How to Write a Summary of a Speech

A properly summarized speech can help codify its main ideas.

Successfully summarizing a speech is an essential skill, especially for students, journalists or government employees. A summary can help clarify the essential elements of a speech in the quickest way possible and also help extrapolate its main points and essential arguments. A well-crafted summary can act as the baseline for an important news article, be used in an analytical report or even act as a study guide for students studying history, literature or rhetoric.

Read your assigned speech carefully. Do not annotate your copy of the speech yet. Instead, read the work thoroughly and focus on the speech's tone, mood and diction. Give special focus to the speech's theme - the argument it is making or the issue it is covering - and also pay particular attention to how the different portions of the work fit together.

Take your pen and reread the work. This time, begin to annotate the speech and underline any portions that you should include in your summary. Highlight the speech's thesis statement and underline any evidence you find that bolsters the speaker's argument. Mark any words or phrases that illustrate the speaker's particular style.

Write an outline of the speech's main ideas. Using Roman Numerals or bullet points, piece together the main ideas and supporting arguments from each portion. Read the speech again if you need to refresh your ideas. Phrase the speaker's ideas in your own words in your outline; this will help clarify your ideas about the overall point of the speech.

Compose a first draft of your summary. Use your outline as your skeleton and begin to consolidate the speaker's ideas into your own prose. Write your summary as a shorter speech of your own, being sure to rephrase the speaker's points into a more easily readable format. Do not simply include a string of quotations from the original speech.

Compare and contrast your own rough draft with the original speech. Take care to ensure that you mention all the speaker's main points and include their eventual conclusion. If you need to, add any ideas that you missed in your draft. Check your grammar, polish your formatting and include your citations before printing and turning in your summary.

  • Do not plagiarize. If you plan to quote portions of a speech, put them in quotation marks and cite them properly.
  • Ask your teacher or supervisor how long your summary should be.
  • Though not all speeches are available as audio recordings, listen to the speech as it was originally performed if you can.

Justin A. Perry began writing professionally in 2007. Since then, his work has appeared in "The Point News," "The River Gazette" and "The Mulberry Tree," all publications based in Southern Maryland. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and English from St. Mary's College of Maryland.