criticism and offer suggestions for improvement.

Overall, outlining your speech is an essential step in the speechwriting process that can help you create a well-organized, effective, and engaging speech.

How to Organize Your Outline

organize outline
image via: pexels.com

Organize your outline like you would organize an essay. It should have an introduction, body, and conclusion.


Like a good essay, a good speech will have a strong hook. This will immediately capture your audience’s attention. Then, identify the main points of your speech. Most speeches have three main points. End your introduction by telling the audience what they should take away by the end of the speech. Your entire introduction should keep your audience engaged and wanting to learn more.


Most speeches have three main points and are supported by a few sub-points each. If the point of your speech is to motivate your audience to stop drinking, the rough draft of your outline may look like this:

  • Intro
  • Weight gain
  • Organ failure
  • Memory loss
  • Conclusion
  • Hook
  • Weight gain
  • Organ failure
  • Memory loss
  • Calories in drinks and mixers
  • Reduced inhibitions – binging on calorie-dense foods
  • Alcohol = diuretic – craving salty foods
  • Excessive drinking – 40% greater risk of pancreatic cancer
  • Liver disease – fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, alcohol-related cirrhosis
  • Renal failure – relationship between liver and kidneys
  • Blackouts – no new memories formed
  • Prospective memory loss – forget what you are saying mid-sentence
  • Can cause alcohol-related dementia – memory loss and cognitive decline
  • Touch on three key points
  • Call to action

Once you have finished your outline, you can see if the talking points you notated are really relevant. For example, you may decide that cognitive decline doesn’t really fit in with the theme of memory loss. You can strike it from your outline and do a better job staying on topic when you deliver your speech.

You may also decide that you want to touch on alcohol’s effects on the brain during the organ failure portion of your speech, so you can segue naturally into your point on memory loss. Then, you realize you need a natural transition into the organ failure, so you note hangovers are not conducive to workouts. This allows you to transition to the effects dehydration has on the brain.

As you can see, your outline is a work in progress. But, why is it important to outline your speeches? Because it is a lot easier to re-arrange, remove from, and add to a skeleton than it is for you to write your entire speech and then have to edit entire sentences.


In your conclusion, you should summarize the main points of your speech. It is often useful to reiterate your introduction. This signals to your audience that your speech is coming to a close and reminds them of the purpose of the speech. Rather than feeling like you just abruptly stopped talking, they will feel closure.

Most speeches end with a call to action. If the purpose of your speech is to motivate your audience to quit drinking, encourage them to seek out resources that will help them. If the purpose of your speech is to educate your audience about the Cambodia water crisis, encourage them to find out more and tell them how they can help.

Types of Outlines

Now that you can answer why is it important to outline your speeches, let’s take a look at the three types of outlines – the preparation outline, the speaking outline, and the rough draft outline.

The Preparation Outline

The preparation outline comes before your speaking outline and includes the title of your speech. It organizes your talking points according to a consistent principle. From there, each talking point is usually divided into sub-points. While there are several outline styles, you must determine for yourself which style will best help you prepare for your particular speech. Such outline styles include:

  • Alphanumeric outlines
  • Chronological outlines
  • Topics outlines
  • Sentence outlines

Alphanumeric outlines begin with a Roman numeral as the top level prefix. For example, “I. Introduction”. From there, you would have an upper case letter as a prefix. For the third level, you would use Arabic numerals. For the fourth level, you would use a lowercase letter. You may also find you need to use lowercase Roman numerals as a fifth prefix. Thus, your outline may look like this:

IV. Memory LossA. Blackouts1. How much alcohol = blackout?a. Risks of blackoutsi. Suicideii. Accidental self-harmiii. Sexual assaultiv. Fightsv. Death

Remember, this is the first step in your outlining process, so your outline may be as bare-bones as indicating which topics you want to research. It’s okay if you don’t know the risks of blackouts. Your outline will keep you focused so you research what you need to rather than spending hours reading about the negative effects of alcohol and then having an excess of information irrelevant to your speech that you will have to cut later.

Alphanumeric Outlines

An alphanumeric outline is a hierarchical way of organizing information using numbers and letters. The alphanumeric outlines use a combination of Roman numerals, capital letters, Arabic numerals, and lowercase letters to create a structure. The most significant ideas are labeled with Roman numerals (I, II, III), followed by major points labeled with capital letters (A, B, C), then details labeled with Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3), and finally, sub-details labeled with lowercase letters (a, b, c).

