To some people, writing a formal outline for a speech is about as much fun as getting a flu shot.
I get it. If you’re not a fan of outlines, it can be pretty tedious to sort out where to put an “A,” a “1,” or a “b.” The mere thought of it is enough to drive you mad.
In all reality, though, outlining isn’t that bad, and it’s important to realize that there are some things in life that we just have to do—simply because they’re good for us.
When you’re a student, sometimes writing a formal outline is one of those things.
Even if you don’t find writing an outline that painful, there can be times when you need a little help getting your ideas together in the right format.
Whether you love (or hate) outlines, here’s how you can develop an outline to help you write your persuasive speech faster.
Before You Start Your Persuasive Speech Outline
Before you start outlining, you will, of course, need a topic for your persuasive speech. If you don’t already have one, this list of 49 speech topics or this one of 33 socially conscious persuasive topics should give you at least a little inspiration.
Even if you already have a topic, don’t immediately jump into outlining unless you’ve spent at least a little time pondering your topic. You need time to sort out your thoughts.
If you haven’t done either of these yet, take a brainstorming break now to do some research if needed.
Don’t worry, I’ll be here when you return. I’ll just grab a cup of coffee and wait.
How to Write a Persuasive Speech Outline
Have you pondered your topic? Spent a little time perusing sources? Excellent. Let’s talk outlines.
Even if you have a love/hate relationship with outlines, they’re excellent prewriting tools that will enable you to organize your thoughts and lay out the details of your speech.
They actually save a lot of time too. Once you put your ideas in outline form, you can write the actual speech in no time flat.
Another bonus of writing a detailed outline:
Your teacher may allow you to use only your outline when you deliver your speech. Having a well-written and concise outline means you’ll have your talking points in order (and you won’t fill the dead air with “…ummm” until you can think of something to say).
Where should you start?
That doesn’t mean that you have to start with the introduction and work, step by step, until you reach the conclusion, though.
You might start with a working thesis statement to help you establish the focus for your speech and then develop your main ideas. You can always go back and fill in the introduction and conclusion once you have a solid direction for your speech.
Of course, if you’re the type of person who needs to start at the introduction, that’s fine too. Do whatever works for you.
In my persuasive speech outline for this post, I’m going to start with the introduction and provide a step-by-step outline to help you get started on your own.
Here’s the topic for my persuasive speech outline: why adults should get a flu shot.
Persuasive speech introduction
The introduction needs to hook your audience, provide background and context for your topic, and contain a thesis statement to focus your speech.
Begin the introduction by grabbing the attention of your audience with a clever or shocking hook.
Think about all those boring lectures you’ve sat through as a student. You don’t want to be that speaker. You don’t want your audience to tune you out and think about where they’re going to dinner instead of listening to your speech.
Instead, you want them on the edge of their seats, eager to hear what you have to say.
To grab the attention of my audience, I would start my introduction with this shocking statistic:
In the 2017–2018 flu season, 61,000 Americans died from the flu. It was one of the most severe flu seasons in history (CDC.gov).
This statistic hits home and shows the audience just how dangerous the flu can be.
This section includes information that helps the audience understand the context of your topic and provides any background they may need to know to fully understand your key points.
You’ll also want to consider your audience as you develop your outline (and speech). If you’re speaking to senior citizens, for instance, the information you’ll include here (and throughout your speech) would likely be different than if you’re speaking to seniors in high school.
In my example, I’m trying to convince a general audience that they should get a flu shot, so I’d briefly explain a little bit about the shot and again stress how important a flu shot is to one’s health.
Wrap up your opening with a clear thesis statement to let your audience know your stance on the topic.
My thesis statement would be something like this:
Adults should get a flu shot each year because it can be a life-saving vaccine.
This thesis statement clearly indicates that my topic will be flu shots, and because I’m writing a persuasive outline, my thesis presents my stance on the topic: that people need a flu shot because it can save lives.
Persuasive speech body
The body will be the majority of your speech. A basic outline will contain at least three main ideas to support your thesis.
Develop each idea in at least one paragraph. Unless you’re writing an extremely short speech, the body of your speech should be a minimum of three paragraphs. You may include more main ideas (and thus more paragraphs), of course, depending on your assignment.
