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Express Yourself! Public Speaking and Presentations


388-028 (4H-833NP)

Authors as Published

Penny Risdon, Extension Agent, Virginia 4-H Office, Virginia Tech

To complete this project you will need to:

  • Develop a speech or presentation.

  • Give your speech or presentation before an audience.


Public speaking is an important skill that is basic to good citizenship. Your ability to communicate effectively throughout your life will be reflected in your home, your work, and even in your community. A speech or presentation gives you the opportunity to share your ideas and knowledge with other people. In a speech you are sharing your ideas or opinions, whereas, in a presentation you are telling how to do something or how something works. 4‑H members usually use visual aids with a presentation. Your ideas and knowledge are important and should be shared to help other people learn. A speech, however, is made up of the speaker, speech, and audience and uses no props or visuals. This 4‑H publication will help you develop a speech or presentation in a step‑by‑step process.

Everyone gets a little nervous at the thought of giving a speech or presentation, even famous entertainers. The best way to reduce the nervousness is to have your speech or presentation well thought out and prepared. The step‑by‑step process in this publication will help you think through a speech or presentation. The steps in the process are shown in a chart in Figure 1. The decision‑making questions and actions to be taken in the process will help guide you in developing a speech or presentation.

In 4‑H every member gains experience when giving a speech or presentation. Though winning gives us a thrill ... of greater importance is the trying, the learning, and the knowledge gained. In preparing a 4‑H speech or presentation, you will learn how to research, evaluate, and organize facts about a topic in terms of its importance to various audiences. Most of all, you will learn much about yourself and your best style of presentation.

Step One: Recording Your Ideas

The first step is deciding what topic you want to present. If you are interested in your topic, your audience will be too, so choose a topic which interests you. If you are interested in a topic, everything you learn about it will have extra meaning for you. Any 4‑H project that you are working on would make a good topic for a speech or presentation. The way you feel about the topic and the way you express your ideas will be different from the way others would express their ideas.

Developing an idea web will help you record your ideas for your topic before they slip away. An example of an idea web about citizenship is shown in Figure 2. An idea web is a graphic organizer that illustrates the key words and concepts that you want to cover in your speech or presentation. Start your idea web by writing the topic in the center of a piece of paper. Draw a circle around it with three to five spokes. Brainstorm your topic and fill‑in the circles as main ideas come to you. A few main ideas, given with supporting and connecting facts or concepts, are better than a jumble of individual ideas. Your speech should have no more than three to five main ideas; more may confuse you and your audience. If you are just beginning public speaking, three topics are likely enough. Attach supporting details or facts to the main idea circles as they come to mind. You may find that you want to do some research on a main idea to collect facts to support the point you want to make. If you get stuck or run out of ideas, ask your friends what they would like to know about the topic.

  Figure 1. Steps In Developing A Speech Or Presentation
Step Decision Making Questions Actions To Take
Step One: Recording Your Ideas What topic interests me?
What main idea do I want to communicate?
What are the main and supporting ideas?
Choose a topic.
Write topic in center of idea web.
Write main ideas in connecting circles.
Step Two: Organizing Your Ideas What idea should I present first (second)?
What details should be added?
Does each section have an example?
Number your main ideas.
Add supporting concepts or facts.
Put your concepts into an outline.
Step Three: Thinking About Your Audience How much does the audience already know?
What’s important about this topic?
How can I relate my topic to the audience?
Consider what your audience already knows.
Consider what is important about your topic.
Develop an introduction.
Step Four: Composing Your Speech How can I introduce the main points?
Do the main ideas connect to one another?
Is there an example I can use?
Topic sentence.
Connect the main ideas.
Detail information or supporting facts.

Step Five:
(A) Speech



(B) Presentation

What main points should I summarize?
Can I draw main ideas together? What do I want my audience to remember?
Decide main points to review.
Draw main ideas together.
Develop a summary.
What main ideas do I want them to remember?
What props should I use?
Are the props large enough to be seen?
Prepare visual aids.
Select props which support your main ideas.
Practice using visual aids.
Step Six: Rehearsing Your Speech Will gestures help make a point?
Is my voice loud enough?
Have I established eye contact?
Practice speaking in front of a mirror.
Speak clearly and slowly.
Look directly at three or four people.
Figure 2: Example of An Idea Web

Step Two: Organizing Your Ideas

The next step helps you clarify your thoughts and main ideas. Decide which idea you want to present first (second), then number the main ideas on the idea web. Start thinking about examples that would support and clarify the point you wish to make. Working from your idea web, develop an outline with your key words or concepts. An outline for a citizenship speech could be as follows:


I. Introduction 



II. Democratic Process

      A. Community meetings

      B. Parliamentary procedures

      C. Sharing ideas & knowledge

III. Community Needs

      A. Identification of needs

      B. Alternative solutions

      C. Goals

      D. Actions to take

IV. Awareness of community services

      A. Transportation

      B. Health

      C. Recreation

      D. Education

      E. Cultural arts

V. Volunteer action

      A. Concern for others/empathy

      B. Awareness of community problems

      C. Individuals working together/teamwork

VI. Conclusion




Leave room on your outline for an introduction and conclusion.

