“The outline is awesome!” This is one of the most surprising, yet most common, comments I get from my training. Surprising because, after all, the outline form is not a very sexy topic. Yet it’s one of the most common benefits stated by my training participants: learning how to identify and organize their main points, and then how to sandwich them between an intriguing opening and a powerful close. Using the outline tool reaps many benefits: it makes a presentation easier to prepare; it makes it easier for the presenter to stay on track and not get lost, and it makes it easier for the audience to follow along. Once speakers understand its power, they love it!
Here’s a basic outline of the outline. In the interest of space, I’m not doing a full explanation of the elements. But if you’d like to see one, please feel free to email me and I’ll send you a detailed outline form.
Note there are three parts of an outline. But it’s not three equal parts. Like the famous sandwich of the comic strip character Dagwood, all the meat is in the middle. The intro and conclusion serve to hold it all together, to add a little flavor and interest, but the body is the meat of your talk—it’s what you’ve got to say.
- Hook: Get attention with a story, visual, question, etc.
- Reason to Listen: Let audience know what’s in it for them
- Road Map: Tell ‘em where you’re going with your talk
- Main Points: Your main message, divided into identifiable, concrete parts with a logical order and flow
- Summary: a wrap up, bring it all home
- Closing: bring it to a close an impactful, memorable with a tool like a story, quote, visual, etc.
A final thought about your outline. Don’t write it out word for word. Instead, use key words and bullet points—enough to keep you on track, but not so much that you feel the need to read them. This will enable you to be conversational and natural, a great attribute of a compelling speaker.