What is your reaction the moment you hear the word outline? If your instant reaction is a negative one, perhaps you have never actually learned how to outline properly, or maybe your previous experiences with writing have re-established less-than-fond memories. Whatever the reason, you are not alone – a lot of people hate outlining. This hatred is unfortunate, because when applied properly, outlines can save you much time and can help you develop a great deal of better speech.

Basic Principles of Outlining

Outlining will not only help you see the general idea of your speech. It will also help you subdivide the body of your message into sub-topics according to the order of their significance. Outlining always helps – sometimes a little, sometimes a lot – but it always helps.

What Is an Outline?

  1. An outline is a system of note-taking that shows how somebody has organized a group of ideas.
  • It also shows how these ideas are related to one another.

Steps To Follow When Outlining

Try to discover the most important idea or the main idea.

  1. You should write this as a title or thesis statement.
  • Think in exact terms when outlining.

Look for major ways to develop or subdivide the main point. (This will provide you with the major headings of your outline.) Consider signals or transition words to indicate:

  1. Chronological order
  • Enumeration
  • Cause-effect relationships
  • General to specific/easy to difficult
  • Comparison-contrast

Try to stress details.

  1. Stress what you think is important or complicated and in need of more detailed explanation.
  • Always try to connect these details to the major points.

Notation In Outlining

The size of the indentation and the notation used are determined by the importance of the idea.

  1. The most important or primary ideas are placed to the farthest left and are noted with roman numerals (I, II, III, etc.).
  • The next most important ideas (the major details) are placed below the primary ideas and are noted with capital letters (A, B, C, etc.).
  • The minor details are placed to the right below the major details and are noted with plain numbers (1, 2, 3, etc.).

All ideas of the same importance should have equal indention, with all major or main ideas being assigned with roman numerals and being farthest to the left.

You may write items in an outline as either phrases or sentences, but the entire outline should be one or the other. In other words, don’t mix phrases and sentences in the same outline.

Always capitalize the first word of each item in an outline.

Always place a period after each notation symbol (numbers and letters) in an outline.

What are the Advantages of Outlining?

  1. It is easier to identify problems.
  • It is less difficult to ask for sensible evaluations.
  • There is less temptation to memorize your speech.
  • Flexibility is increased.

Preparing Your Visual Aids Effectively

One of the easiest methods to guarantee a successful and effective speech is to use interesting and powerful visual aids. Unfortunately, a lot of speakers either don’t use visual aids at all or use overcrowded, difficult-to-read visuals that make it almost impossible for the audience to understand the visuals’ content, to listen to the talk, and to take down notes all together. Poorly designed visual aids compel listeners to decide between listening to the speaker or reading the visual aid – and you know which they will select. Thus, when preparing your visuals, remember that if listeners will take much longer than seven seconds to grasp the content, they will possibly fall into a reading mode. When listeners are thrown into a reading mode, they hear almost nothing the speaker says.

Audiovisual aids may be used to reinforce, explain, or further clarify the main points. These aids range from simple flipcharts or graphs, to slides or videotapes. Communication effectiveness is frequently enhanced by the use of more than one medium; and where the presenter opts for visual aids, they must show the relevance of their use to the message.

Functions of Visual Aids

Visual aids, when used effectively, can help a speaker communicate better and can help listeners understand better. Visual aids engage the senses (what we see and what we hear) and help clarify, support, and strengthen the message. Visual aids are so effective that most speakers use them.

Let’s  consider  the  ways  in  which  visual  aids  can  improve  your

presentation. Visual aids can:

  • provide support and emphasize main ideas
  • facilitate understanding
  • encourage emotional involvement
  • aid with delivery
  • add to your credibility
  • decrease your nervousness because they give you something to do with your hands, they draw audience attention away from you, and they make it almost impossible to forget what you want to say.

Listeners also benefit from the effective use of visual aids. Such aids can:

  • help separate important from less important information
  • add interest and color
  • improve audience memory


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