Writing Composition: Informative Speech

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This lesson details the format and the most important features when composing an informative speech.
An informative speech provides information about a specific subject to an audience. The aim
of an informative speech is to help your audience to understand and to remember the
information you are presenting.
Students will create a five minute informative speech on a topic of their choice. They must
make sure the topic is narrow enough to thoroughly be presented within the five minutes.
(For example: dogs would be too broad of a topic to cover in 5 minutes - a particular breed of
dog, such as the Labrador retriever, might be covered in 5 minutes)
Students will select a topic and gather information from multiple sources - they can use
books, encyclopedias, database articles, or use the Internet as long as they can prove through
a web evaluation that the site is a valid source created by an authority on the subject.
Students will read over their sources and choose three main points that will be covered in the
body of their speech. They will then create notecards (according to specific guidelines
included in this packet) that support the chosen points and create a working outline with a
general and specific purpose statement, a thesis statement, and the three main points with
supporting evidence for each point.
Your general purpose in an informative speech is to inform.
Your specific purpose relates to your topic and to the specific information you want to convey.
Specific Purpose -
The specific purpose of a speech is its goal, stated in a complete sentence. If the general
purpose of your speech is to inform, then your specific purpose will be a statement of the
particular information you will present to the audience.
Example: Joel’s general purpose in his speech about place-kicking is to inform. His specific
purpose could be stated in a complete sentence. “I want to explain the steps in soccer-style
1. Express the specific purpose as a declarative sentence.
2. State the specific purpose precisely. “I want to explain the four steps in soccer-style
3. Make sure the specific purpose contains only one idea.
4. Include words in the specific purpose that show your intent. Examples: explain, show,
Writing a Thesis Statement -
A thesis statement is a complete sentence that expresses the speaker’s most important
idea, or key point, about a topic. A thesis statement guides the development of a speech.
1. Specific purpose: “I want to explain the characteristics of the six major
classifications of show dogs.”
Thesis statement: “Show dogs are classified according to their characteristics as
hounds, terriers, working dogs, toys, sporting dogs, and non sporting dogs.”
2. 2. Specific purpose: “I want to convince the class that they should read “To Kill a
Thesis statement: “To Kill a Mockingbird is an excellent book to read because it
features interesting characters, thought-provoking issues, and an exciting plot.”
If you already know a great deal about your topic, you can write your thesis statement at this
stage of your planning. For most speeches, however, you will need to do some research first.
Subject Area: football
Topic: place-kicking
Limited Topic: soccer-style place-kicking
General Purpose: to inform
Specific Purpose: I want to explain the four steps in soccer-style place-kicking.
Thesis Statement: The four steps in soccer-style place-kicking are to spot the ball, to mark off
the steps, to approach the ball,, and to kick the ball.
Supporting Your Thesis Statement
You need to find information to support your main idea as expressed in your thesis
statement. The types of details commonly used to support a thesis include facts, opinions,
examples, illustrations, anecdotes, statistics, comparisons, definitions, descriptions, and
1) Facts and Opinions:
Statement of fact contain information that can be proved, or verified, by
testing, by observing, or by consulting reference materials.
Statement of opinion expresses personal beliefs or attitudes. Such statements contain
personal judgments, which include information that cannot be proved. In some
situations, you may seek an expert opinion. An expert opinion is a statement of
belief about a subject from a person who is recognized as an authority on that subject.
For example, a rocket scientist could offer an expert opinion on space travel. Experts
can also supply facts. For instance, a high school coach can report on how many college
recruiters have visited players on the team.
2) Examples and illustrations:
An example is a single instance that supports or develops a statement. An illustration
is a detailed example.
3. 3) Anecdotes:
Anecdotes are brief, often amusing, stories. The purpose of an anecdote is to give
information in a form that an audience will remember. Because anecdotes are often
entertaining, they can help make your speech more interesting and enjoyable as well as
4) Statistics:
Statistics are numerical facts: “Only six out of every ten registered voters voted in the
last school election” or “unemployment recently dropped 2 percent.” Citing a few
statistics may make your speech more informative, but giving too many statistics can
be boring or distracting. Use statistics carefully to add interest or to emphasize a
5) Comparisons:
A comparison is a statement that shows the similarities between people, places, things,
events, or ideas. Comparisons help listeners relate new ideas to familiar concepts.
