The lost art of the Speech Outline

Create an outlineWhen preparing for important communication, most people miss the crucial step – the speech outline.
They start thinking about what their speech, document or PowerPoint slides should look like and try to sort their thoughts from there. But the most valuable thing you can do to prepare is create an outline.

  • A speech outline…
  • A report outline…
  • A presentation outline …
  • A proposal outline…

Your outline is your backbone. Trying to plan and deliver a presentation without an outline is like trying to do a jigsaw puzzle without looking at the picture on the box.

What is a speech outline?

Call it a Speech Outline or a Presentation Outline – it doesn’t matter.
An outline is a summary that shows the logical flow of your ideas, typically on one piece of paper. It’s a way to display related items and to graphically depict their relationships. A good outline is similar to story-boarding in film development.
Here’s Steve Jobs’ famous example.
The groundbreaking book of 1919, ‘An Outline of History’ (by H.G Wells) was called a ‘summary of history’ and sometimes a ‘flow of history’.
This is a good way to think about your speech outline – it is a summary and shows the flow of your presentation.

Why are speech outlines so useful?

Outlines help you organize your thoughts, before you get bogged down in the details. They very quickly show you the ideas that need elaboration, and help you decide on the best way to organize your information. They emphasize the message you wish to convey.
The first step to creating a great speech outline is identifying the central message you wish to get across. This message is 1 or 2 sentences long and it guides you in the creation of the rest of the outline.
In short, the rest of the outline is about grouping your ideas and your information into a few chunks, keeping in mind that no matter how good you are as a speaker or writer, 24 hours after hearing your speech or reading your report, most people will have forgotten 90–95% of it.
Your outline ensures you are clear on the 5% that you wish your audience to remember, act on or understand.
Also …

  1. You can create a simple Speech Outline on the back of a napkin or use one of the hundreds of formats to be found on the internet.
  2. Another option is to use the tools at, our automated outline generation product.

If you’d like to master the outline, consider: