Your listeners will understand your talk better if you organize what you say in a logical sequence or linear pattern. This means that you tell the listeners what you are going to talk about and then go through the points you want to make. The most common pattern of organization is outlined below:
An example of this pattern is shown below:
Breeding butterflies has many advantages for the collector.
1. way of obtaining specimens
2. spares can be released into the wild
3. helps survival because butterflies have been protected from natural predators
The experience is a learning experience for the collector and a benefit to the species.
Connecting ideas by using transition words and phrases tells your listeners the relationship of one idea to the next. You can signal to your listener that you are going to put events in a sequence, add information, or make a comparison. You can signal that you want to emphasize or clarify a point. Using transition words and phrases helps your listener follow the flow of your ideas. Read the following example without transitional expressions:
In my physics class, we did lots of experiments that helped clarify scientific principles. I understood those principles better by doing those experiments.
These sentences would flow better if the speaker used transitional expressions as in the following example:
In my physics class, we did lots of experiments that helped clarify scientific principles. As a result, I understood those principles better.
In order to help your listeners understand, you may need to define a term that you use in your response. Read the following example:
My hobby is telemark skiing.
If the speaker does not define the term and listeners do not know what telemark skiing is, they might not understand the rest of the passage. Sometimes listeners can guess the meaning through the context of the passage, but sometimes they cannot. Here is the definition this speaker gave of telemark skiing:
That means skiing using telemark skis.
Even though the speaker defined telemark skiing, listeners still may not understand what it means because the speaker defined the term with the same word. To effectively define a word, use a three-part definition:
1. State the word or phrase to be defined.
2. Give the category that the word or phrase fits into.
3. Tell how the word is different from other words that fit the same category.
Read this example of an effective definition:
Telemark is a type of alpine skiing in which the boots are connected to the skis only at
the toes, so traditional skiing techniques have to be modified.
Your listener can understand the flow of your ideas better if you use parallel structures when you speak. Read the following incorrect example:
My teacher gave interesting assignments and motivating the students.
The listener may be confused because the speaker has mixed different grammatical structures. Does the speaker mean My teacher gave interesting and motivating assignments to the students? In this sentence, interesting and motivating are parallel adjectives. Or does the speaker mean My teacher gave interesting assignments and motivated the students? In this sentence, gave and motivated are parallel verbs.
When a speaker keeps repeating a word or phrase, listeners can get confused. Read the following example:
My teacher wrote the assignment on the chalkboard. The assignment was on the chalkboard until the teacher erased the assignment after we had all done the assignment.
This speakers ideas would be clearer if the repeated words were replaced with other expressions or with pronouns. Look at the way this example can be improved:
My teacher wrote the assignment on the chalkboard. She erased the board after we had all completed the task.
The word assignment has been replaced with task; the word teacher with she; and the word chalkboard with board.
Your listener can get confused if you are not consistent. Look at the following example:
My teacher brought five paper bags to school one day. He put us into groups and gave each group a bag. You have to take the objects out of the bags in turn and then a person has to tell a story involving the object from the bag.
The listener may get confused by the change from the past tense to the present tense, and the change from us to you and then to a person. The listener might also be confused by the change from the plural form objects and bags to the singular forms object and bag.
The listener could follow this speakers ideas better if the speaker were consistent. Look at the way this example can be improved:
One day my teacher put us into five different groups. He gave each group a bag and told us to take turns pulling out an object and telling the other members of the group a story involving that object.