Example of Alphanumeric Outline:

I. Introduction
A. Definition of Alphanumeric Outlines
B. Purpose of Alphanumeric Outlines
II. Types of Outlines
A. Alphanumeric Outlines
B. Chronological Outlines
C. Topic Outlines
D. Sentence Outlines
III. Advantages of Alphanumeric Outlines
A. Easy to Follow
B. Clear Organization
C. Helps in Research and Writing
IV. Disadvantages of Alphanumeric Outlines
A. Time Consuming
B. Limited Flexibility
V. Conclusion
A. Summary of Alphanumeric Outlines
B. Importance of Outlining

Chronological Outlines

A chronological outline is a way of organizing information in the order in which events occurred. Chronological outlines present events in a sequence or timeline, starting with the earliest event and ending with the latest event. This type of outline is useful for historical events or biographies, where it is essential to understand the order of events that occurred.

Example of Chronological Outline:

I. Early Life of Abraham Lincoln
A. Childhood
B. Education
II. Lincoln’s Early Career
A. Early Jobs
B. Entry into Politics
III. Lincoln’s Presidency
A. Election
B. Civil War
C. Emancipation Proclamation
IV. Lincoln’s Assassination
A. Plot to Assassinate
B. Assassination
V. Legacy of Abraham Lincoln
A. Impact on American History
B. Memorials and Monuments

Topic Outlines

A topic outline organizes information by topic, presenting information in groups of related ideas. Each main topic is presented as a heading, followed by subtopics or subheadings. Topic outlines are useful when organizing ideas for a speech or presentation, as they allow the speaker to focus on specific topics and ideas.

Example of Topic Outline:

  • I. Benefits of Exercise
  • A. Physical Benefits
  1. Improved Cardiovascular Health
  2. Increased Strength and Flexibility
    B. Mental Benefits
  3. Reduced Stress and Anxiety
  4. Improved Mood and Self-Esteem
    II. Types of Exercise
    A. Aerobic Exercise
  5. Running
  6. Swimming
    B. Strength Training
  7. Weightlifting
  8. Resistance Bands
    III. Exercise and Health Conditions
    A. Exercise for Diabetes
    B. Exercise for Arthritis
    IV. Exercise Programs
    A. Designing an Exercise Program
    B. Sticking to an Exercise Program
    V. Conclusion
    A. Summary of Benefits of Exercise
    B. Importance of Regular Exercise

Sentence Outlines

A sentence outline is a type of outline that uses complete sentences to present information. Sentence outlines are useful for research papers or longer pieces of writing, as they provide a detailed plan for the entire paper. Each heading and subheading is presented as a sentence, making it easier to write the paper or presentation.

Example of Sentence Outline:

I. Introduction
A. Definition of Climate Change
B. Purpose of the Paper

II. Causes of Climate Change
A. Greenhouse Gas Emissions

  1. Fossil Fuel Combustion
  2. Deforestation
    B. Natural Factors
  3. Solar Radiation
  4. Volcanic Activity

III. Effects of Climate Change
A. Rising Temperatures

  1. Heat Waves
  2. Droughts
    B. Changing Weather Patterns
  3. Extreme Weather Events
  4. Precipitation Changes

IV. Mitigation Strategies
A. Renewable Energy Sources

  1. Solar Energy
  2. Wind Energy
    B. Energy Efficiency
  3. Building Retrofits
  4. Efficient Transportation

V. Adaptation Strategies
A. Climate Resilient Infrastructure

  1. Flood Protection
  2. Drought-Resistant Crops
    B. Preparedness Plans
  3. Emergency Response
  4. Public Awareness Campaigns

VI. Conclusion
A. Summary of Climate Change and Its Impacts
B. Urgency of Taking Action to Address Climate Change and Its Effects

The outline above is an example of a sentence outline for a paper on climate change. Each section is presented as a sentence, allowing the writer to plan out the entire paper in detail. The introduction section includes the definition of climate change and the purpose of the paper. The causes of climate change are presented in section II, with subsections on greenhouse gas emissions and natural factors.

The effects of climate change are discussed in section III, with subsections on rising temperatures and changing weather patterns. Mitigation strategies for addressing climate change are presented in section IV, with subsections on renewable energy sources and energy efficiency. Section V discusses adaptation strategies, including climate resilient infrastructure and preparedness plans. Finally, the conclusion section summarizes the main points of the paper and emphasizes the urgency of taking action to address climate change and its effects.

