Public Speaking

Organizing and Outlining

Connecting Your Main Points

Golden Gate bridge from side, at night "Golden Gate Bridge" by RyanJWilmot. CC-BY-SA.

Since main points are discrete and interconnected ideas, and since every speech contains more than one main point, it is necessary to strategically make connections between one point and another. To link the ideas of your speech, you will need to develop signposts, “words and gestures that allow you to move smoothly from one idea to the next throughout your speech, showing relationships between ideas and emphasizing important points.”[2] There are several ways to incorporate signposts into your speech, and it is important to do so since these small signals keep listeners engaged and informed about where you are in the speech. Transitional statements, internal previews, and summaries are all signposts that can help keep your speech moving along.

If you cry ‘forward’, you must without fail make plain in what direction to go. ~ Anton Chekhov

Transitional Statements to Show Similarity and Difference

To Show Similarity Between Points:

  • “Similarly”
  • “In the same way”
  • “Also”
  • “Likewise”
  • “In other words”

To Show Difference Between Points:

  • “However”
  • “Unlike the last point”
  • “On the other hand”
  • “Conversely”
  • “In opposition”
  • “Another view is that”

One way to connect points is to include transitional statements. Transitional statements are phrases or sentences that lead from one distinct- but-connected idea to another. They are used to alert audiences to the fact that you are getting ready to discuss something else. When moving from one point to another, your transition may just be a word or short phrase. For instance, you might say “next,” “also,” or “moreover.” You can also enumerate your speech points and signal transitions by starting each point with “First,” “Second,” “Third,” et cetera. The textbox above offers a short list of transitional statements that are helpful when you need to show similarity or difference between the points. You might also incorporate non-verbal transitions, such as brief pauses or a movement across the stage. Pausing to look at your audience, stepping out from behind a podium, or even raising or lowering the rate of your voice can signal to audience members that you are transitioning.

Road curves ahead "Curvy Road" by Andy Sternberg. CC-BY-NC-SA.

Another way to incorporate signposts into your speech is by offering internal previews within your speech. Internal previews, like the name implies, lay out what will occur during your speech. They tell the audience what to expect. Because audience members cannot flip back and forth between pages, internal previews help keep them on track and aware of what to be listening for and what to remember. Internal previews are similar to the preview statements you will learn about in the chapter on introductions and conclusions (Chapter 9), except that they appear within the body of your speech and are more small-scale than the broad preview you should provide at the beginning of your speech. In general, internal previews are longer than transitional statements. If you were giving a problem-solution speech, you might include a variation of this internal preview: “Now that I have described the problems, let’s now discuss some ways that we can solve these issues.” The internal preview offers a natural segue from problems to solutions and makes audience members aware that another point is about to be made.

When speeches are longer than a few minutes and include complex ideas and information, speakers often include summaries within the body of their speech. Summaries provide a recap of what has already been said, making it more likely that audiences will remember the points that they hear again. Additionally, summaries can be combined with internal previews to alert audience members that the next point builds on those that they have already heard.

Trout "Trout" by Jonathunder. CC-BY-SA.

The speaker below has just finished discussing several reasons trout habitats need federal protection, and next he will discuss some ways that audience members can agitate for government action on these issues. His combined internal preview and summary would look something like this:

So, in review, trout habitats need federal protection because they bear a large pollution burden, they mostly exist on private property, and they are indicators of other environmental health issues. Next, I will discuss some ways that you can encourage the federal government to protect these habitats.

In this example, the speaker first reminds audience members of what he has already addressed and then tells them what he will talk about next. By repeating the main points in summary fashion, the speaker gives audience members another opportunity to consider his main ideas.

Good communication does not mean that you have to speak in perfectly formed sentences and paragraphs. It isn’t about slickness. Simple and clear go a long way. ~ John Kotter

  1. Beebe, "S. A. & Beebe, S. J. (2003). The public speaking handbook (5th edition). Boston: Pearson. "
  2. Beebe, "S. A. & Beebe, S. J. (2003). The public speaking handbook (5th edition). Boston: Pearson. "

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