How to Write an Informative Speech
This module features a step-by-step process to create an informative speech. It provides concise instructions supported by topical learning resources (textbook chapters, short online articles, brief videos).
How to Create a Speech Your Audience Cares About
So, you've been tasked with creating an informative speech. How do you do that? Just follow these step-by-step instructions.
Step 1: Analyze Your Audience
Before you begin writing your speech, you should analyze the audience of that speech. After all, every effective speech is crafted with it's real audience in mind. When you tailor your speech to your real audience, you give yourself the best opportunity to meet your specific purpose - your goal for your audience. When analyzing your audience, ask yourself these questions:
- Who will hear/see my message?
- What are their backgrounds?
- What do they have in common?
- Where are their areas of difference?
- What do they already know about my topic?
- What new information might they find useful?
- How can I connect my speech to my audience members' real lives?
The answers to these questions will help you write a speech that has maximum positive impact. For even more techniques about connecting to your real audience, read the article "Common Speaker Pitfalls" by Craig Valentine in Toastmasters Magazine.
How to Write the Body of Your Speech
Step 2: Write Your Speech Body
"Wait, shouldn't I start with the introduction?" you might ask yourself.
No. Not unless you are a fan of doing extra, repetitive, unnecessary work. Are you? I'm not. :)
While an introduction comes first in your speech (and your outline), you need to know what you're introducing before you can write it. How can you introduce the content of your speech if you haven't written that content yet? Sure, you can guess, but one of two things will likely happen:
- You'll guess wrong, and your introduction won't match your speech body when you finally write it. Then you'll have to either fix it (creating extra work for you), or stick with a disjointed speech that is difficult for the audience to follow. Neither of these are great options.
- You'll be so worried about making the mistake above that you will force the body of your speech to match the introduction, even when your initial plan isn't the most effective one. Then, when you do a peer feedback activity in class, you'll get advice from a classmate in which s/he will recommend that you change the introduction and the speech body to make sense (which, again, is more extra work for you).
Save yourself the time and the hassle and write your speech body (approx. 80% of your speech content) first. How do you do this? Read chapter 10, "Creating the Body of a Speech" in Stand Up, Speak Out: The Ethics and Practice of Public Speaking.
How to Transition Between Your Main Points
You decided on the main points of your speech body. Good!
You developed those main points with subpoints. Excellent!
Those subpoints include some combination of examples, definitions, statistics, and testimony to help your audience understand your ideas. Rock on!
Now you need to tie everything together so your speech body flows logically, which will help your audience follow your speech. Your textbook explained transitions in chapter 10, but they can be a tricky concept to grasp without an example.
Watch this short student speaker video montage to clarify how presenters use transitions to help clarify the organization of their speech body:
How to Write the Introduction to a Speech
You did it! You wrote the speech body which means you completed about 80% of the speech writing process. Nice work :) Only a bit left to do.
Step 3: Write Your Introduction
Now that you have a speech body, you can introduce it to your audience. Effective introductions intrigue and entice the audience into listening to your message. They also lay out an organizational plan to help the audience follow your train of thought. Effective introductions include five important elements to accomplish this goal:
- Purpose statement - I tend to refer to this as a "topic statement"
- Establishment of credibility
- Audience connection
- Main idea preview - I sometimes refer to this as a "thesis statement preview"
To learn about each of these elements, read chapter 9 "Introductions Matter: How to Begin a Speech Effectively" in Stand Up, Speak Out: The Ethics and Practice of Public Speaking.
How to Capture the Audience's Attention
The attention-getter is the most important part of the introduction because it convinces your audience to listen to the rest of your speech. If you can't catch the audience's attention from the very beginning, getting them to listen to your message later in the speech will be extremely difficult.
Tips for success:
- The attention-getter requires a lot of creativity. If you get stuck while trying to write it, move on to the easier elements in the intro (topic statement, thesis statement) then circle back around.
- Brainstorm by running through the list of attention-getting devices and consider how you might use them in your speech (ex: "What interesting brief story could I tell about my topic?" "What thought-provoking question could I ask my audience relating to my topic?" "What presentation aid could I show to illustrate my topic in a unique way?")
- Don't go with the first attention-getter you think of. Write down a list of possible ideas (5 - 10) and give yourself time to analyze, refine, and improve them before you commit to one.
- Don't be afraid to replace your attention-getter with a better one if you have an "aha" moment!
Want some examples of attention-getters?
Watch this student-produced montage from a variety of public speeches:
Click here for captioned version
How to Establish Your Credibility
In addition to convincing the audience to listen to your speech (the attention-getter), you also need to convince them to trust you and the information you're sharing with them. One way you establish your credibility is nonverbal - how you dress, your posture, eye contact, etc. Another way is verbal - tell your audience explicitly why they should believe you in a sentence or two in the introduction.
- Do you have personal experience with your topic? If so, briefly explain that experience.
- Did your research your topic using credible sources? If so, briefly preview those.
You will continue to build your credibility throughout the speech body, but mentioning it in the introduction helps the audience trust you from the very beginning of your speech.
Want to see how real speakers establish their credibility? Check out this student speaker montage:
Click here for captioned version
How to Write the Conclusion of a Speech
Step 4: Write Your Conclusion
The conclusion of your speech is the shortest part - around 5% - 10% of your total speech length. Even though it's a small section, it's a powerful one because it helps you reinforce your message for your audience for lasting impact. An effective conclusion has three specific elements:
Clearly signal the end of your speech by reviewing your topic
- Your textbook authors label this a thesis statement review
- Use a concluding statement at the very beginning of your conclusion. Common concluding statements include "In conclusion..." "To close..." "Let's review" "To sum it up..." etc.
- Then add in a reminder of your topic. For example, "To review, today we learned how to create a natural deodorant from common kitchen products"
Review your main points
- You may hear me call this a thesis review, because that's how I was trained.
- I'm trying to switch to the phrasing "main point review" instead to reduce confusion.
End with a concluding device
- I often refer to this as a final thought or memorable ending.
- In a persuasive speech, I'm looking for a clear call to action.
What are your options for concluding devices? Read chapter 11, "Concluding with Power," in Stand Up, Speak Out: The Ethics and Practice of Public Speaking.
How to Choose the Right Concluding Device
Your concluding device (aka, final thought or memorable ending) is going to be different in an informative speech than it is for a persuasive speech.
- In an informative speech, you'll leave your audience with a residual message. You won't ask them to do anything, because doing something is inherently persuasive and thus out of line with your general and specific purpose.
- In a persuasive speech, you will provide a call to action.
So what's the difference? Read the article "How to End a Speech" by Lisa B. Marshall to find out.
That's it! You just wrote your informative speech. Congratulations :)
Now it's time to create a set of speaking notes, select your presentation aids, rehearse your speech, and present with confidence! Stay tuned for future modules which will cover these topics.