Speech structure

Rhetoric for Innovative Education

Output 2 Online Course in Rhetoric

Learning module

Speech structure: techniques and approaches. Practical assignments

  • Traditional and modern rhetorical paradigm

  • Speech structure: techniques and approaches. Practical assignments

  • Presentations. Practical assignments

  • Media rhetoric. Practical assignments

  • Podcast. Practical assignments

  • Business meeting. Practical assignments

  • Sample model for preparation, implementation and evaluation

  • Bibliography

Speech structure: techniques and approaches. Practical assignments

The introduction of a speech can perform different functions. Depending on this, possible structuring techniques are given below. It is important to say that they are of a situational use and do not always guarantee the same success, because it depends on the speaker and his skills to speak in front of a specific audience. The speaker may aim to inform the audience, and then turn to the use of certain devices: quotation, factoids, authorities. The speaker may seek to excite, motivate, inspire the audience, and then the emotions of the audience are to be appealed to, and this involves more pathos and appropriate means. The speaker may want to combine information with instruction and then the rhetorical devices are different. The speaker aims to create a positive atmosphere at events of a personal, business and public nature, and then he turns to other rhetorical and communicative techniques.

  • Identify the genre of the speech. Analyse the audience you will be speaking to. Formulate objectives starting from the speaker’s position. Research the situation, the event, the occasion, the setting, the circumstances, the audience’s attitudes and characteristics, etc.

  • Write the introduction. Choose which rhetorical techniques are appropriate for the speech. Find other rhetorical techniques and devices when writing the introduction of the speech.

Figure 10. Rhetorical and communicative techniques used in the introduction

Rhetorical and communicative techniques used in the introduction

Main part

There are various principles and recommendations known from antiquity that are the basis of good speech structuring. One such classical model is an introduction, main body and conclusion.

We present a different version.

It is reasonable to begin with an address or addresses to individual members of the audience, observing here the principles of diplomatic, state or business/business etiquette and protocol. In informal communication, the address is brief and without detailed differentiation of the audience into groups. A similar approach of general address to the audience is found in TED presentations.

Our recommendation is that addresses be worded, prepared and tested for impact, or for errors, or for inappropriate sounding, or for excessive pathos, or for unacceptable templating of phrases and expressions. These expressions are in fact appeals, and messages, and they may be at the end of each speech or phased into it. This is because they take into account the life stream or post-communication stage when speeches are disseminated in the media, online media and social networks. Journalists have the mindset to extract what is important from the speech, and sometimes it is in these appeals.

It is then reasonable to prepare the introduction, main body and conclusion in stages.

Below are some of the popular techniques for structuring the speech and for preparing the concluding words.

The main body is interesting in that it combines arguments, rhetorical figures and tropes, and psychological techniques. This part may have different structural features, presented below in the Online Rhetoric Course.

Figure 11. Basic elements in speech structure

Basic elements in speech structure

The conclusion

Closing a speech and creating an effect at the end are essential to any speech. Preparation must be serious. If the speaker is speaking to a business audience and has made the important points in the introduction, in the conclusion he should summarize what has been said. The speaker can possibly make predictions for future projects and collaborations. If the speech is exhortative and uplifting, it is reasonable to have appeals in the conclusion, possibly quotations from celebrities or from literary works. If it is to reduce tension in a crisis situation or in protests to contain the escalation of emotions, then the rhetorical techniques are different. If one is speaking at a party event or at one during an election campaign, then virtual personal presentations of the candidates are prepared. Such presentations require pathetic expressions or laconic summaries of the candidate’s qualities. Some are given below in the figure.

Figure 12. Rhetorical and communicative techniques used in the conclusion

Rhetorical and communicative techniques used in the conclusion

Assignments to students:

Write the conclusion. Formulate the messages, the appeals. Make a spectacular end to the speech. Choose which rhetorical techniques are appropriate for the speech.

Choose which option for the main body is appropriate to the genre, purpose, audience, situation, occasion, experience of the speaker. Write a first option.

Edit the text of the speech.

Rehearse the speech first by reading, then by supporting phrases in the text, and finally by speaking.

There are different options for structuring speech. Some of them are presented briefly and through figures below.

The first one is called pyramid. The speaker starts with the less significant, moves on to more important facts and allocates a central place – in the middle of the speech – for the most important. This model is suitable for speakers with little experience and allows in the middle of the speech to concentrate and communicate what is important. It also assumes that the audience’s attention is not exhausted yet, but is waning, and so information is communicated that complements that which is most essential from the middle of the speech.

Figure 13. Structure of speech according to the Pyramid model

Structure of speech according to the Pyramid model

In the concentric circle model there are several variants.

One is to start from the general to the particular, e.g. with definitions and clarification of concepts, and then to present arguments, facts and go into depth into the issues in stages. In this way, a terminological matrix emerges, completeness and comprehensiveness are achieved. This is an appropriate model for academic communication in scientific circles or for public communication in international organisations.

