The Parts of a Speech

This resource was prepared by the Business Communications Lab at the Sam M. Walton College of Business
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Speeches and presentations include three basic parts: introduction, body, and conclusion. These three parts are held together by transitions, which allow the speaker to flow smoothly from introduction to body and from body to conclusion. Crafting an effective speech means (1) knowing what each of these three parts consists of, (2) knowing the best way to organize the speech’s main points, and (3) knowing how to effectively transition from part to part and from point to point.

What makes an effective introduction?

The purpose of the introduction is to acquaint the audience with the topic of your speech and prepare the audience for the main points you will make in the body. The introduction of a speech should accomplish the following things:

  • Capture the audience’s attention in the very first sentence with an attention getting device. Choose an attention getting device that is relevant to the topic of your speech and to your audience’s interests. For examples of attention getting devices, click here.
  • Provide a credibility statement, in which you (1) state why you are qualified to speak on this topic and (2) explain how your audience can benefit from listening to your speech. In the credibility statement, you establish your ethos by demonstrating that you are knowledgeable on your topic and that you have your audience’s best interests in mind. For more information about ethos, click here .
  • Provide a thesis statement, a single sentence which states the main argument or goal of your speech. Informative speeches will include a thesis statement which explains the topic to be covered (e.g., Today, I will tell you about…). Persuasive speeches will include a thesis statement which explains the argument the speaker intends to make (e.g., Today, I will argue that…).
  • Provide a preview statement, which outlines the speech’s main points or provides direction for how you will accomplish the goal stated in the thesis statement. Example: First, I will explain what a staffing system is, and then I will lay out four arguments for why our company should implement a staffing system. I conclude by presenting a model system for our company to follow.
  • Provide a transition statement, which signals the speaker’s movement into the body of the speech. Transition statements commonly begin with phrases such as Let’s begin by…, To get started, let’s…, and Now that I’ve provided an overview, let’s start with…

You can download more about effective introductions by clicking here.

What makes an effective body?

The purpose of the body is to present the main points of the speech in a logical way. The body of a speech should accomplish the following things:

  • Support arguments in main points with evidence from credible sources (if you are writing a persuasive speech). Supporting your arguments with credible sources improves your ethos and makes your arguments more persuasive to your audience.
  • Dedicate a balanced amount of time to each main point. While you may spend a little more time on some points than others, your audience should not get the impression that you are dwelling too long on a point or glossing over a point.
  • Use transition statements to signal to the audience when you are moving from one main point to another. The speech should be arranged so that one main point flows logically into the next. Transitions explicitly draw the connection between the previous main point and the main point to come. See our resource on the Basics of Composition for more information about transitions. The following sections will help you decide how to organize the main points in your speech.

You can download more about making an effective body by clicking here.

How do I organize the main points in the body of an informative speech?
There are several patterns that you can use to organize the main points of your informative speech. The most effective pattern depends on the topic of your speech.

  • Chronological order: The main points follow a time pattern, either in the sequence of events or in explaining a process from beginning to end. This pattern works well for speeches which describe historical events or explain the steps in a process. Example:
    • The Seneca Falls Convention was held in 1848.
    • The Nineteenth Amendment was ratified in 1920.
    • Examples of useful transition statements: Several years later…, The next step is to…
  • Spatial order: The main points follow a directional, geographic, or structural pattern. This pattern works well for speeches which describe physical locations, such as buildings, cities, or land masses. Example:
    • The outermost layer of the earth is called the crust.
    • The layer directly below the crust is called the mantle.
    • The next layer is called the outer core.
    • The innermost layer of the earth is called the inner core.
    • Examples of useful transition statements: Immediately adjacent to that is…, Moving clockwise, the next section is…, South of that is…
  • Causal order: The order of the main points shows a cause-and-effect relationship. This pattern works well for speeches which explain why something happens. Example:
    • For decades, humans have been polluting the air with greenhouse gases.
    • As a result, climate change is posing serious problems for the biosphere.
    • Examples of useful transition statements: As a result of these events…, Due to these factors…
  • Topical order: The main points divide the topic into logical and consistent subtopics. This pattern works well for speeches about complex topics that would be easier to discuss if they were divided up. Example:
    • Type 1 diabetes involves the pancreas’s production of insulin.
    • Type 2 diabetes involves the processing of blood sugar.
    • Gestational diabetes involves high blood sugar in pregnant women.
    • Examples of useful transition statements: The next type of X is…, Now, I will describe a different kind of X…
How do I organize main points in the body of a persuasive speech?
There are several patterns that you can use to organize the main points of your persuasive speech. The most effective pattern depends on the topic of your speech.

  • Problem-solution order: The main points identify a problem and a solution to that problem. Example:
    • The earth is being depleted of its resources, which is a problem for current and future generations.
    • Humans can help preserve what resources are left through reducing, reusing, and recycling materials.

Examples of useful transition statements: Now that I’ve discussed the problem, let’s talk about a solution…, What can we do to address this concern?

 

  • Problem-cause-solution order: The main points identify a problem, the causes of that problem, and a solution to that problem. Example:
    • The world’s oceans are becoming increasingly polluted by trash.
    • This issue stems from the large amount of disposable materials we use every day.
    • We should drink out of reusable bottles instead of disposable bottles.
    • Examples of useful transition statements: Let’s examine some of the causes of this issue…, Now that we know about the problem and what causes it, let’s talk about a solution…

 

  • Comparative advantages order: Each main point draws a direct comparison between two subjects and argues why one is preferable to the other. Example:
    • Our product is less expensive than competing products.
    • Our product is better for the environment than competing products.
    • Our product is longer-lasting than competing products.
    • Examples of useful transition statements: Now, I’m going to give you another reason why __ is better than __…, Let’s look at another advantage __ has over __…
What makes an effective conclusion?

The purpose of the conclusion is to reinforce the main points covered in the body and end the speech in a logical, meaningful way. The conclusion of a speech should accomplish the following things:

  • Provide a transition statement which signals to the audience that the speech is coming to an end. This transition must clearly indicate that the speech is closing without being clichéd, so avoid overused phrases such as “in conclusion” and “in summary.”
  • Restate the thesis. Remind the audience of your main argument or goal in the speech. Do not use the exact same words you used in your thesis statement in the introduction—restate does not mean repeat!
  • Briefly remind the audience of the main points of the speech. Do not use the exact same words you used in your preview statement in the introduction.
  • Offer a final appeal or clincher statement, which leaves the audience with something to think about. Persuasive speeches may end with a “call to action” clincher statement, which encourages the audience to take a certain action.

You can download more about how to write an effective conclusion by clicking here.

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