Structure Matters

Speech Structure

Complex structureHave you been there when you couldn’t follow the train of thought of a presentation, I bet you have also been bored by someone who simply rambles on thinking they are being cool telling you all their stuff and laughing at their own so called jokes. It is embarrassing to say the least.  All leading to no thought, no focus, no structure.

Speech structure isn’t rocket science and that is probably why it gets overlooked so much.Example of simple speech structure

The old saying ‘there is more than one way to skin a rabbit’ applies to speech structure as well.

Even the simplest of structure is of tremendous benefit to the speaker and the audience

Analysing even rudimentary structure like Introduction > Body > Conclusion you can easily understand where the material is heading. Expand on this simple process just a tiny bit and you can start to develop a map to your structure that can help you.  So lets look at what you can do with this standard traditional structure.

Speech Topic

In general terms there are three ways your topic arrives.  The boss tells you what he wants you to talk about, your client asks you to cover a certain topic or you select one of your topics,  Which method would you prefer?

Structure Style one

The Introduction can be divided into two parts, the first part could be an attention grabbing opening segment – this can be a relevant story, a thought provoking question, a quote, a challenging statement but be warned not to take it too far.

I totally spoilt the opening of a speech with a prank that I knew was congruent with my speech however it was a new fad ‘Planking” and the audience was totally in amazement and I created a photo opportunity for Facebook instead of an effective opening.  The second part is the segue into your speech by giving a tease into what you intend to talk about.

I say tease because if you give them too much they can lose interest by assuming they know.  They need to have their interest peaked enough to wonder or perhaps question where you are taking them with your topic.

Your Body more often than not has three main points of interest and each of those benefit from the support of data, analogies, stories, examples etc

Your Conclusion, I believe, is as important as your introduction and again I divide it into two parts. First there is a summary of the main points of your topic and then the finale, the message, the call to action, the ‘STAR’ of your presentation.

STAR = Something To Always RememberComplex structure

A good example of this style of structure is a video by Patricia Fripp on her site or search on youtube

Speaking is selling, therefore before you open your mouth or get on the stage you will need to attract your audience. Considering the basis of the topic selection above you have a major say on 2 of the 3 methods.

With your topic and purpose in hand it is time to market your speech to attract your audience.  Therefore your structure will need to include your topic in the form of a presentation title of interest to your audience. Some phrase that will peak their interest, you can create this from your speech purpose

Structure Style two

Now Im going to give you a brief overview to a more complex structure that has immense power.  This is a persuasive story telling process used by the giants of public speaking.

Do you think you may be interested? Yes? Ok we’ll look at a modified sine wave to demonstrate this. But first my disclaimer ” I have copied this idea from Nancy Duarte’s book ‘Resonate'”.  Thank you Nancy for all your amazing research.

Persuasive Speech Structure

You can see that by incorporating this structure within the framework of the traditional structure it can be lengthened or shortened to suit your cause.

Within the book by Nancy Duarte you will see how she has dissected several famous speeches using this form of sine wave showing exactly how the speakers used the past or present compared with what could be to persuade their audience to adopt their vision and rally them to action.

This is a very powerful technique and well worth studying and mastering if you intend to be anything more than the average Presenter.  Combining this structure with the clever use of emotive and repetitive dialogue and narrative infects your audience with your vision.  The opening and the close don’t seem too far away from each other, because you have used a comparative edu-infomational style and studies prove that we learn best using analogies with comparisons.  So adopting the change doesn’t seem so monumental to the audience.

Structure Style three

Inspiration like Clockwork

I learnt this, new to me, style this week from the current World Champion of Public Speaking Dananjaya Hettiarachchi at his master class in Melbourne on Wednesday night. I believe it has tremendous merit in the circumstances where the purpose of giving a speech is inspirational.  Of course inspiration can be a part of any general purpose speech.

Dana said this works like clockwork.  He told us that if you can draw a clock face you can easily prepare the structure.Clock

First thing is to create a Foundation Phrase as your pivot point of your speech. For example “start with your heart to prevent families falling apart”. He says to have a rhyming phrase of less then 10 words. This is then your purpose of your speech as well as your message. And possibly your title.

Look at a clock and divide it into 4 quarters 12>3, 3>6, 6>9, 9>12.  The first quarter of the clock you open your speech,

  1. You start with a quest and develop your quest building it up into a challenge, once at your challenge.
  2. You then you tell your fail story until you reach your abyss, your lowest point.
  3. Then you present the solution, rather someone else produces the solution, your hero, mentor, teacher, friend, helper, coach but it must be someone else not you.
  4. You are helped to apply the solution and develop it to being the victor of the story ( thanks to your hero) the quest is complete.

There are at least three focal points where you use your Foundation Phrase throughout the speech.

Treat yourself to some research with Google and find more interesting Speech structures to examine and see if they fit you and your desire to be better.


For more information or Courses check out – Speech Master Academy

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Article by Terry

Over the years Terry has learned to be a Husband, Father, Grandfather, Keynote Speaker, Presenter, Teacher, Coach, Mentor, Business Owner/Manager, Trainer, Facilitator, Teacher, Sailor, Dancer, Worker, Gardener, Reader, Music Lover and someone who thoroughly enjoys helping people to become better. We are all evolving by learning all the time, how and what we choose to learn makes us who we become. The key to Terrys passionate and enthusiastic approach is savouring the experience of contributing to the growth, action and enjoyment of the individual with their career.

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