College of Southern Idaho
Planning the Speech: Three Items to Consider  
A Step-By-Step Approach

While many people are focused on the 6-9 minutes when they actually stand in front of a group of people for a speech, many speakers don’t realize the huge amount of planning that needs to go into the presentation before they even think about the writing!

There are three main areas to consider before any speaking occasion:

1. The Speaker

If you are fortunate enough to be in a situation where you have the choice to decide on a topic (as you do ifor informative speeches in COMM 101), you should use this freedom to your advantage. What do you want to talk about? What are you interested in? What are you an expert on? What are you qualified to discuss? You have to dedicate a significant amount of time to this assignment; it would be foolish to work on something that you aren’t interested in!! So, begin here:

Start making a list of items that you would like to talk about. Possible items to consider: Your job, your major, your hobbies, what you do in your spare time, your family, travel interests, books, classes, etc. Get it? The options are virtually limitless!! Keep working at this list until you have about 20 possible items. EVERYONE HAS SOMETHING THEY CAN TALK ABOUT FOR 6 MINUTES.

O.K. Do you have your list? Time to move on to planning consideration #2. Set your list aside, you’ll return to it in just a moment.

#2: The Occasion

Let’s face it……eventually you have to move beyond you as the only consideration for this speech. So, next you need to consider the occasion where you have been asked to speak. Why is the event happening? What are the details of the occasion? Initially, what is the GENERAL PURPOSE for the event? There are three general purposes for public speaking and all public speeches fall into one of three categories:

1. To Inform

Speaker provides information to the audience or gives new insights into information that the audience may already have. Examples of informative speeches include newscasters, teachers, work training, etc. Really anything where the main point is to give out information.

2. To Persuade

Speaker attempts to change an attitude or belief in the audience (convince). Or, the speaker attempts to move the audience to a specific action (actuate). Attorneys, politicians, and advertisers are all examples of persuasive speakers because they are trying to change a receiver’s mind about a particular issue.

3. To Entertain (to suit a special occasion, ceremonial speech, etc.)

Speaker entertains an audience while recognizing the specific purpose of the event or occasion. These are speeches that are only given for a certain event. For instance, a valedictorian address, or a toast at a wedding. Remember that “to entertain” does not necessarily have to be funny…..eulogies at funerals fall into this category as well.

O.K. Remember that original list of topics? Now is where we start to narrow it down. What is your general purpose for the speech? Go through your list and cross off all of the topics that do not satisfy your general purpose. This will probably take a few items off of the list. Once this is finished, set the list aside once again and consider other items about your occasion:

  • Does your location limit what items will work (for instance, if you are giving this speech on a college campus almost anything about alcohol or firearms will be illegal….)?
  • What does your event call for (for instance, a college-educated environment probably asks for topics beyond your basic how-to-make-a-peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich…)?

After careful consideration of other items about your occasion, it’s time to return to that list of topics and cross off anything else that isn’t appropriate for the occasion. This will probably leave you with about 10 topics left and it’s time to set the list aside once again and consider the final element of any public speaking situation:

#3 The Audience:

Here are the people who will make or break your speaking experience: the audience. Remember, everything about the communication experience should be transactional in nature, so it is CRUCIAL that you connect with this group of receivers. Audiences come in all shapes and stripes, so you need to analyze them carefully in order to figure out how you will connect with them. Use your “audience analysis” sheet off to accomplish this. Later, you will be tailoring your message to fit these people....a task which is impossible if you don’t know who these people are. This is part of the reason that finding an audience is MUCH easier than creating an audience for COMM 101 (online).  If you FIND an audience, you can think more closely about why they meet, what they expect, etc.  If you create one, it is harder to analyze and find items that will apply specifically to them.  If you don’t know that much about your found audience, don’t fret. Many people have gone to a considerable amount of trouble to analyze large segments of the American population. You may want to review:

1. The National Opinion Research Center

2. The Gallup Poll

3. The Pew Research Center

Now that you have a bit of understanding about your audience, you can return to your original topic list. Based on your knowledge of your audience, which topics are left that your audience WANTS or NEEDS to hear about? What will they be interested in? What will they have a connection to? Use this information to narrow your topic list one more time. This should leave you with 2 or 3 topics that you are interested in, that are perfect for the occasion, and that your audience will just love! Fabulous… this point you can develop your specific purpose for the speech. Once you have the specific purpose, it’s time to move on to developing the speech!


Test yourself: What is the general purpose for the sample speech provided in class? What is the specific purpose? How are each of them represented on the outline?


Step 2: Developing The Speech