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As the previous article explained the first important section of your impromptu notebook – The Story Log –  this article will continue the discussion of what to put into your notebook by explaining the Outline List. 

The goal of the Outline List is to provide you with a variety of formats that you can use to organize your speech! Once you have selected your topic, the next step of the process is for you to decide how you want to approach the precious five minutes of speaking time that you have. To do this, the first thing that you will need to know is how you intend to organize it. This is the job of the Outline List. As you begin to practice with your impromptu notebook, you will be able to turn to this section of your Impromptu Notebook and select whichever outline you believe will best help you approach your topic. Hopefully, with enough practice, you will become familiar enough with all of your outlines that you will no longer need to reference your Impromptu Notebook!

Without further explanation, let’s begin our analysis of outlines by starting with… 

1. Geographical  

When you use this outline, you will approach your topic by breaking it down into two to four locationally based points. For example, if I received the topic of “Plants”, I could use this outline by making three points of: 1) Plants in Asia 2) Plants in the Americas 3) Plants in Africa. With this organization, you can see that the uniqueness of each section of my speech centers on where it is located in the world. The locations can also be framed from a smaller perspective as well. If I received the topic of “Family” I could talk about mine by creatively using the Geographical outline. My points would be 1)The Kitchen 2)The Pool 3)The Movie Room. In each point, I would talk about the family members I have that I associate with that location in the house. 

2. Chronological

This outline approaches your topic through the lens of time. You will break down your topic by selecting three major points in time that will help you to significantly develop and analyze it. For example, if I received the topic “Knowledge is power”, I could analyze how that quote might have been viewed in three different time eras. My outline could be 1)The 1600s 2)The 1700s 3) The 1800s. In each point, I would focus on how the major thinkers of that century used knowledge as power. 

3. Logically 

The idea behind this outline can be extremely useful if the topic you have been given already has a main idea. Quotes and common phrases make a great pairing with this outline. To use this format, your goal is to break down the idea of the topic into three main components that will help the audience better understand the ultimate meaning of the topic. For example, when analyzing the prompt “When pigs fly”, the use of a logical outline could possibly create the following: 1)The Elements of the Phrase 2)The Meaning 3)The Application. Within this outline, you can see that the logical approach has broken down the core idea of the prompt through an explanation that ultimately ended with an action. 

As you become more familiar with these categories, I hope that you start to realize that there is a wide variety of methods and lenses that you can view each one with. To give you some ideas of what these can look like, I have listed a couple of them below… 

– Biographically

If you use a biographical application, you would utilize your geographical, chronological, etc. outline through the lens of a biography by centering your analysis around a person. Your points could consist of three major events in that time or three different locations that were important to the life of that person. For example, if my topic was “There is hope. Even when your brain tells you there isn’t” (John Green), I could analyze it by reviewing the life of a notable figure, Louie Zamperini would have probably been my first choice in high school. My outline may have looked like the following: 1)Louie Entering WWII 2) Louie Becomes a Prisoner of War. 3) Louie is Freed by the Allies. 

– Progressively 

Though this lens is very different from the concept of the biographical, it is still a useful tool worth considering! This lens examines the prompt (from a geographical, chronological, does not matter!) through the progression of increasing the scope, effect, or even seriousness. For example, if I received the prompt “Computer” I could examine it chronologically through the scope of how the size has progressively developed. Each point in the outline could cover a different stage of the history of the computer by focusing on how the size of the computer has changed. 

Thanks for sticking around this long and reading this post! I understand if conceptual elements of practice can seem a bit boring or meaningless, but I encourage you to take this idea for a little spin! Start coming up with your own unique ways to view the three fundamental lenses of a speech and record them within your impromptu notebook!

Jala Boyer has earned numerous 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place medals and competed at the NCFCA National Championship in five categories. As an intern on the Student Advisory Council of the NCFCA, Jala worked alongside the executive director, Kim Cromer, to learn the inner workings of competitive speech and debate, helping students create long-term and meaningful success. Jala is currently an Honors student at Liberty University studying communications with an emphasis in politics. To book a coaching session with Jala, follow this link https://www.ethosdebate.com/ coaching/book-coach/

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