Why Giving a “Road Map” of Your Speech Up Front Increases Your Credibility as a Public Speaker

Trained trial lawyers make sure they give a “road map,” or a quick executive summary of their argument or speech immediately, before they launch into the substance of the speech. Whenever they are in the court room, they often will say things like:

Your Honor, I’ll focus on my arguments on three items. First, I’ll discuss how XYZ Company broke its promises to my client by being late with its order. Second, I’ll explain how my client lost key business as a result by not being able to deliver its orders. Last, I’ll calculate how much in dollars my client lost as a result of XYZ Company’s fault.

The above passage – not extremely smooth or beautiful-sounding, but that’s not the point. The point is that the speaker launches into the substance of his argument with an abbreviated summary of what he will say. Journalists and their newspaper articles have what’s called a “nut graf” or the paragraph describing what the story is in a nutshell. It’s sort of the thesis of the entire story. You could read the “nut graf” and immediately know what the story is about. Yet countless speeches that you and I sit through each and every day, speakers fail to do this, yet it is one of the most effective tools for increasing your charisma in speeches. Why is this?

  • Having a “road map” at the beginning of the speech subtly establishes you as a leader. A speaker who begins a speech with exactly what he or she will discuss shows that he is in charge of where the room will go. You come across as decisive and having vision. That is very important.
  • Having a “road map” at the beginning of your speech allows the audience to immediately follow your basic argument. In studies [studies to come], listening (unlike reading) is very tough, and people tend to zone in and out, especially in the age of new media. If you have a skeletal outline of your speech, listeners can come in and out, and still basically follow.


  • The “road map” isn’t just for your audience – it is for you. It forces discipline on you. First, when you write a speech with this road map paragraph in the beginning, you are forced to shy away from the stream-of-consciousness rambling that so often impairs speeches. It keeps you organized. And, because it’s organized, having a road map like this up front makes it easier to speak with less reliance on reading (the death knell of good delivery).
  • It is an easy way to build credibility. By beginning with a “road map” you are making an implicit promise to your audience that you will in fact address what you’ve set out to address. And when, by the end, they realize that you have delivered what you promised, your esteem in their eyes will improve dramatically.

The “road map” is not limited to lawyers – any speech can have this, so make sure yours does too.

The Art of Public Speaking with Media Ops Setup ISBN Lucas
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