Perdue                                                                                                                                                                                                           ENGL-310




Goals & Assumptions: The aim of your first speech is to enlighten or entertain us with a story. We start with a story because it’s the most familiar format; we’re always telling stories! In addition, story is a regular part of many types of speeches, whether they’re told at a family gathering or a political convention. Mastering the art of storytelling is to master one of the most important aspects of giving a speech. We also start with a personal story in order to continue the process of shaping this class into a supportive community.


Assignment: Your mission, therefore, is to tell us about an event or person that has shaped your life or that illustrates some aspect of who you are. Or, tell us a story about something or someone that has caught your attention. Or, tell us a story that illustrates some moral or lesson that you find important, useful, or true in your life.


Essentials to Consider: Pay attention to these as you prepare your speech.


  1. Find a topic: use your personal inventory and check out the suggestions of friends and family.
  2. Clarify your story. Run through it orally or write it down in order to fine-tune it and chop any unnecessary details.
  3. Arrange story events in a logical order to make sure it’s clear from start to finish. Don’t lose us with backtracking or parenthetical comments.
  4. Use effective opening and closing. Try suspense. Try tying the end of the story to its start.
  5. Prepare your note cards. Write down key words and phrases. Try colored pens to indicate different parts.
  6. Use visual aids (optional). Make it big. Keep it simple.
  7. Practice and time your speech. Practice at least twice with real people. Ask for feedback, suggestions. Make sure your speech fits in the time limit, and if it doesn’t, tailor it to fit the limit. This is a dumb way to lose points otherwise.


Evaluation Criteria: As you plan your story, consider the following criteria.


  1. Open with an attention-getter. Grab your audience’s attention from the start. Suspense is one very good way of doing this; so is asking questions.
  2. Develop a clear plot line. Tell us what happened in a coherent time sequence.
  3. Build to a climax or punch line. There should be a turning point, or highlight, to the action. It’s usually why you remember and tell the story in the first place.
  4. Make the characters real. Use names and descriptive terms. “Joe, a muscular 20 year old,” is more meaningful than “a man.” Dialogue also makes your story come alive—especially if you play with dialect to reveal character.
  5. When you’ve finished your story, give us a wrap-up. Perhaps there’s a moral to the story or a lesson you’ve learned. Don’t leave the audience wondering whether you’ve finished.


Time Requirement: 3-4 minutes. This gives you a 2-5 minute time frame, outside of which you lose points. Practice, practice, PRACTICE! (In case you didn’t get the message yet).


Delivery Style: Informal. This is a good speech to use a note card or two because it’s relatively short. However, don’t be fooled by that shortness; even if you think you won’t need note cards, do them anyhow. Pull them from your outline. Do not try to memorize your story no matter how confident and experienced you are, or how many times you’ve told the story. Something may happen in the middle of your story, and your mind could go blank. Don’t torture us and yourself!


Outline & Bibliography: I know—it’s weird to outline a story, but do it anyhow. It’s good practice—and worth 25 points. Note that this is a formal, full-sentence outline that almost writes out everything you’re going to say. That’s so you’ve thought it all out completely ahead of time. Check out pp. 42-43 for an example of what I’m after here. Do this outline even if you do note cards because note cards will contain way less information (for note card samples, check out p. 49).


If you borrow a story from another source, give that source credit in a “Work Cited” entry. (I’ll consult on format as needed.)


Presentational Aids: Optional. If they help you or the story, use them. Keep ‘em simple.


Due: Mon. 1/30 and Wed. 2/1


My Speech Date:  Record the day you sign up for so you don’t forget!


Remember, if you sign up for the last day, you owe me and your classmates an early sign-up later. And if you sign up for the first day, you need to take a turn on the last day.