77 Guidelines for Preparing an Informative Speech

Learning Objectives

After reading this chapter, the student will be able to:

  1. Recognize opinion versus factual information.
  2. Recognize the different types of informative speeches.
  3. Decide on the best organizational approach for types of informative speeches.
  4. Follow proven guidelines for preparing an informative speech.
  5. Construct an informative speech.

Guidelines for Preparing an Informative Speech

Don’t Be Too Broad

In preparing and writing an informative speech, one of the most common mistakes students make is to think that they must be comprehensive in covering their topic, which isn’t realistic. Take for example an informative speech on Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was 56 years old when he died, so to think that it is possible to cover his entire life’s story in 5 to 7 minutes is un-realistic. As discussed in Chapter 4, the better option is to select three aspects of his life and focus on those as a way to provide an overall picture of who he was. So a proposed speech on Lincoln might have the specific purpose: “To inform my audience about Abraham Lincoln’s administration of the Civil War.” This is still a huge topic in that massive books have been written about it, but it could be addressed in three or four main points such as:

  1. The Civil War began in the aftermath of Lincoln’s Election and Inauguration
  2. Finding the right military leaders for the Union was his major challenge at the beginning.
  3. The Emancipation Proclamation changed the nature of the War.
  4. Lincoln adopted a policy that led to the North’s victory.

Regardless of the topic, you will never be able to cover everything that is known about your topic, so don’t try. Select the things that will best help the audience gain a general understanding of the topic, that will interest them, and that they hopefully will find valuable. Providing too much detail on a topic will only serve to dilute the really important points being made and give you less time to expand on what the audience might find the most interesting.

Be Accurate, Clear, and Interesting

A good informative speech conveys accurate information to the audience in a way that is clear and that keeps the listener interested in the topic. Achieving all three of these goals—accuracy, clarity, and interest—is the key to being an effective speaker. If information is inaccurate, incomplete, or unclear, it will be of limited usefulness to the audience.

Part of being accurate is making sure that your information is current. Even if you know a great deal about your topic or wrote a good paper on the topic in a high school course, you will need to verify the accuracy and completeness of what you know, especially if it is medical or scientific information. Most people understand that technology changes rapidly, so you need to update your information almost constantly. The same is true for topics that, on the surface, may seem to require less updating. For example, the Civil War occurred over 150 years ago, but contemporary research still offers new and emerging theories about the causes of the war and its long-term effects. So even with a topic that seems to be unchanging, carefully check the information to be sure it’s accurate and up to date.

What defines “interesting?” In approaching the informative speech, you should keep in mind the good overall principle that the audience is asking, “what’s in it for me?” The audience is either consciously or unconsciously wondering “What in this topic for me? How can I use this information? Of what value is this speech content to me? Why should I listen to it?” One reason this textbook uses examples of the Civil War is that the authors’ college is located by several Civil War sites and even a major battlefield. Students see reminders of the Civil War on a regular basis.

You might consider it one of the jobs of the introduction to directly or indirectly answer these questions. If you can’t, then you need to think about your topic and why you are addressing it. If it’s only because the topic is interesting to you, you are missing the point. For example, why should we know about Abraham Lincoln’s administration of the Civil War? Obviously, because it had significant, long-term consequences to us as Americans, and you should articulate that in terms the audience can understand.

Keep in Mind Audience Diversity

Finally, remember that not everyone in your audience is the same, so an informative speech should be prepared with audience diversity in mind. If the information in a speech is too complex or too simplistic, it will not hold the interest of the listeners. Determining the right level of complexity can be hard. Audience analysis is one important way to do this (see Chapter 2). Do the members of your audience belong to different age groups? Did they all go to public schools in the United States, or are some them international students? Are they all students majoring in the same subject, or is there a mixture of majors? Never assume that just because an audience is made up of students, they all share a knowledge set.


Learning how to give informative speeches will serve you well in your college career and your future work. Keep in mind the principles in this chapter but also those of the previous chapters: relating to the informational needs of the audience, using clear structure, and incorporating interesting and attention-getting supporting evidence.

Something to Think About

Here are three general topics for informative speeches. Write specific purposes for them and explain how you would answer the WIIFM question.

  1. Type 1 diabetes
  2. The psychological effects of using social media
  3. Guitars

Two outlines for informative speeches are provided on the following pages. They utilize slightly different formats; other outline formats are included in one of the appendices. Your instructor will let you know which one he or she prefers or will provide another format.

Sample Outline: Informative Speech on Lord Byron

By Shannon Stanley

Specific Purpose: To inform my audience about the life of George Gordon, Lord Byron.

Central Idea: George Gordon, Lord Byron overcame physical hardships, was a world-renowned poet, and an advocate for the Greek’s war for freedom.


