How to organize a speech [or presentation] to get your point across

After you have the goal of your speech, organizing it for the audience to understand is one of the most important and challenging things to master.

It’s important because it can help make the content of your speech easier to digest. And it’s difficult because the organization of the material is what tells the story and inspires, motivates, persuades, educates or entertains.

The content’s categorization and organization is one of those things that many people tend to build without too much thought but is critical to reinforcing the material of a presentation.

Just as a file cabinet makes it easy to store and find documents easily, a well-organized speech allows people to properly categorize/organize your speech easier making it easy to understand and easier to remember specific parts later on.

Just as a file cabinet makes it easy to store and find documents easily, a well-organized speech allows people to accurately categorize/organize your speech easier making it easy to understand and more accessible to remember specific parts later on.

Let’s discuss each one of the ways to organize a presentation, and as we do this, you may find that you don’t stick to just one – and that is okay. It is simply important to select the best organization technique for your speech, or each part of it.


One of the more popular formats used, organizing a speech by topics is usually the go-to method because it’s easy to do, understand, and doesn’t require too much thought on either the presenter or audiences’ part. It will commonly be used when discussing different aspects, topics or sub-topics of a more extensive category.

They are often organized by ascending or descending importance or vice versa.  Think of the topic of your speech and how your specific audience might weight their importance. Often times, people simply drop these into categories because they all have perceived equal weight, and this can be okay if you’re simply providing more information. However, if you’re looking to make a speech persuasive as well, it is often recommended to start and end with very strong points that may even require immediate action on the audiences’ part. I like leaving with the most important item because of the power of the recency theory.

Think different types of beer categorized into the two types of brew -“ale” or “lager.”

Here that example taken a step further:

Different types of beer:

  1. Ales
    1. Lambic
    2. Stout/Porter
    3. Pale Ale
    4. German Ale
    5. Belgian/French Ale
  2. Lagers
    1. American Lager
    2. Pilsner
    3. German Lager
    4. European Lager


Time Order

Time order is chronological order, which means arranging the events in the order that they occur.

If I were to tell you the history of Mother Earth and I start at the beginning, I’d most likely say this in time order.

It is common in writing for narratives to do well in this format.

Use the time order framework when describing an event that took place, because that’s usually how we best arrange our thoughts, by explaining the events in the order that they occur. Some great examples of us probably using time order naturally are when we discuss an important break-through we may have had, when talking about a thought-process or series of events that lead to a company’s merge or when describing an event that took place, like getting engaged.

Protip: Transitions like the following mark this style of organization:

  • “next”
  • “and then.”
  • “a few hours later”
  • “moments later.”
  • “that next afternoon”
  • “when she turned 28”

Space Order

Space order, also known as spatial order, is in reference to organizing a speech based on where they are located.  It can be explained from the top down, left to right (how our team usually illustrates the Inbound Methodology) or nearest to farthest.

There are strangers out there online. Our goal as marketers is to attract strangers to our website to become visitors. Then convert those visitors into leads, close those leads into customers and, of course, delight them into promoters.

There are strangers out there online. Our goal as marketers is to attract strangers to our website to become visitors. Then convert those visitors into leads, close those leads into customers and, of course, delight them into promoters.

If you were to describe your clothing to someone in an organized way, you may start at the top and explain each item of clothing, starting with your shirt all the way down to the bottom, your shoes.

This is used when describing what an area looks like to paint a vivid picture in your attendees’ mind. If you were to describe a room or a situation that is currently unfolding across the globe or even the people sitting around a table with you.

Protip: Some popular terms indicating spatial arrangement are the following:

  • “Below”
  • “Above”
  • “Next to”
  • “Along side.”
  • “To the right of”

Cause and Effect Order

Also referred to as casual order and is commonly used when creating persuasive speeches.  It’s the organization of a statement from cause to effect or effect to cause.

A popular statement used in the cause and effect method is “one thing leads to another” because it indicates the writer is trying to suggest causation.

Do do this effectively, the speaker should begin with explaining the “cause” in a  general manner and increasingly becoming more specific. Then do the same thing with the “effect.” Discussing what they are and discussing the details of this “cause’ is important because it will set the stage for the upcoming effect.