The Speaking Outline

By this point in your outline process, you should have done a fair bit of research. You have jotted down key facts that you want to include in your speech and the sources you pulled them from. In your speaking outline, note what type of hook you will use. Will you use a statistic about alcohol-related death? Will you share how alcohol abuse affected you personally and how your life has improved without it? Decide if you want to appeal to your audience’s logic or tug at their heartstrings and remain consistent throughout your speech.

A speaking outline is a condensed version of a speech or presentation that provides a clear and organized structure for the speaker to follow. The purpose of a speaking outline is to help the speaker remember the key points and flow of the speech while delivering it to the audience.

The speaking outline should include the following elements:

  • Introduction: The introduction should grab the audience’s attention, provide background information on the topic, and preview the main points of the speech.
  • Body: The body of the speech should include the main points, supporting details, and examples to illustrate the key points. It should be organized logically and clearly to ensure that the audience can easily follow the speaker’s message.
  • Conclusion: The conclusion should summarize the main points of the speech and leave the audience with a clear and memorable take-away message.
  • Transitions: Transitions are important to help the speaker move smoothly from one point to the next. They can be as simple as a sentence or phrase that connects the previous point to the next.
  • Delivery Notes: Delivery notes can help the speaker remember important details, such as gestures, pauses, or vocal emphasis, to help convey the intended meaning and emotion of the speech.

Like your preparation outline, you will have notes on the three main topics of your speech and give them a preview of your bottom line. Your outline differs here in that you will place a transition after the intro and before the body. The body of your speech will be broken down into your main points, sub-points, and supporting evidence for those sub-points. You can’t just say that alcohol makes you fat and then move on. You have to flesh this out and back up your claim, no matter how intuitive, with evidence.

Within your body, your speech should flow. However, the most important transition after your introduction occurs after the body of your argument and before the conclusion. Note how you will signal the end of your speech. Summarize the main points of your speech and say something memorable to keep the audience thinking even after they have left. Then, thank the audience for their time and attention.

The Rough Draft Outline

The preparation outline prepares you to research your speech effectively. The speaking outline prepares you to transition smoothly between points and incorporate visual aids into your speech effectively. The rough draft outline prepares you to write the rough draft of your speech effectively.

We all research and take notes differently. Some people note different ideas in different colors. Others use mind maps or visual diagrams with bubbles representing main points and lines branching off to show relationships between points. Some people just jot down a couple of dozen bullet points, and there is no rhyme or reason yet connecting facts and statistics to main points.

No matter how you take notes, the rough draft outline allows you to form your research into a cohesive journey you will take your audience on. Take your preparation outline and start filling in blanks you have regarding facts, such as how much alcohol is required to cause a blackout. Then, flesh out how you will make your transitions. Having this structure in your outline will make the writing process much more efficient and your speech much more effective. Further, it is an excellent tool for overcoming writer’s block.

Here are some key things to keep in mind when creating a rough draft outline:

  • Start with a clear thesis statement or research question. This will help you focus your ideas and ensure that your outline aligns with the main argument or research goal of your project.
  • Identify the main sections or chapters of your writing project. Depending on the type of writing you are doing, these may include an introduction, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion.
  • Break down each section into smaller subsections or topics. This will help you organize your thoughts and ensure that you are covering all the necessary information in each section.
  • Use bullet points, headings, and subheadings to make your outline easy to read and follow. This will also make it easier to revise and update as you go along.
  • Be flexible and willing to make changes as needed. Remember that a rough draft outline is just a starting point, and you may need to revise or reorganize your ideas as you begin writing your first draft.

Key Takeaways

key takeaways
Image by Pixabay

Every public speaker should be able to answer “Why is it important to outline your speeches?” Mainly, it is because an outline allows you to see at a glance the scope and content of your speech. It also allows you to judge whether or not your key points are fully developed, and it lets you see the logical connections among the main points of your speech.

Outlines also serve as a memory aid when speaking, and even experienced public speakers use them. It helps them remember critical statistics and facts and helps them transition smoothly and use visual aids at the right time. Without outlining your speech, you risk wasting time researching irrelevant topics, forgetting key points, and giving a choppy, disorganized speech. With the right tools and a little confidence, anyone can be an effective public speaker. The right tools are a preparation outline, a speaking outline, and a rough draft outline.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top