How to Create the Outline for a 25-Minute Talk

Face-to-face communication remains the most powerful persuasion tool humans have. That is why every leader needs to be able to create and deliver a speech.

No other communications modality gives you the leverage of an in-person speech:

  1. You reach more people than one-on-one conversation can reach in the same time period
  2. When you deliver a speech, you have a halo of authority
  3. You have more impact live in-person than you can remotely

As a bonus, a good speech can be recorded for later remote distribution, and a positive audience reaction will make remote audiences more likely to want to believe you also — that’s the power of “social proof.”


My own number one way of getting work is from my speeches. For all the articles I write — and I write a lot — I get ten times as much work from speaking. This is true for many experts. Why? Because of these effects I just mentioned — my one speech can reach hundreds of people (vs one on a phone call or a handful in a CEO Breakfast Briefing), and it hits them harder.

Even if you’re not drumming up business, as a leader you’re selling something — an idea, a change, a course of action. That’s what leaders do.

Here is a simple and sure-fire way to rapidly create the outline for a persuasive 25-minute talk.

The 25 Minute Talk

Why 25 minutes?

It’s a great length for meeting planners. A 25-minute talk can be fit into nearly any longer format meeting. A talk that length can be tweaked into a 45-minute or a 15-minute talk with little work. Once you know what you want followers or potential followers to do, your 25 minute speech is your workhorse for persuading them.

Start with Your Audience

Who is your audience? What’s the audience impact you want?

You may want them to:

  • Reach out to you when they are interested in buying something
  • Recommend you to a friend
  • Be aware of some course of action they should take or avoid

Only after you know the impact you want to have, should you work on your outline. If you cannot get clear on your impact, you should reconsider whether you should be speaking at all.

Impact – Example

You might want everyone in your neighborhood to stock up on nonperishable food and bottled water for disaster preparedness. That is an action you want them to take.

Identify your Expertise

Now, write down a few words to capture the expertise or passion you bring to this topic. Once you have their attention, the audience will become curious as to why you care, or why they should listen to you.

The audience will be curious what your stake in this topic is. For example, they will react differently if your motivation is that a friend of yours suffered needlessly in a disaster due to lack of nonperishable food and bottled water, versus your motivation being that you sell nonperishable food and bottled water. If both motivations are true, be upfront about them. If your audience ever loses trust with you, your speech will not be effective.

Uncover the Relevance

An astonishing number of speakers forget to state why this audience should care about your topic. Maybe this is because you are such an expert, that it seems obvious to you why everybody should care. Never assume they know. Even the ones who do know, like to be reminded why your topic matters to them.

This will become the opening of your talk.

Ideally, open with both a story and a statistic, and start with the story. If you’ve read Kahneman’s book Thinking Fast and Slow, or if you are a student of human nature, you’re aware that people shrug off statistics that they don’t agree with, yet are deeply persuaded by anecdotes. So open with your story or anecdote, which persuades emotionally, and then offer the statistic that provides the intellectual rationalization for their new belief.

Build the Outline

Now you’re ready to build the speech outline.

Opening

Open with a story, a surprising true statistic, or a quote.

Three Points

As an expert, you know far more than three points. This may be the hardest part of your speech, cutting out all but three points. See below for how to make each point.

Closing

Close with a call to action. There’s no point in the audience sitting through the speech you just gave, if there’s nothing for them to think, feel, or do differently.

For example, you could tell the audience that as they head home they should stop off and purchase a flat of bottled water to store in their garage or in the back of the closet.

For Each Point

Here is how to make each point in a way that will stick with the audience.

State the Point

Very simply, in small words and simple sentences, state your point.

Illustrate the Point

Next, illustrate the point you just made with a story.

Sum Up the Point with a Pithy Phrase

Finally, summarize the point with a pithy phrase. If it has a rhyme, so much the better.

Rehearse and Deliver

You’ve got a great outline. Rehearse it, get feedback, and deliver it.

If you need support, I suggest Toastmasters International as a great starting point. Find a club near you.

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