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15.3: Organizing and Supporting an Informative Speech

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    Learning Objectives

    1. Identify strategies for researching and supporting informative speeches.
    2. Explain the different methods of informing.
    3. Look at the way to organize and outline your informative speeches.

    You can already see that informing isn’t as easy as we may initially think. To effectively teach, a speaker must present quality information in an organized and accessible way. Once you have chosen an informative speech topic and put your research skills to the test in order to locate novel and engaging information, it’s time to organize and support your speech.

    Organizational Patterns

    Three organizational patterns that are particularly useful for informative speaking are topical, chronological, and spatial. As you’ll recall, to organize a speech topically, you break a larger topic down into logical subdivisions. An informative speech about labor unions could focus on unions in three different areas of employment, three historically significant strikes, or three significant legal/legislative decisions. Speeches organized chronologically trace the development of a topic or overview the steps in a process. An informative speech could trace the rise of the economic crisis in Greece or explain the steps in creating a home compost pile. Speeches organized spatially convey the layout or physical characteristics of a location or concept. An informative speech about the layout of a fire station or an astrology wheel would follow a spatial organization pattern.

    Methods of Informing

    There are some specific ways to go about developing ideas within informative speeches. Speakers often inform an audience using definitions, descriptions, demonstrations, and explanations. It is likely that a speaker will combine these methods of informing within one speech, but a speech can also be primarily organized using one of these methods.

    Informing through Definition

    Informing through definition entails defining concepts clearly and concisely and is an important skill for informative speaking. There are several ways a speaker can inform through definition: synonyms and antonyms, use or function, example, and etymology (Verderber, 1991). Defining a concept using a synonym or an antonym is a short and effective way to convey meaning. Synonyms are words that have the same or similar meanings, and antonyms are words that have opposite meanings. In a speech about how to effectively inform an audience, I would claim that using concrete words helps keep an audience engaged. I could enhance your understanding of what concrete means by defining it with synonyms like tangible and relatable. Or I could define concrete using antonyms like abstract and theoretical.

    Identifying the use or function of an object, item, or idea is also a short way of defining it. We may think we already know the use and function of most of the things we interact with regularly. This is true in obvious cases like cars, elevators, and smartphones. But there are many objects and ideas that we may rely on and interact with but not know the use or function. For example, QR codes (or quick response codes) are popping up in magazines, at airports, and even on t-shirts (Vuong, 2011). Many people may notice them but not know what they do. As a speaker, you could define QR codes by their function by informing the audience that QR codes allow businesses, organizations, and individuals to get information to consumers/receivers through a barcode-like format that can be easily scanned by most smartphones.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): An informative speaker could teach audience members about QR codes by defining them based on their use or function. Douglas Muth – My QR Code – CC BY-SA 2.0.

    A speaker can also define a topic using examples, which are cited cases that are representative of a larger concept. In an informative speech about anachronisms in movies and literature, a speaker might provide the following examples: the film Titanic shows people on lifeboats using flashlights to look for survivors from the sunken ship (such flashlights weren’t invented until two years later) (The Past in Pictures, 2012); Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar includes a reference to a clock, even though no mechanical clocks existed during Caesar’s time (Scholasticus K., 2012). Examples are a good way to repackage information that’s already been presented to help an audience retain and understand the content of a speech. Later we’ll learn more about how repackaging information enhances informative speaking.

    Etymology refers to the history of a word. Defining by etymology entails providing an overview of how a word came to its current meaning. The Oxford English Dictionary is the best source for finding etymology and often contains interesting facts that can be presented as novel information to better engage your audience. For example, the word assassin, which refers to a person who intentionally murders another, literally means “hashish-eater” and comes from the Arabic word hashshashin. The current meaning emerged during the Crusades as a result of the practices of a sect of Muslims who would get high on hashish before killing Christian leaders—in essence, assassinating them (Oxford English Dictionary Online, 2012).