Remember: Evidence from sources should support your claims, not make up the bulk of your writing. In other words, resist the urge to copy and paste large chunks of content into your outline. Write the speech in your own words and use sources as supporting evidence for your claims.
If research isn’t required for your persuasive speech, include personal examples and your own knowledge of the topic to support your claims.
Example body paragraph
Here’s an example of how one of my body paragraphs would be structured:
Claim: Getting the flu shot helps with herd immunity.
Evidence: “Once enough people are vaccinated, the flu can’t spread quickly because it encounters people who are protected against it. The flu virus runs into a dead end” (Lynch).
Analysis/Commentary: Essentially, if everyone gets a flu shot, the virus can’t easily spread because everyone is protected against it. This also means that people who aren’t able to be vaccinated (such as the very young) are less likely to get the flu because fewer adults around them will become infected.
This example presents a solid claim and provides a quote from a reliable website to support the fact that getting a flu shot helps keep everyone safe. (You may wish to include more than one piece of evidence to support each claim.)
It also includes my own analysis and commentary to not only discuss the topic of herd immunity but also further explain (using my source as evidence) why adults should get an annual flu shot.
As you develop your main ideas, keep in mind that you want to appeal to your audience, and you want to use solid arguments.
To learn more about appeals and logic, check out these two posts:
- Ethos, Pathos, and Logos: Be More Persuasive in Your Next Essay
- 10 Logical Fallacies That Will Kill Your Argument
Counterargument and rebuttal
A counterargument is the opposing view to your claim. While you may not be required to include a counterargument in your speech, anticipating and addressing opposing views is a smart way to make your argument more convincing.
In my example, I’m arguing that people should get a flu shot because it can save lives. The opposing view might argue that vaccines are dangerous and getting a flu shot can actually cause someone to get sick.
A rebuttal is your reply to the opposing view. In other words, you’re adding more evidence to support your claim (while also illustrating why your claim is stronger than the claims of the opposition).
In my example, I could point to evidence that indicates that a flu shot doesn’t really cause people to get the flu. People who get the flu after receiving the shot were likely already exposed to the virus.
How you incorporate the counterargument and rebuttal will depend on your assignment (and, in some cases, personal preference).
Your teacher might require you to include a counterargument and rebuttal as a separate paragraph before the conclusion, or you may be allowed to incorporate a counterargument and rebuttal into one of your main body paragraphs.
The conclusion is your last chance to convince the audience of your claims.
To convince them, restate your key ideas and emphasize again why they should be convinced by your arguments.
Because I’m trying to convince my audience how important it is to get a flu shot, in my conclusion, I’ll remind them how miserable it feels to be sick. I’ll stress that if they take the time to get a flu shot, they not only can avoid the misery of the flu but also can prevent more serious illness and even protect others.
The Final Outline
If the mere thought of creating a persuasive speech outline still leaves you feeling a little under the weather, drink some soothing tea, and remember, outlining isn’t all that bad.
To make outlining even easier, here’s the skeleton of the persuasive speech outline we just created. You can use this as a guide to help you build your own outline by filling in your topic, claim, and supporting evidence.
a. Hook/Attention grabber
b. Background and context
c. Thesis statement
2. Body: Evidence to support your thesis
a. Claim 1
i. Evidence from source(s) to support claim
b. Claim 2
i. Evidence from source(s) to support claim
c. Claim 3
i. Evidence from source(s) to support claim
3. Body: Counterargument and Rebuttal
b. Evidence from source to illustrate counterargument
c. Refutation of argument and evidence
a. Restate key ideas and stress the importance of your claim
b. Emphasize why readers should be convinced by your arguments
Looking for an example outline before you tackle your own? Take a look at these outlines:
- A Speech Outline Regarding the Lowering of Athlete Salaries
- Outline of a Speech on How Helmets Reduce Injuries in Motorcycle Accidents
Ready to get started but need a shot in the arm to convince you to get moving?
Download this persuasive speech outline template to help you put your ideas in place.
If you have your outline finished but want a pair of expert eyes to provide some feedback before you step behind the podium, send it to the editors at Kibin. We can polish your outlines, essays, and just about any writing project your teachers can dream up.