Delivery Outline vs. Preparation Outline

What's the Difference?

Delivery outline and preparation outline are both tools used in the process of organizing and structuring a speech or presentation. However, they serve different purposes and are used at different stages of the speech preparation process. A preparation outline is created during the initial planning phase and serves as a detailed roadmap for the speech, including the main points, supporting evidence, and transitions. It helps the speaker to organize their thoughts and ensure a logical flow of ideas. On the other hand, a delivery outline is a condensed version of the preparation outline that is used during the actual delivery of the speech. It typically consists of brief keywords or phrases that serve as reminders for the speaker, helping them to maintain a natural and conversational delivery while staying on track with the main points.


AttributeDelivery OutlinePreparation Outline
DefinitionA structured plan used during the actual delivery of a presentation or speech.A structured plan used during the preparation and organization of a presentation or speech.
TimingUsed during the actual delivery of the presentation.Used during the preparation and organization phase before the actual delivery.
ContentIncludes key points, supporting details, transitions, and delivery techniques.Includes main ideas, subpoints, supporting evidence, and organizational structure.
FormatUsually in the form of bullet points or short phrases.Usually in the form of headings, subheadings, and indented points.
PurposeGuides the speaker during the actual delivery to ensure a smooth and organized presentation.Helps the speaker in organizing thoughts, ideas, and content before the actual delivery.
FlexibilityMay be adjusted or modified during the delivery based on audience response or time constraints.Can be revised and refined multiple times before the actual delivery.

Further Detail


When it comes to delivering a speech or presentation, having a well-structured outline is crucial. Outlines serve as a roadmap, guiding the speaker through the main points and supporting details of their message. Two common types of outlines used in public speaking are the delivery outline and the preparation outline. While both serve the purpose of organizing thoughts and ideas, they differ in terms of their level of detail, format, and intended use. In this article, we will explore the attributes of both delivery outlines and preparation outlines, highlighting their similarities and differences.

Delivery Outline

A delivery outline, also known as a speaking outline, is a condensed version of the full speech or presentation. It is designed to be used as a reference during the actual delivery, providing the speaker with key points and reminders. Unlike a preparation outline, a delivery outline does not include extensive details or complete sentences. Instead, it consists of brief phrases or keywords that trigger the speaker's memory and help maintain a natural flow of speech.

One of the main advantages of a delivery outline is its simplicity. By using concise phrases, the speaker can avoid the temptation to read directly from a script or rely too heavily on notes. This allows for a more engaging and spontaneous delivery, as the speaker can maintain eye contact with the audience and focus on connecting with them. Additionally, a delivery outline is often easier to handle and manage during the presentation, as it can be printed on small cue cards or displayed on a tablet or smartphone.

However, it is important to note that a delivery outline requires thorough familiarity with the content. Since it lacks detailed information, the speaker must have a deep understanding of the subject matter and be able to expand on each point without relying heavily on the outline. This type of outline is best suited for experienced speakers who are comfortable with improvisation and can adapt their delivery based on the audience's reactions.

Preparation Outline

A preparation outline, also known as a full-sentence outline or a formal outline, is a comprehensive and detailed plan of a speech or presentation. It serves as a blueprint for the speaker, providing a structured framework that includes all the main points, subpoints, and supporting evidence. Unlike a delivery outline, a preparation outline is not meant to be used during the actual delivery. Instead, it is created during the preparation phase to ensure that the speaker has a clear and organized structure for their presentation.

One of the key advantages of a preparation outline is its level of detail. By including complete sentences and supporting evidence, the speaker can ensure that all important information is included and presented in a logical sequence. This type of outline is particularly useful for complex or technical topics, as it allows the speaker to carefully plan and articulate their ideas. Additionally, a preparation outline can serve as a valuable reference for future presentations or as a basis for creating handouts or written materials.

However, the level of detail in a preparation outline can also be a potential drawback. The extensive information included in this type of outline may lead the speaker to rely too heavily on reading from their notes, resulting in a less engaging and dynamic delivery. It is important for the speaker to strike a balance between following the outline and connecting with the audience. Practice and familiarity with the content are essential to ensure a smooth and confident delivery.


While delivery outlines and preparation outlines have distinct characteristics, they also share some similarities. Both types of outlines aim to organize the speaker's thoughts and ideas, providing a clear structure for the presentation. They both help the speaker stay focused and ensure that all important points are covered. Additionally, both types of outlines can be customized to suit the speaker's preferences and needs. Whether it is using bullet points or numbering, including subpoints or not, or even using different colors or highlighting techniques, the format of the outline can be adjusted to enhance the speaker's comfort and understanding.


Despite their similarities, delivery outlines and preparation outlines differ in several key aspects. The most significant difference lies in their level of detail. While a delivery outline consists of brief phrases or keywords, a preparation outline includes complete sentences and supporting evidence. This difference in detail reflects their intended use, with a delivery outline being used during the actual presentation and a preparation outline being created during the preparation phase.

Another difference is the format of the outlines. A delivery outline is often more condensed and can be easily carried or displayed in a compact form, such as cue cards or electronic devices. On the other hand, a preparation outline is typically more extensive and may span multiple pages. It is often organized using headings, subheadings, and indentation to clearly indicate the hierarchy of the main points and subpoints.

Lastly, the purpose of the outlines also sets them apart. A delivery outline is primarily used as a reference tool during the presentation, helping the speaker remember the main points and supporting details. Its main focus is on facilitating a smooth and engaging delivery. On the other hand, a preparation outline is used as a planning tool, ensuring that the speaker has a well-structured and coherent presentation. It helps the speaker organize their thoughts, identify any gaps in information, and ensure a logical flow of ideas.


Both delivery outlines and preparation outlines play important roles in the process of delivering a speech or presentation. While a delivery outline provides a concise and flexible reference during the actual delivery, a preparation outline serves as a detailed blueprint for planning and organizing the content. The choice between the two depends on the speaker's level of experience, comfort with improvisation, and the complexity of the topic. By understanding the attributes and differences of these two types of outlines, speakers can effectively structure their presentations and deliver impactful messages to their audiences.

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