    Informing through Description

    As the saying goes, “Pictures are worth a thousand words.” Informing through description entails creating verbal pictures for your audience. Description is also an important part of informative speeches that use a spatial organizational pattern since you need to convey the layout of a space or concept. Good descriptions are based on good observations, as they convey what is taken in through the senses and answer these types of questions: What did that look like? Smell like? Sound like? Feel like? Taste like? If descriptions are vivid and well written, they can actually invoke a sensory reaction in your audience. Just as your mouth probably begins to salivate when I suggest that you imagine biting into a fresh, bright yellow, freshly cut, juicy lemon wedge, so can your audience be transported to a setting or situation through your descriptions. I once had a student set up his speech about the history of streaking by using the following description: “Imagine that you are walking across campus to your evening class. You look up to see a parade of hundreds upon hundreds of your naked peers jogging by wearing little more than shoes.”

    Informing through Demonstration

    When informing through demonstration, a speaker gives verbal directions about how to do something while also physically demonstrating the steps. Early morning infomercials are good examples of demonstrative speaking, even though they are also trying to persuade us to buy their “miracle product.” Whether straightforward or complex, it’s crucial that a speaker be familiar with the content of their speech and the physical steps necessary for the demonstration. Speaking while completing a task requires advanced psycho-motor skills that most people can’t wing and therefore need to practice. Tasks suddenly become much more difficult than we expect when we have an audience. Have you ever had to type while people are reading along with you? Even though we type all the time, even one extra set of eyes seems to make our fingers more clumsy than usual.

    Television chefs are excellent examples of speakers who frequently inform through demonstration. While many of them make the process of speaking while cooking looks effortless, it took much practice over many years to make viewers think it is effortless.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): Television chefs inform through demonstration. Although they make it seem easy, it is complex and difficult. Gordonramsaysubmissions – Gordon Ramsay 7 – CC BY 2.0.

    Part of this practice also involves meeting time limits. Since television segments are limited and chefs may be demonstrating and speaking live, they have to be able to adapt as needed. Demonstration speeches are notorious for going over time, especially if speakers haven’t practiced with their visual aids/props. Be prepared to condense or edit as needed to meet your time limit. The reality competition show, The Next Food Network Star, captures these difficulties, as many experienced cooks who have the content knowledge and know-how to physically complete their tasks fall apart when faced with a camera challenge because they just assumed they could speak and cook at the same time.

    Tips for Demonstration Speeches

    1. Include personal stories and connections to the topic, in addition to the “how-to” information, to help engage your audience.
    2. Ask for audience volunteers (if appropriate) to make the demonstration more interactive.
    3. Include a question-and-answer period at the end (if possible) so audience members can ask questions and seek clarification.
    4. Follow an orderly progression. Do not skip around or backtrack when reviewing the steps.
    5. Use clear signposts like first, second, and third.
    6. Use orienting material like internal previews and reviews, and transitions.
    7. Group steps together in categories, if needed, to help make the information more digestible.
    8. Assess the nonverbal feedback of your audience. Review or slow down if audience members look lost or confused.
    9. Practice with your visual aids/props many times. Things suddenly become more difficult and complicated than you expect when an audience is present.
    10. Practice for time and have contingency plans if you need to edit some information out to avoid going over your time limit.

    Informing through Explanation

    Informing through explanation entails sharing how something works, how something came to be, or why something happened. This method of informing may be useful when a topic is too complex or abstract to demonstrate. When presenting complex information make sure to break the topic up into manageable units, avoid information overload, and include examples that make the content relevant to the audience. Informing through explanation works well with speeches about processes, events, and issues. For example, a speaker could explain the context surrounding the Lincoln-Douglas debates or the process that takes place during presidential primaries.