  1. 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.
    1. This is one of the many hurdles that George Gordon, better known as Lord Byron, overcame during his childhood.
    2. Lord Byron was also a talented poet with the ability to transform his life into the words of his poetry.
    3. Byron became a serious poet by the age of fifteen and he was first published in 1807 at the age of nineteen.
    4. 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’s war for independence.
    5. While many of you have probably never heard of Lord Byron, his life and written work will become more familiar to you when you take Humanities 1201, as I learned when I took it last semester.


  1. Lord Byron was born on January 22, 1788 to Captain John Byron and Catherine Gordon Byron.
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.”
    5. Although Lord Byron had many obstacles to overcome during his childhood, he became a world renowned poet by the age of 24.
  2. 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.
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. Although Lord Byron is mostly known for his talents as a poet, he was also an advocate for the Greek’s war for independence.
  3. Lord Byron, after his self-imposed exile from England, took the side of the Greek’s in their war for freedom from Turkish rule.
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.


  1. 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.
    1. I have chosen not to focus on Lord Byron’s more liberal way of life, but rather to focus on his accomplishments in life.
    2. He was a man who owed no loyalty to Greece, yet gave his life to support their cause.
    3. 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.”


Garrett, M. (2000). George Gordon, Lord Byron. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Gregory, H. (1969). Poems of George Gordon, Lord Byron. New York, NY: Thomas Y. Crowell Company.

Trueblood, P. G. (1969). Lord Byron. (S. E. Bowman, Ed.). New York, NY: Twayne Publishers.

Sample Outline: Informative Speech on Haunted Places in Gettysburg

By Leslie Dean

Specific Purpose: To inform my classmates of specific places in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, that are considered to be haunted.

Introduction: Do you believe in paranormal activity? Have you ever been to a place that is haunted? My personal opinion on this subject matter is open to question; however, there are a lot of people that have had firsthand encounters with the paranormal. Throughout the world there are countless places that are considered to be haunted by tormented souls that still lurk among us in search of a way to free their souls. Most places that claim to be haunted are intertwined with tales of battles and as a result many fatalities. Tragic times in history make for the perfect breeding grounds for the haunted places that exist today.

Thesis/Preview: Gettysburg is a city that is plagued by historical events that play a role in the manifestations that haunt Gettysburg today. These include locations at The Devil’s Den, Little Round Top, and the Hummelbaugh House.

  1. The Devil’s Den is considered a site for paranormal activity.
    1. The Devil’s Den has historical significance retained during the American Civil War.
      1. Location held heavy fighting during battle that took place on July 2, of 1863.
      2. The total death toll estimated during battle consisted of 800 for the Union and more than 1,800 for the Confederates.
    2. Some reported paranormal activity at the Devil’s Den.
      1. According to author, consultant, and lecturer Dennis William Hauck, he states in his book Haunted Places that if you stand outside at the Devil’s Den there can be the sounds of drum rolls and gunshots heard.
      2. According to many visitors there have been many people that claim to have seen and/or taken pictures of and had conversations with a friendly soldier who either disappears or doesn’t show up in photographs.

Transition: Spooky, unexplainable things happen at the Devil’s Den but there is also paranormal activity in another area of Gettysburg, Little Round Top.

  1. Another location said to be haunted is Little Round Top.
    1. Little Round Top’s historical significance.
      1. A site where Union soldiers held up to maintain an advantage over the Confederate soldiers.
      2. According to James Brann, an author from Civil War Magazine, this was a site Union Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain led his 20th Maine Regiment in perhaps the most famous counterattack of the Civil War.
    2. Manifestations at Little Round Top.
      1. During filming of the movie Gettysburg (1993), extras portraying Union soldiers were greeted by a man in the uniform of a Union private.
        1. Handed them musket rounds.
        2. Actual rounds that dated back to the Civil War.
      2. Ghostly solders can still be seen marching in formation and riding horses in the fight against their enemy.

Transition: It seems that a lot of landmarks are haunted but there are also structures known to be stricken with paranormal activity.

  1. Hummelbaugh House is a non-battlefield place for ghost-sightings.
    1. Historical significance of Hummelbaugh House.
      1. The house is located on the east side of the city and was just behind the Union lines.
      2. It was used for a hospital and because of the times amputated limbs would be thrown out the windows resulting in a huge pile of body parts.
    2. Paranormal activity at the house.
      1. The windows in the house often startle people with loud vibrations.
      2. The calls for help from soldiers can still be heard in and around the house.

Conclusion: In closing, according to History.com the Battle of Gettysburg was one of the biggest in the Civil War, resulting in over 150,000 causalities. With these statistics it is no surprise that lost souls still lurk the eerie grounds of this historical place. Whether it is vibrating windows or actual encounters with soldiers from 1863, Gettysburg has more than enough encounters with the paranormal to convince the biggest of doubters. Going to Gettysburg would guarantee a chance to literally step back in time and encounter something that is only remembered in history books. So believer in the paranormal or not, Gettysburg is a place to go to experience a part of history whether it be historical sites or a random run in with a ghostly soldier.


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