Why You Should Make an Outline

Planning to give a speech or talk in front of a group of people?

I suggest making an outline.

I know – easier said than done, right? 😉

For many, the idea of using an outline is daunting – almost as daunting as giving the speech itself.

So why is this? Well, it’s because many of us regard our word-for-word script as a kind of mental safety blanket. It’s cozy to have every single thing we plan to say drafted on the lines before us, because we feel that having pages of notes means there’s no way we can mess up, lose our thought, draw a blank, or begin to stutter.

But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

What is an Outline?

An outline is a summary of your main points, abbreviated and bullet-pointed so that the speaker can direct his or her attention toward their audience. It’s best if kept brief, with only a few thoughts to support your main points.

Some of the best outlines I’ve seen adhere closely to “less is more” adage: They contain minimal information, and the written notes serve as cues and prompts rather than fully-composed sentences.

The beauty of speaking from an outline is that doing so allows you to lift your eyes off of the page and focus them on your listeners, who will gratefully meet your gaze and connect right back with you.

Additionally, an outline allows the speaker to use their own words. As an audience, it’s way more interesting to listen to someone speak in a conversational, friendly manner, instead of someone who sounds like they’re reading – or worse, reciting – lines.

When my clients transition from their scripted speech to using a clean, polished outline, the result is beautiful. Instead of watching their eyes dart back and forth from me to the page, clutching their notes and trying not to lose their place, I instead watch as they make powerful eye contact, speak more naturally and fluently, and become infinitely more interesting to listen to.

As a result, I’m more engaged,  less distracted, and their eventual listeners are way more likely to walk away from their speech with a clear idea of what was presented. 

Do you prefer using an outline? How do you structure your outlines? Comment below! ↓↓


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