Far worse than having a speech with no main points at all is to have an outline where you have chosen your key ideas unwisely. Your main points should be highlighted throughout your presentation as peaks in your talk. The audience should be able to see them from afar off as you build to them. They are the climaxes throughout your speech. Throwing in a main point climax that doesn’t relate to your theme is like leading your audience off to a mirage. They will feel bewildered and confused. They will spend much energy as they try to decipher the relevance of the point that really has none, and they will no doubt miss out on something you say that is important while doing so. Simply put: If a point can be cut out of your speech, cut it out! This relates to sub-points with equal force as it does to the far more important main points. Selecting main points starts with your theme. Write it down. This is the single idea your audience must take away from your speech. Next you must think deeply about this theme. What exactly must you tell your audience so that they will accept it? Write these ideas down. Now review your list of ideas. Highlight the ones that you think will have the greatest effect on your audience. Cross out the rest. What is left is your list of main points. If you choose your main points in this way it is unlikely that you will include ideas that are unrelated to your theme. If you choose your main points in this way it is unlikely that you will include ideas that are unrelated to your theme. Thus you have determined the relevance of your main points. Each builds upon a different aspect of your theme, leading your audience with as much dispatch as possible to the conclusions you want to leave them with. Now that you have arranged a list of main points relevant to your speech’s theme you need to ascertain that each of them is appropriate. The appropriateness of your selection of main points may have very little to do with you or your subject. It has more to do with your audience. What do you know about your audience? Who will be in attendance? What do they know about your subject already? What preconceived ideas do they bring into the gallery? Knowing the answers to these questions is vital to determine how appropriate your key ideas are. For example, giving a speech on the seven days of creation will require certain elements to be added if you are speaking to a body of scientists. There will no doubt be a level of cynicism in your audience that you must address. Including some scientific research to establish the credentials of your subject will be vital, and definitely merits the priority of being placed as a main point. Such scientific research will be totally unimportant however if your audience is a group of theologians, and may even be left out of your speech altogether. Similarly a speech outlining principles of evolution will need to overcome some prejudice if delivered to this group of religious experts. A major part of your speech will deal with reconciling their already held belief in creation before you can proceed to other aspects of your argument. It will need a major place early on in your speech, and will be developed as a main point. Delivering a speech on evolution to scientists may not need such an argument added to it at all. What does your audience know? Do your homework and find out. Then build on this as a foundation. Tailor your selection of main points to your audience. Remember that the main points lead your audience logically towards accepting your theme. Whatever main points are needed for the particular situation at hand are the most appropriate. Not only does an appropriate selection of main points help your audience accept what you say, but it also avoids unnecessary offence. When you offend your audience you lose them forever. A lecture on the history of Scotland may be given real colour if you add a main point dealing with the clan wars between the Stewarts and the Campbells. Such personal interest is sure to fire up your speech, and there is no shortage of great stories you can relate to make your speech come alive. But what if there is a chance that some Scots will be in attendance? Can you be sure that you will not touch a raw nerve by relating such history? How do you know that you won’t actually have in the audience members of either (or both) clans? Your main point could be construed as being provocative by some in attendance in such a case. It may result in them ignoring you, disruption or at worst even violence. Familiarity is another issue that determines the appropriateness of your main points. If you plunge into discussion on a point that the audience is totally unfamiliar with, you will lose them for the rest of what you say. Take for example the need to speak to a group of company retirees on the subject of self-funded pension funds. You may be able to explain in detail the workings of the international short-term money market and how playing such markets earns the interest on these people’s investments. But if they are a group of long-term employees retiring from a mining company you may find that the majority of their minds are swimming in bewilderment at your discussion. Such an occasion may not even call for a main point dealing with how the pension fund works. It may simply demand a discussion on which type of fund pays what sort of interest. Give the people what they need, but not more than they want. Keep it in familiar ground. Regarding your audience will ensure the appropriateness of everything you say, particularly the main points upon which you will dwell. Excerpt From: Mark Porter. “The Way With Words.” iBooks. This discussion is continued in detail in “The Way With Words”, by Mark Porter.