A figurative comparison imaginatively shows similarities between things that are
essentially not alike. For example, you may say someone is “as slow as molasses in
January” to point out that the person moves slowly.
A literal comparison shows the real similarities between things that are essentially
alike. Example - “Tom runs slower than Jorge.”
Occasionally, a comparison is phrased as a contrast, highlighting the differences
between two things. For instance, you might say, “Unlike last year’s ecology club,
which consisted primarily of seniors, this year’s club has mostly sophomores and
juniors as members.”
6) Definitions:
A definition explains what a word or a concept means. You should define carefully any
words or concepts your audience may not understand.
7) Descriptions:
A description is a word picture of a person, place, thing, or event. Accurate
descriptions help people in your audience form mental pictures that correspond to the
actual thing described.
8) Quotations:
A quotation expresses someone’s exact words. Usually, you express your ideas in your
own words. However, in some cases you will use a quotation to express the opinion of
an authority or to include a particularly well stated idea. When you use quotations, you
must give credit to the source from which the words were taken.
The more convincingly you can show your listeners that you know about your topic, the more
likely they are to pay attention and to remember what you say.
4. The final step in preparing your material is to organize it. A well-organized speech has three
parts: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.
Introduction: gains the attention and the goodwill of the audience
Body: presents the main points in an organized pattern and gives supporting
information for the main points.
Conclusion: emphasizes key idea or ideas of the speech and leaves the audience with
greater interest in the topic.
Planning the Introduction
The beginning section of your speech is the introduction. An introduction can be as short as a
few sentences and should usually be no longer than 10 percent of the speech. Length varies,
depending on the topic, the audience’s interest level, and the audience’s knowledge about the
An introduction serves three very important purposes. It should:
1) get the attention of the audience - (sustained interest) - you need to find a way to
focus the audience’s attention on the subject matter of your speech, then, when
you get into the body of the speech, your audience will continue to listen.
2) gain the goodwill of the audience - (audience’s respect or positive feeling for the
speaker as a person) - What you say in your opening remarks and the way in
which you say it - your tone, your inflection, and other nonverbal signals are
important. If your audience likes or trusts you, they will likely be willing to
listen to what you have to say and to think about your message.
3) develop the audience’s interest in the topic of the speech - (involvement or
concern your audience shows about your topic) - Include facts, examples, and
other information that will hold your audience’s attention.
You can use any of the common methods for beginning a speech - a startling statement, a
question, a quotation, a story, or a personal reference - in an informative speech.
Using transitional devices
Transitional devices are bridges between ideas. They connect parts of a speech and help to
emphasize the points you are making.
Example: Between the opening and the body of your speech about dogs being our best friends,
you might say, “First, let’s look at ways dogs help people.” Between the first and second
points you might say, “Now that we have seen examples of how dogs work with people, let’s
move on to our second point.”
Transitional devices also help you emphasize ideas. For example, you might say, “Here is a
point I want to stress,” or “The key point here is . . .” Statements like these alert your
audience to be prepared to hear information that you think is important.
5. Audiovisual materials are resources that a speaker uses to help listeners retain information.
They can:
**Save time in explanation
**Clarify a point
**Help an audience remember important material
Sometimes you can find audiovisual materials --such as charts, diagrams, photographs, audio,
graphs, or maps - already prepared.
Organizing the Body of an Informative Speech
The body of a speech is the portion in which the main points are developed. To organize the
body of a speech, you will need to
1) determine the main points you want to stress
2) organize the main points in a consistent pattern the audience can follow
3) outline all the material you plan to use in the speech
Because the body of a speech contains the most important ideas that will be presented, many
experienced speakers prepare it first. Then, after they know the development of the main
ideas, they usually find the introduction and conclusion easier to prepare.
Determining the Main Points
The main points of a speech are the major ideas under which the supporting information is
organized. If you have composed a well-written specific purpose, then determining the main
points of your speech should be fairly easy. The specific purpose or the thesis statement lead
to the wording of the main points.
Specific Purpose: I want to explain the three ways that dogs have shown themselves to be our
“best friends.”
