Little known ways to structure a speech

Updated: Oct 26, 2018

Today we’re going to look at three methods we can use to structure our speeches that can completely change the way we present our ideas.

These methods are: complexity, regency, and primacy.

Structure using complexity

The theory of complexity in speech writing relates to dividing a central idea into a number of smaller ideas.

Most of us learn this way. As young children, we learned easy words first and then added more complex words to our vocabulary. If you were learning to ride a bike, you’d start with climbing on and learning to ride short distances before trying stunt riding or long distance marathons.

The method of complexity begins with starting with our simplest idea first. We then move onto more difficult concepts and leave our most complex ideas till last.

Let’s use cake baking as an example. We might begin by explaining how to cook a basic sponge cake. We would then move onto applying icing and small decorations. Finally, we might move onto creating complex cake designs where we show how to make cakes shaped like rocket ships or children’s toys.

By arranging our ideas using complexity, we can build the audience’s knowledge – one piece at a time.

Structure using regency

Our next method is to organise our ideas using the principal of regency. This is based around the theory that audiences will often remember your last point most. This means you make this last point your selling point. This is the one you most want audiences to ‘buy into’.

For example, you may have three central ideas:

  • Buying a block of land

  • Buying a unit or apartment

  • Buying a house

The point you really want to drive home is that of buying a house, so this is the one you leave till last. This is the point around which you build the greatest number of advantages and benefits.

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Structure using primacy

Our last method is where you structure your speech ideas using the method of primacy. This is when your points are ranked from most important to least important. It may be that your listeners are unfamiliar with the subject you’re discussing. It makes sense, then, to begin with first defining the subject. After defining it, you can then go into lesser ideas that branch off from that main idea.

Let’s imagine you’re discussing how to build a house. You might go in this order:

  • the design of the house

  • then the materials and labor involved

  • then the finishings and interior design

The principal of primacy is helpful too when presenting a central idea to which the audience may be hostile. This is where the speaker can use primacy to present their most important point first that they believe has the best chance of winning over the audience. This means the audience is disarmed from the beginning and more open minded to the speaker's viewpoint. Not doing this means that the audience remains hostile throughout most of the presentation, and misses the earlier points entirely.

A lot can be gained by rearranging your central ideas. It doesn’t require any extra work on your part. It just means a rethink of the order in which you deliver your material.

Why don’t you do this for your next presentation and see where it takes you?


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