Structuring a Presentation

During a presentation you need to have some idea of the structure and sequence of your ideas. If you have a sense of direction and purpose, the audience is more likely to follow you. You will hesitate less and come across as more confident.

Also, the more familiar you are with your structure the less likely it is that you will run out of time. You may also improvise more if you know your general direction.

However, it is easy to lose your way when you are standing up in front of an audience. If your notes are too detailed you will probably not have time to look at them during a presentation. You need a quick, at-a-glance overview.

The diagram above (click to enlarge) shows one way of structuring a presentation so that you can quickly remind yourself of where you are going.

The red shaded sections indicate the main overview elements:
* topic overview
* midway summary
* final summary

You need to be sure of these points when you present. It is also sometimes helpful to have a preview just after the topic overview, or combined with it (see 'Organising Material' for more on these terms). A typical preview might be:

After giving you a brief account of the background to the current situation in xyz, I will go on to describe four main aspects of the problem and then offer some possible solutions.

The midway summary gives the audience a recap of what has been said so far. A typical midway summary might be:

So far we have looked at the background to the problem and considered two main aspects of it: x and y. Let me now go on to look at two more aspects which...

The diagram above is for a presentation with five main sections. Each section ends with a transition point. These points can prove to be crucial in the impact of a presentation. Plan to pause at these points, ask for 'any questions', or change the visual resource you are using. Each section should revolve around a limited number of keywords or information highlights.

The presentation begins with a 'hook' to attract the audience's attention and questions at the end.

With thanks to Dubravka Polic for doing the diagram.