Thesis Statement: Dogs have earned their place as our “best friends” by working with people,
by protecting people and their property, and by showing love and devotion to people.
Main Points:
I. Dogs work with people.
II. Dogs protect people and their property.
III. Dogs show love and devotion to people.
6. The main points of your speech may be organized in any of a number of logical patterns. The
three most common methods of arrangement are chronological order, spatial order, and
topical order.
1) Chronological Order - arranges details or events according to the order in which they
occurred in time. Chronological order is often useful for speeches that present a
history of something. To make remembering easier for your audience, group the steps
in chronological order under broad headings.
Chronological Example:
Specific purpose: I want to explain the five stages in the evolution of the bicycle.
I. The first stage is the origin.
II. The second stage is the development of a steering device.
III. The third stage is the attachment of pedals to the front wheel.
IV. The fourth stage is the addition of chain drive.
V. The fifth stage is the development of modern safety features.
2) Topical Order - a topic is broken down into its parts and then arranged in an order
determined by the speaker and stated in the specific purpose. This is the most common
method for organizing speeches.
Topical Order Example:
Specific purpose: I want to discuss three measures of the strength of the United States
as a world power.
I. One measure of U.S. strength is its natural resources.
II. A second measure of U.S. strength is its military.
III. A third measure of U.S. strength is its technology.
3) Spatial Order - details are arranged according to their position in space. This
arrangement is often used for descriptions.
Spatial Order Example:
Specific purpose: I want to describe the three levels of the Community Center.
I. The basement contains various recreational facilities.
II. The main floor contains restaurants and administrative offices.
III. The second floor contains an auditorium, smaller meeting rooms, and a
banquet room.
4) Climactic Order - arranges items according to their order of importance, usually
starting with the least important item of information and ending with the item of
information that is the most important.
5) Cause-and-Effect Order - information is arranged to show causes or conditions and
the effects or results of those causes or conditions.
6) Comparison-and-contrast Order - items of information are arranged to show the
similarities and differences between the items.
7. Developing the Main Points
Once you have determined the main points of your speech and have made an informal plan of
organization, you can arrange your supporting information under appropriate headings.
Remember that the main points provide a basic structure that you fill out with supporting
information. As you sort and arrange your supporting material to group related ideas, take
care to keep unity in mind. A speech is unified when all its parts fit together to make a whole
and all of the information contained in the speech relates to the specific purpose. The best
way to plan a unified speech is to prepare an informal outline.
Preparing your Conclusion
The conclusion of an informative speech usually includes a summary of the main points.
Many speakers end with a quotation, an anecdote, or a final thought that makes the
conclusion more memorable. The conclusion is the final portion of a speech. Although a
conclusion is seldom longer than a few sentences, it is very important. The goals of an
effective conclusion are:
1) to emphasize the key idea or ideas of the speech
2) to intensify the emotions, or feelings, of the audience
Delivering Your Speech
Any speech will be more effective if it is delivered well.
1) Credibility - A speaker’s credibility is the amount of trust and belief the speaker
inspires in an audience. You want to establish yourself as a speaker whom the
audience can trust to give accurate information. One way to do this is to tell the
audience a little about your background or experience to let your audience know what
makes you qualified to talk about your topic. Be thoroughly prepared, but if you do not
know something or if experts are still debating a point, freely admit this.
2) Enthusiasm - Be enthusiastic about your topic. Your audience will probably find it
difficult to become excited about the topic you are speaking about if you do not seem to
find it important or interesting. The more enthusiasm you show, the more likely you
are to get and to hold the audience’s attention.
3) Eye contact - Establish eye contact with your listeners. If you look at the members of
your audience, they will look at you. If you fail to establish eye contact, the members of
the audience will let their eyes - and their attention - wander.
4) Vocal Variety and Emphasis - Vary your tone, rate, volume, and pitch to emphasize
key points and to make your speech more interesting.
5) Clear Articulation and Enunciation - Be careful not to slur your words. When you
speak clearly, your audience will find listening to your message easy and enjoyable.
6) Good Pronunciation - Your pronunciation can either help or hurt your credibility. If
you mispronounce key words in your speech, your listeners will begin to question
whether you have a thorough knowledge of your subject.