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The introduction of a speech typically should be no longer than 10 percent of the entire speech; for an 8-10 minute speech, the introduction should be about 1 minute.

The introduction needs to accomplish five tasks:

  • Capture the attention of the audience
  • Adapt the purpose of the speech to the audience
  • Establish the speaker’s own credibility/reliability
  • Clearly reveal the topic and the main argument (thesis) of the speech
  • Preview the main points the speech will cover that will support the main argument


Connectives serve the purpose of helping the audience follow along. Unlike a written document, where the audience can look back at any time if he/she gets lost, during an oral presentation the audience needs much more guidance along the way to comprehend the content and to remember what has been said already.

There are four main types of connectives that should be used to help the audience:

  • Transitions. Transitions occur between the major parts of the speech, in particular between the main points. They serve two functions: to reinforce and summarize the previous main ideas, and to forecast what is upcoming.
  • Internal previews. These forecast the subpoints of each main point and are incredibly useful for complex arguments.
  • Internal reviews. These summarize and synthesize the main point.
  • Signposts. Signposts are smaller cues that help audiences follow along. Some examples are “first,” “second,” “next,” “finally” and so on. Although simple, using signposts effectively enhances clarity and helps audiences follow along.

Sometimes, students are resistant to including so many connectives into speeches. Simply remind them that it’s all for the audience, not for them. We have rather poor memories, so audiences need constant reinforcement and reminders about how the content all fits together to demonstrate a cohesive argument. Also remind them that the audience can’t simply flip back a few pages to reread something confusing or unclear.


The conclusion of a speech should be approximately 5 percent or less of the total allotted time.

A conclusion serves three functions.

  • It should signal the end of the speech. A good technique is to refer back to the speech’s attention-getter. This lets the audience know that no new information will be provided, and that the speech is concluding. “In conclusion,” though functional, is not the best way to start a conclusion. It’s also cliche, and therefore not as effective. Push them to be more creative.
  • It should provide a summary of the thesis and main points; reinforce the argument.
  • End decisively and with something memorable or thought-provoking.