    “Getting Plugged In”

    TED Talks as a Model of Effective Informative Speaking

    Over the past few years, I have heard more and more public speaking teachers mention their use of TED speeches in their classes. What started in 1984 as a conference to gather people involved in Technology, Entertainment, and Design has now turned into a worldwide phenomenon that is known for its excellent speeches and presentations, many of which are informative in nature.[1] The motto of TED is “Ideas worth spreading,” which is in keeping with the role that we should occupy as informative speakers. We should choose topics that are worth speaking about and then work to present them in such a way that audience members leave with “take-away” information that is informative and useful. TED fits in with the purpose of the “Getting Plugged In” feature in this book because it has been technology-focused from the start. For example, Andrew Blum’s speech focuses on the infrastructure of the Internet, and Pranav Mistry’s speech focuses on a new technology he developed that allows for more interaction between the physical world and the world of data. Even speakers who don’t focus on technology still skillfully use technology in their presentations, as is the case with David Gallo’s speech about exotic underwater life. Here are links to all these speeches:

    1. What can you learn from the TED model and/or TED speakers that will help you be a better informative speaker?
    2. In what innovative and/or informative ways do the speakers reference or incorporate technology in their speeches?

    Example Outlines

    Sample Speech 1

    Title: Going Green in the World of Education

    General Purpose: To inform

    Specific Purpose: By the end of my speech, the audience will be able to describe some ways in which schools are going green.

    Thesis Statement: The green movement has transformed school buildings, how teachers teach, and the environment in which students learn.


    Attention Getter: Did you know that attending or working at a green school can lead students and teachers to have fewer health problems? Did you know that allowing more daylight into school buildings increases academic performance and can lessen attention and concentration challenges? Well, the research I will cite in my speech supports both of these claims, and these are just two of the many reasons why more schools, both grade schools, and colleges, are going green.

    Introduction of Topic: Today, I’m going to inform you about the green movement that is affecting many schools.

    Credibility and Relevance: Because of my own desire to go into the field of education, I decided to research how schools are going green in the United States. But it’s not just current and/or future teachers that will be affected by this trend. As students at Eastern Illinois University, you are already asked to make “greener” choices. Whether it’s the little signs in the dorm rooms that ask you to turn off your lights when you leave the room, the reusable water bottles that were given out on move-in day, or even our new Renewable Energy Center, the list goes on and on. Additionally, younger people in our lives, whether they be future children or younger siblings, or relatives, will likely be affected by this continuing trend.

    Preview Statement: In order to better understand what makes a “green school,” we need to learn about how K–12 schools are going green, how college campuses are going green, and how these changes affect students and teachers.

    Transition: I’ll begin with how K–12 schools are going green.


    I. According to the “About Us” section on their official website, the US Green Building Council was established in 1993 with the mission to promote sustainability in the building and construction industry, and it is this organization that is responsible for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, which is a well-respected green building certification system.

    A. While homes, neighborhoods, and businesses can also pursue LEED certification, I’ll focus today on K–12 schools and college campuses.

    1. It’s important to note that principles of “going green” can be applied to the planning of a building from its first inception or be retroactively applied to existing buildings.

    a. A 2011 article by Ash in Education Week notes that the pathway to creating a greener school is flexible based on the community and its needs.

    i. In order to garner support for green initiatives, the article recommends that local leaders like superintendents, mayors, and college administrators become involved in the green movement.                                                                                                       ii. Once local leaders are involved, the community, students, parents, faculty, and staff can be involved by serving on a task force, hosting a summit or conference, and implementing lessons about sustainability into everyday conversations and school curriculum.

    b. The US Green Building Council’s website also includes a tool kit with a lot of information about how to “green” existing schools.

    2. Much of the efforts to green schools have focused on K–12 schools and districts, but what makes a school green?

    a. According to the US Green Building Council’s Center for Green Schools, green school buildings conserve energy and natural resources.

    i. For example, Fossil Ridge High School in Fort Collins, Colorado, was built in 2006 and received LEED certification because it has automatic light sensors to conserve electricity and uses wind energy to offset nonrenewable energy use.

    ii. To conserve water, the school uses a pond for irrigation, has artificial turf on athletic fields, and installed low-flow toilets and faucets.

    iii. According to the 2006 report by certified energy manager Gregory Kats titled “Greening America’s Schools,” a LEED-certified school uses 30–50 percent less energy, 30 percent less water, and reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent compared to a conventional school.

    b. The Center for Green Schools also presents case studies that show how green school buildings also create healthier learning environments.

    i. Many new building materials, carpeting, and furniture contain chemicals that are released into the air, which reduces indoor air quality.

    ii. So green schools purposefully purchase materials that are low in these chemicals.

    iii. Natural light and fresh air have also been shown to promote a healthier learning environment, so green buildings allow more daylight in and include functioning windows.

