A Five-Step Model for Speech Preparation

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In the introductory human communication course or public speaking course, it can be challenging for students to see speech preparation as a developmental process. Many students come into introductory courses having done oral presentations for other academic classes. For example, they may have had a presentation assignment in an art history or business class. As a result, these students are accustomed to planning their speeches and presentations by using a PowerPoint template or simply writing down a “grocery list” of topics to cover.


How to Prepare a Speech in 5 Steps


To encourage students to be more intentional in their speech preparation, I teach a five-step model: Think, Investigate, Compose, Rehearse, and Revise. Think about your topic and audience; investigate or research the topic; compose an outline; rehearse your speech, and revise the outline according to feedback received from your rehearsal. This five-step model for planning a speech is the basis for both lessons and learning activities.

Teaching Students this Speech Preparation Process

Students are expected to apply this five-step model in preparing their speech assignment and to make their preparation visible through a portfolio assignment. Specifically, written documentation of how the student has applied each of the five steps is organized into a folder and submitted for grading. Figure 1 below outlines the five-step model along with the type of evidence to be included in the portfolio.


The portfolio assignment encourages students to be more intentional in developing their speeches and helps them see speech-making as a developmental process. Additionally, it provides instructors with a complete “snapshot” of the preparation that went into the speech, which then supports meaningful and constructive feedback to students.


Five Steps in Making Your Speech Preparation Visible (Rubric Model)





  • Brainstorm inspiration for the topic
  • Analyze the situation and the audience
  • Narrow the topic
  • Develop a working thesis statement

Brainstormed list or written rationale for topic choice.

Complete audience analysis survey.

Written notes that show the process of narrowing a topic and the development of a working thesis statement.


  • Locate resources:  articles, books and websites
  • Keep research cards or notes with bibliographic citations
  • Frame your thesis statement

Sampling of search terms, bibliographic citations, and notes to show research efforts.

Final thesis statement.


  • Identify main points and supporting material
  • Develop a working draft of the outline of the speech body
  • Prepare introduction and conclusion
  • Develop a polished draft of the speech outline
  • Prepare presentation aids


Preparation outline drafts.

Notes or outline drafts of speech introduction and conclusion.

Notes on possible presentation aids.


  • Prepare necessary speech notes
  • Give the speech aloud
  • Practice with presentation aids
  • Work on vocal and nonverbal delivery
  • Obtain feedback from another person

Drafts of speaker notes or delivery outline.

Date/time record of rehearsal efforts.

Written summary or notes from another

person on rehearsal feedback. 



  • Develop a final speech outline as indicated by practice feedback


Final speech outline.


What advice or lesson plans do you use for helping your students prepare for oral presentations? Let us know in the comments below!

For more information on this and other communication topics, please see Choices and Connections, Third Edition, by Joseph Ortiz and Steven McCornack, newly available at macmillanlearning.com.

About the Author
Dr. Ortiz has taught for over 30 years, beginning in 1983 at Clovis Community College (NM). He joined the Scottsdale Community College faculty in 1989, where he teaches courses on human communication, interpersonal and small group communication, and digital storytelling. In support of student learning, Dr. Ortiz is heavily involved in the use of classroom assessment tools, service learning, collaborative learning methods, and the use of online technology. A campus leader, he has served as chair of the Fine Arts Division, faculty senate president, and interim Associate Dean of Instruction. Dr. Ortiz is the recipient of peer-nominated outstanding teaching awards at Clovis Community College (formerly Eastern New Mexico University at Clovis) and Scottsdale Community College. Additionally, he has been recognized as a Master Teacher by the National Institute of Staff and Organization Development. Dr. Ortiz holds a BS degree in Speech from Lamar University (TX), an MA in Communication from Eastern New Mexico University, and an Ed D in Higher and Adult Education from Arizona State University. Dr. Ortiz is an author on Choices and Connections, the second edition of which published in 2017.