The second option is again to start from the general to the particular, for example by clarifying what ecology is; then moving on to outlining factors and violations of environmental norms and only at the next ’round’ moving on to presenting ways to overcome them, and so on. In this way there is a logical structure and one goes into depth into the subject matter and issues.

This is an appropriate model of speaking to educated people who occupy decision-making positions and prefer clarity in presentation and completeness in information.

Figure 14. Structure of speech according to the “Concentric Circle” model

Structure of speech according to the “Concentric Circle” model

In the chronology and anaphoric information presentation model, years are presented first. Then specific information is given. Starting with facts, the speech moves on to phenomena, processes and trends. Successes, achievements, sustainability are then reported.

This approach is appropriate when reporting on projects or individual stages of business plans to internal and external audiences, to evaluation committees.

Figure 15. Structure of the Chronology model speech

Structure of the Chronology model speech

In the ascending ladder model, speeches are prepared and delivered in which emotion and pathos dominate.

These are speeches with different functions: exhorting, inspiring, motivating, agitating, harangue, praising, thanking, etc. They are delivered on solemn occasions of personal and public nature.

These are also speeches that are delivered in times of war, protests, demonstrations, etc.

Figure 16. Speech structure according to the “Ascending Ladder” model

Speech structure according to the “Ascending Ladder” model

In the three theses/arguments-three arguments model, speeches are prepared and delivered in which there is a balance between emotion, logos and ethos.

These are speeches with different functions, but the main ones are informing and persuading.

These speeches are delivered on business occasions as well as at various public and business events etc.

Figure 17. Structure of the speech according to the model “Three theses/claims by three arguments”

Structure of the speech according to the model “Three theses/claims by three arguments”

Websites for reading, pronouncing, preparing, writing and delivering speeches

– A useful website is How to Write a Speech http://www.write-out-loud.com/howtowritespeech.html. It has permanent links and useful information on how to write and deliver different types of speeches and what the speaker’s behaviour should be.

– Variations of speeches and guidance on how to write and deliver them can be found and read at My Speech Class – Writing the Conclusion of a Speech – http://www.speech-writers.com/?gclid=CLec_NDaoqMCFQQgZwodVhwH3w.

– Useful and very well-structured information is provided at http://www.speech-topics-help.com/ways-to-end-a-speech.html. Again, the information here is useful for self-study or for reference in the presence of permanent links, well-presented tips and samples.

– Business speeches can be found, seen, listened to and read at https://www.trendhunter.com/course/business-model-presentation.

– The Insider website has samples of speeches too. 18 valuable pieces of advice from the best graduation speeches of all time. Rachel Gillett, Richard Feloni , and Erin McDowell Jun 15, 2021, 4:42 PM. https://www.businessinsider.com/the-best-graduation-speeches-of-all-time-2016-6.

– Sample speeches can be found on Vogue’s website. Culture. 16 Best Graduation Speeches That Leave a Lasting Impression Inspiration from the best commencement speeches ever. Kristi Kellogg, Noor Brara, April 17, 2020. https://www.teenvogue.com/story/best-graduation-speeches-examples-ideas.

– Another well-established media outlet like CNN features some of the best speeches given by celebrities at college and university graduation ceremonies.

– From Obama to Steve Jobs: The greatest commencement speeches of all time. Tom Page and Sana Noor Haq, CNN. Updated 1029 GMT (1829 HKT) May 13, 021, https://edition.cnn.com/2021/05/13/world/most-memorable-commencement-speeches-spc-intl/index.html.

– A media outlet of the stature of Forbes publishes speeches of this genre, again following tradition and recognizing their importance in contemporary society and in the academic tradition. The Best Commencement Speeches Of 2020. May 16, 2020,10:57pm https://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2020/05/16/the-best-commencement-speeches-of-2020/.

– Traditions continue, and a medium like Future – Finance also includes samples of such speeches: The 10 best graduation speeches ever. https://www.futurefinance.com/blog/the-10-best-graduation-speeches-ever/.

– Videos of speeches at the Grammy Awards and the Academy Awards. Elle magazine has published 15 Of The Most Iconic And Memorable Oscars Acceptance Speeches Of All Time. From the hilarious to the tear-jerkers. Olivia Blair. 04/23/2021/. https://www.elle.com/uk/life-and-culture/a36197012/oscars-speeches/.

  • It is evident that words spoken at events in various fields (business, science, education) can be seen and heard on various websites. They can be read at the initial stage of training, and at a later stage, in the rhetorical studies part, they can also be the object of analysis.

Project RHEFINE – Rhetoric for Innovative Education, Number 2020-1-PL01-KA203-082274, Erasmus+ Programme, Key Action 2, Cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices – Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education.


University of Warsaw – Poland – coordinator

Institute of Rhetoric and Communication – Bulgaria

University of Zagreb – Croatia