    Transition: As you can see, K–12 schools are becoming greener; college campuses are also starting to go green.

    II. Examples from the University of Denver and Eastern Illinois University show some of the potentials for greener campuses around the country.

    A. The University of Denver is home to the nation’s first “green” law school.

    1. According to the Sturm College of Law’s website, the building was designed to use 40 percent less energy than a conventional building through the use of movement-sensor lighting; high-performance insulation in the walls, floors, and roof; and infrared sensors on water faucets and toilets.

    2. Electric car recharging stations were also included in the parking garage, and the building has extra bike racks and even showers that students and faculty can use to freshen up if they bike or walk to school or work.

    B. Eastern Illinois University has also made strides toward a more green campus.

    1. Some of the dining halls on campus have gone “trayless,” which according to a 2009 article by Calder in the journal Independent School has the potential to dramatically reduce the amount of water and chemical use, since there are no longer trays to wash, and also helps reduce food waste since people take less food without a tray.

    2. The biggest change on campus has been the opening of the Renewable Energy Center in 2011, which according to EIU’s website is one of the largest biomass renewable energy projects in the country.

    a. The Renewable Energy Center uses slow-burn technology to use wood chips that are a byproduct of the lumber industry that would normally be discarded.

    b. This helps reduce our dependency on our old coal-fired power plant, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

    c. The project was the first known power plant to be registered with the US Green Building Council and is on track to receive LEED certification.

    Transition: All these efforts to go green in K–12 schools and on college campuses will obviously affect students and teachers at the schools.

    III. The green movement affects students and teachers in a variety of ways.

    A. Research shows that going green positively affects a student’s health.

    1. Many schools are literally going green by including more green spaces such as recreation areas, gardens, and greenhouses, which according to a 2010 article in the Journal of Environmental Education by University of Colorado professor Susan Strife has been shown to benefit a child’s cognitive skills, especially in the areas of increased concentration and attention capacity.

    2. Additionally, the report I cited earlier, “Greening America’s Schools,” states that the improved air quality in green schools can lead to a 38 percent reduction in asthma incidents and that students in “green schools” had 51 percent less chance of catching a cold or the flu compared to children in conventional schools.

    B. Standard steps taken to green schools can also help students academically.

    1. The report “Greening America’s Schools” notes that a recent synthesis of fifty-three studies found that more daylight in the school building leads to higher academic achievement.

    2. The report also provides data that show how a healthier environment in green schools leads to better attendance and that in Washington, DC, and Chicago, schools improved their performance on standardized tests by 3–4 percent.

    C. Going green can influence teachers’ lesson plans as well their job satisfaction and physical health.

    1. There are several options for teachers who want to “green” their curriculum.

    a. According to the article in Education Week that I cited earlier, the Sustainability Education Clearinghouse is a free online tool that provides K–12 educators with the ability to share sustainability-oriented lesson ideas.

    b. The Center for Green Schools also provides resources for all levels of teachers, from kindergarten to college, that can be used in the classroom.

    2. The report “Greening America’s Schools” claims that the overall improved working environment that a green school provides leads to higher teacher retention and less teacher turnover.

    3. Just as students see health benefits from green schools, so do teachers, as the same report shows that teachers in these schools get sick less, resulting in a decrease of sick days by 7 percent.


    Transition to conclusion and summary of importance: In summary, the going-green era has impacted every aspect of education in our school systems.

    Review of main points: From K–12 schools to college campuses like ours, to the students and teachers in the schools, the green movement is changing the way we think about education and our environment.

    Closing statement: As Glenn Cook, the editor in chief of the American School Board Journal, states on the Center for Green Schools’s website, “The green schools movement is the biggest thing to happen to education since the introduction of technology to the classroom.”