I found this great example explaining this technique further here. Don’t shy away because it looks old – maybe it is, perhaps it isn’t (no wait, it probably is old) but regardless, the content is excellent.

Compare and Contrast Order

Compare and contrast order is a conventional method used to compare how to items are similar or are different.

This is a great organizational method to call upon when you’re trying to help somebody make an educated decision.  A few great examples are which college to attend, which job to take or which apartment to move into. In all three of the examples, I’d highlight some of the most important factors that go into the final decision like location, price, size, etc and then compare each of the options in each category.


Which types of organization do you like to use and when? Do you have a favorite go-to for persuasive speeches? How about inspirational or educational? Share your thoughts below.

What really makes a good story? [Infographic]

There has been tons of discussion lately around storytelling and the art of it. Experts are popping up with their own storytelling frameworks, methodologies and processes on how we can create a story that moves and inspires.

I found this graphic recently on Google+ (via Ryan Hanley) and thought while it was pretty obvious – it’s helpful.

infographicstorytelling graphic

Read the post on this topic from ABC Copywriting.




Here’s my take on the infographic:

  • Trust in the teller. Trust is the core of any quality relationship. And that’s what you’re building while presenting – relationships. We can build trust by selecting topics in which we’re passionate and competent in.  Here is a great article from Forbes on the topic.
  • Drama. Every good story needs some sort of drama – this should include conflict and resolution. And did you know, people tend to love stories about the underdog.
  • Relatability. A story that they can relate to. When we present or speak on stage, it’s not about us – it’s completely about the audience. Make sure you’re telling stories that they can relate to.
  • Immersion. This is important – heck, there is a whole book on getting buy-in from folks titled “How to get people to do stuff.” Immersion is difficult, but important if you’re trying to inspire, persuade or motivate a group. And immersion tends to occur if the story is relatable and the speaker provides opportunities for the audience member to put themselves in that position.
  • Simplicity. This reminds me of a great quote from Albert Einstein – “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” Very true. Make your story simple to understand and simple to follow. Simplicity always wins.
  • Agency. This portion of the infographic I especially liked. A great presentation, in my opinion,  isn’t about “telling them what you’re going to tell them and tell them” – it’s about inspiring them to listen, apply what they’ve learned and work out the solutions or results on their own.
  • Familiarity. If you’ve done everything correctly mentioned hove, the story will have a familiar feel to it. And this is important in building trust, conveying a message and getting people to change. Plus, the more familiar a story feels, the easier it is to follow and enjoy.

That’s just my take on the items in this . While seemingly obvious, they’re important parts of building a story that will resonate with your audience.

What do you think about this infographic? Anything in particular stand out? Share your thoughts below.

5 Techniques to Help Reduce Stress & Calm Nerves Before Presenting

“There are only two types of speakers in the world: 1. The nervous and 2. Liars.”
– Mark Twain.

Every speaker has feelings of nervousness or anxiousness before taking the stage. And that’s okay.  The critical piece is not to let your nerves get the best of you and to learn to focus that energy positively – like turning it into excitement.

Below are five different ways to help reduce performance anxiety and calm your nerves before taking the stage to present.

Body language:

Have you ever heard the adage, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it”? Of course, you have, and that’s because it is true. Research indicates that your nonverbal queues are what accounts for the significant percentage of communication. The clothes you wear, the way you dress, your hairstyles, personal hygiene, body stance, vocal pitch, vocal intonations and so much more – which you don’t verbally say – actually are what can help support your message to the audience, or distract from it.

Takeaway: Set yourself up for success before you even take the stage by making sure you have on appropriate attire and good personal hygiene. Take this a step further by finding a type of outfit, color or something else that you can wear that makes you not only feel appropriate but also like a million dollars. If you feel like a million dollars, your confidence will permeate right through it.  And if you want to learn the intricacies of body language, watch this fantastic documentary on the secrets of body language.