Step Three: Thinking About Your Audience

After you have the ideas you want to present in outline form, it is time to start thinking about introducing the topic to your audience. How much do they know about your topic? What’s important about your topic that would interest other people? In an introduction you will greet and warm up your audience, then stimulate their appetite for what you are about to tell them. You will be telling your audience in capsule form what you are going to cover in your talk. Fill in the introduction section on your outline. An example of an introduction for the citizenship speech could be as follows:

“Good citizenship occurs when individuals voluntarily use their ideas, knowledge, talents and/or skills to make their community a better place to live. I would like to talk to you about how you can become involved in your community’s affairs. I will be discussing four concepts: the democratic process, community needs, awareness of community services, and volunteer action. Understanding these citizenship concepts is the first step to becoming involved in making your community a better place in which to live.”

Step Four: Composing Your Speech or Presentation

In the fourth step you will be thinking through and writing out a first draft of your speech or presentation. Working from your outline, think about a topic sentence to introduce each of your main ideas. Your topic sentence should connect thoughts from the previous sentence or paragraph to the new idea you will be presenting. An abrupt change in ideas will confuse your audience. Use the last sentence in a paragraph and a topic sentence in your next paragraph to smooth the switch between main ideas. The two sentences should tell how the main ideas relate to one another.

An example would be:

“... Understanding citizenship concepts is the first step to becoming involved in making your community a better place in which to live. The first citizenship concept concerns citizens coming together in a group meeting and how that meeting is conducted.”

Step Five: Concluding Your Speech

The purpose of the fifth step is to bring your speech or presentation to a close. You want to review the main points your audience should remember. In the conclusion you will draw together your main ideas that support your central topic. An example for the citizenship speech could be as follows:

“Good citizenship benefits the whole community when individuals use their ideas, knowledge, talents and/or skills in cooperation with others. The concepts involved in citizenship: the democratic process; awareness of community needs; awareness of community services; and volunteer action are a necessary part of making your community a better place in which to live.”

Presentations: Preparing Visual Aids

Before the sixth step you can turn your attention to visual aids that will support your main ideas. Some topics are easier to communicate when you use audio or visual aids. Presentations with graphics, pictures or commonplace materials may help your audience understand a process and captivate their attention. Here is a list of some of the visual aids you may wish to consider using in making your presentation: flannel or magnetic or whiteboard; posters; photographs; video; Powerpoint; real objects, or models.

Be sure your visual aids are large enough for people in the back of the room to see. You don’t want to pass objects around the room while you are speaking, because people will stop listening to you.

Components of a speech: speaker, speech, audience; no props or costumes.

Step Six: Rehearsing Your Speech

Now that you have a rough draft of your speech or presentation, start practicing in front of a mirror. Your posture should be erect but not stiff. Look in the mirror as if you are looking at your audience and SMILE. Look as if you are glad to be talking about your topic. Act confident even if you don’t feel that way and the next thing you know you will be self‑assured. Speak slowly, clearly, and loud enough to be heard.

Practice speaking until you can hear the confidence in your voice. Gestures and pauses will help emphasize a main idea. Gestures are especially important in a presentation when you are explaining how to do something or make something. Practice using your visual aids. Position yourself so as not to block your audience’s view. Use pauses to take a deep breath; this will help keep you calm and confident. Remember to smile often, as this communicates your friendliness as well as your message.

After you have practiced in front of the mirror, make any necessary revisions to your speech or presentation to communicate the central topic. Once your presentation is ready, copy the outline or notes onto 3 x 5 cards. The cards won’t rattle like paper. Now rehearse your presentation in front of a friend or your parents.

When time draws near to give your speech or presentation, be sure to get enough rest. Plan what you will wear; good grooming is well worth the small investment of extra time. When you are called on for your speech, breathe deeply and slowly several times and consciously relax as much as possible. Hold your head up and hold your 3 x 5 cards high enough for easy reference but be sure you can see your audience. Make eye contact, smile, take a deep breath, and express yourself!

The 4‑H Pledge

I pledge:

my Head to clearer thinking,
my Heart to greater loyalty,
my Hands to larger service,
my Health to better living,
for my club, my community,
my country, and my world.

The 4‑H Creed

I believe in 4‑H Club Work for the opportunity it will give me to become a useful citizen.

I believe in the training of my HEAD for the power it will give me to think, to plan, and to reason.

I believe in the training of my HEART for the nobleness it will give me to become kind, sympathetic, and true.

I believe in the training of my HANDS for the dignity it will give me to be helpful, useful, and skillful.

I believe in the training of my HEALTH for the strength it will give me to enjoy life, to resist disease, and to work efficiently.

I believe in my country, my state, my community, and in my responsibility for their development.

In all these things I believe, and I am willing to dedicate my efforts to their fulfillment.

Acknowledgments: Express Yourself! Public Speaking and Presentations was written by Penny Risdon, Extension Agent, Virginia 4-H Office, 105 Hutcheson Hall, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, 24061.

Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, reprint, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.

Virginia Cooperative Extension is a partnership of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments. Its programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, sex (including pregnancy), gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, military status, or any other basis protected by law

Publication Date

January 25, 2019