    Works Cited

    Ash, K. (2011). “Green schools” benefit budgets and students, report says. Education Week30(32), 10.

    Calder, W. (2009). Go green, save green. Independent School68(4), 90–93.

    The Center for Green Schools. (n.d.). K–12: How. Retrieved from

    Eastern Illinois University. (n.d.). Renewable Energy Center. Retrieved from

    Kats, G. (2006). Greening America’s schools: Costs and benefits. A Capital E Report. Retrieved from

    Strife, S. (2010). Reflecting on environmental education: Where is our place in the green movement? Journal of Environmental Education41(3), 179–191. doi:10.1080/00958960903295233

    Sturm College of Law. (n.d.). About DU law: Building green. Retrieved from

    USGBC. (n.d.). About us. US Green Building Council. Retrieved from


    Sample Speech 2

    Informative Speech on Lord Byron


    I. Attention Grabber: Imagine an eleven-year-old boy who has been beaten and sexually abused repeatedly by the very person who is supposed to take care of him.

    II. Reveal Topic: This is one of the many hurdles that George Gordon, better known as Lord Byron, overcame during his childhood. Lord Byron was also a talented poet with the ability to transform his life into the words of his poetry. Byron became a serious poet by the age of fifteen and he was first published in 1807 at the age of nineteen. Lord Byron was a staunch believer in freedom and equality, so he gave most of his fortune, and in the end, his very life, supporting the Greek war for independence.

    III. Credibility: I learned all about Lord Byron when I took Humanities 1201 last semester.

    IV. Today, I will discuss his childhood, poetry, and legacy.


    I. Lord Byron was born on January 22, 1788, to Captain John Byron and Catherine Gordon Byron.

    A. According to Paul Trueblood, the author of Lord Byron, Lord Byron’s father only married Catherine for her dowry, which he quickly went through, leaving his wife and child nearly penniless.

    B. By the age of two, Lord Byron and his mother had moved to Aberdeen in Scotland and shortly thereafter, his father died in France at the age of thirty-six.

    C. Lord Byron was born with a clubbed right foot, which is a deformity that caused his foot to turn sideways instead of remaining straight, and his mother had no money to seek treatment for this painful and embarrassing condition.

    1. He would become very upset and fight anyone who even spoke of his lameness. 

    2. Despite his handicap, Lord Byron was very active and liked competing with the other boys.

    D. At the age of ten, his grand-uncle died leaving him the title as the sixth Baron Byron of Rochdale.

    1. With this title, he also inherited Newstead Abbey, a dilapidated estate that was in great need of repair.

    2. Because the Abbey was in Nottinghamshire England, he and his mother moved there and stayed at the abbey until it was rented out to pay for the necessary repairs.

    3. During this time, May Gray, Byron’s nurse had already begun physically and sexually abusing him.

    4. A year passed before he finally told his guardian, John Hanson, about May’s abuse; she was fired immediately.

    5. Unfortunately the damage had already been done.

    6. In the book Lord Byron, it is stated that years later he wrote “My passions were developed very early- so early, that few would believe me if I were to state the period, and the facts which accompanied it.”

    E. Although Lord Byron had many obstacles to overcome during his childhood, he became a world-renowned poet by the age of 24.

    II. Lord Byron experienced the same emotions we all do, but he was able to express those emotions in the form of his poetry and share them with the world.

    A. According to Horace Gregory, The author of Poems of George Gordon, Lord Byron, the years from 1816 through 1824 is when Lord Byron was most known throughout Europe.

    B. But according to Paul Trueblood, Childe Harold was published in 1812 and became one of the best-selling works of literature in the 19th century.

    1. Childe Harold was written while Lord Byron was traveling through Europe after graduating from Trinity College.

    2. Many authors such as Trueblood, and Garrett, the author of George Gordon, Lord Byron, express their opinion that Childe Harold is an autobiography about Byron and his travels.