Get enough rest:

Sleep plays a significant role in your mental health and physical health. And the way that you feel while you’re awake depends mainly on the amount and the quality of your sleep.  If you’ve had a good night sleep your body can support your body and your brain to make sure you’re able to perform your best.  No foggy brains allowed here.

Takeaway: Most everybody is nervous before presenting; thus the sleep leading up to the day of your presentation is essential. An hour or two before getting into bed, find ways to calm your brain from your presentation. It may be a good idea to walk-through your presentation with the intention of it being your last time or create a to-do list for the next day to release it from your brain. And then as you’re trying to fall asleep, find a familiar and comfortable position that can assist in the progression of sleep. Meditation focused breathing, and even some relaxing chamomile tea can help your body feel more relaxed and ready for rest as well. If you want to learn more ways to natural fall asleep, check out this Huffington Post article.


Power Poses:

“Fake it until you become it” is the famous line from the social psychologist, Amy Cuddy. Our body doesn’t only convey a message to others non-verbally, it helps define who we are and how we view ourselves.  Cuddy’s research found that these power poses will increase testosterone, the dominant gene, and decrease the stress hormone, cortisol – enabling you to feel more confident.  Thus, just a few minutes of power-posing will change your body chemistry to help enhance your performance.

Takeaway: Take advantage of this by completing power poses for 2 or more minutes before each presentation. The following images contain five different power poses you can do to prepare.

Power Pose the Loomer power pose the ceo power power pose - the boss ouut Super Woman Power Pose


Watch Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk here.

Breathing techniques:

Understand that what you’re feeling is entirely normal. And understand, the more you prepare for your presentations and the more you speak, the more comfortable you’ll become over time. Because let’s face it, growing comfortable with public speaking doesn’t just happen overnight. However, a few simple breathing techniques can help you to either calm down or brighten up with energy.

Equal breathing for relaxation:

Take a deep breath in for four counts through your nose, and then exhale for four counts through your nose. Breathing through your nose will add natural resistance to the breath. This technique is best for relaxation as it will help your mind focus away from your racing thoughts before taking the stage. Bonus, this can even be used before falling asleep.

Abdominal breathing for focus:

Place one hand on your chest and the other hand on the belly. Deeply inhale through the nose, making sure the diaphragm – not the chest – inflates. You want to take in enough air to stretch the lungs. Shoot for 6 – 10 deep, slow breaths each minute for 10 minutes total. This technique has been known to help folks see an immediate decrease in heart rate, as well as blood pressure.  Do this exercise before an upcoming stressful even like before a major interview, exam or even before meeting your significant other’s parents.

Alternate nostril breathing

My personal favorite and a little more difficult. Place your right thumb on your right nostril and breath in as deep as you can. Then at the moment of no more inhalation, plug your left nostril with your right hand’s ring finger – and let go of your right nostril and exhale all the way. Then repeat immediately with your left nostril plugged. Nadi Shodhana said this breathing technique will “clear the channels” and acts as a cup of coffee giving you immediate energy and focus.

Bonus: If you want to help train and pace your breath – try McConnell’s biofeedback Breathe Strong app.


Remember, have a good time. 

If you’ve practiced and created an excellent presentation for your audience, now is the time just to relax and have fun with it. Recent research has indicated there are many benefits of being in a natural and relaxed state – like added mental focus, improved immune system, improved body awareness, etc.  These might seem like small things, but when you’re comfortable your body will thank you for helping you perform better, but also your audience will be more relaxed as well.

Takeaway:  When you’re relaxed and having fun, your natural passion for what you’re saying will shine through. And when you’re more relaxed, your audience will be too, which is quite important as they’re looking to you to provide a great experience. You are also able to better “roll with the punches” and also let go of any thoughts that you have to be “perfect.” Because let’s face it – nobody is perfect.

Lastly, just be yourself. When you’re not trying to be Simon Sinek, Zig Ziglar or Nancy Duarte, you’re able to be you –  which is the most natural of all. 

“It’s all right to have butterflies in your stomach. Just get them to fly in formation.”
– Rob Gilbert


Do you have any techniques that you use to relax before taking the stage? If so, feel free to share them below.