    C. Lord Byron often wrote about the ones he loved the most, such as the poem “She Walks in Beauty” written about his cousin Anne Wilmont, and “Stanzas for Music” written for his half-sister, Augusta Leigh.

    D. He was also an avid reader of the Old Testament and would write poetry about stories from the Bible that he loved.

     1. One such story was about the last king of Babylon.

    2. This poem was called the “Vision of Belshazzar,” and is very much like the bible version in the book of Daniel.

    E. Although Lord Byron is mostly known for his talents as a poet, he was also an advocate for the Greek war for independence.

    III. Lord Byron, after his self-imposed exile from England, took the side of the Greek’s in their war for freedom from Turkish rule.

    A. Byron arrived in Greece in 1823 during a civil war.

    1. The Greek’s were too busy fighting amongst themselves to come together to form a formidable army against the Turks.

    2. According to Martin Garrett, Lord Byron donated money to refit the Greek’s fleet of ships but did not immediately get involved in the situation.

    3. He had doubts as to if or when the Greek’s would ever come together and agree long enough to make any kind of a difference in their war effort.

    4. Eventually the Greek’s united and began their campaign for the Greek War of Independence.

    5. He began pouring more and more of his fortune into the Greek army and finally accepted a position to oversee a small group of men sailing to Missolonghi.

    B. Lord Byron set sail for Missolonghi in Western Greece in 1824.

    1. He took a commanding position over a small number of the Greek army despite his lack of military training.

    2. He had also made plans to attack a Turkish-held fortress but became very ill before the plans were ever carried through.

    C. Lord Byron died on April 19, 1824, at the age of 36 due to the inexperienced doctors who continued to bleed him while he suffered from a severe fever.

    1. After Lord Byron’s death, the Greek War of Independence, due to his support, received more foreign aid which led to their eventual victory in 1832.

    2. Lord Byron is hailed as a national hero by the Greek nation.

    3. Many tributes such as statues and road names have been devoted to Lord Byron since the time of his death.


    I. In conclusion, Lord Byron overcame great physical hardships to become a world-renowned poet, and is seen as a hero to the Greek nation, and is mourned by them still today. I have chosen not to focus on Lord Byron’s more liberal way of life, but rather to focus on his accomplishments in life. He was a man who owed no loyalty to Greece, yet gave his life to support their cause.

    II. Most of the world will remember Lord Byron primarily through his written attributes, but Greece will always remember him as the “Trumpet Voice of Liberty.”

    Key Takeaways

    • The four primary methods of informing are through definition, description, demonstration, or explanation.
      • Informing through definition entails defining concepts clearly and concisely using synonyms and antonyms, use or function, example, or etymology.
      • Informing through description entails creating detailed verbal pictures for your audience.
      • Informing through demonstration entails sharing verbal directions about how to do something while also physically demonstrating the steps.
      • Informing through explanation entails sharing how something works, how something came to be, or why something happened.


    1. Of the four methods of informing (through definition, description, demonstration, or explanation), which do you think is most effective for you? Why?


    Fleming, N., “The VARK Helpsheets,” accessed March 6, 2012,

    Janusik, L., “Listening Facts,” accessed March 6, 2012,

    Olbricht, T. H., Informative Speaking (Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman, 1968), 1–12.

    Oxford English Dictionary Online, accessed March 6, 2012,

    The Past in Pictures, “Teaching Using Movies: Anachronisms!” accessed March 6, 2012, www.thepastinthepictures.wild.ctoryunit!.htm.

    Scholasticus K, “Anachronism Examples in Literature,” February 2, 2012, accessed March 6, 2012,

    Society for Technical Communication, “Defining Technical Communication,” accessed March 6, 2012,

    Verderber, R., Essentials of Informative Speaking: Theory and Contexts (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1991), 3.

    Vuong, A., “Wanna Read That QR Code? Get the Smartphone App,” The Denver Post, April 18, 2011, accessed March 6, 2012,

    1. “About TED,” accessed October 23, 2012, ↵

    15.3: Organizing and Supporting an Informative Speech is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Lisa Coleman, Thomas King, & William Turner.