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Structuring a Presentation

Get this right and your presentation will be a breeze from beginning to end

Structuring a presentation is for me the most important step in the presentation's creation process. Why? Because a good structure is the basis on which you'll develop the information you've gathered into a logical step-by-step presentation.  Without a proper structure, your presentation will flop. Believe me, you want to avoid the novice mistakes I made when I started presenting by saying things such as: “I’ll, err eh... jump forward 3 slides to explain this point, and then I’ll come back to this slide to explain that point.”

Think of a presentation as a story covering a certain theme. As such, your objective is to deliver that story as interestingly and effectively as possible. And so like all good stories, the presentation needs a clear structure to enable your audience to follow your story, get a good understanding of your main themes, and leave the presentation feeling that it has been a worthwhile experience.

In the words of an old army sergeant I once met, the secret of a good presentation structure is to:

Tell them what you're going to tell them.
Tell them.
Tell them what you just told them.

In a way he was right. In its simplest form, that is the outline of a good presentation. These three basic parts can be thought of as (A) the introduction, (B) the main body and (C) the conclusion of a story. So, as with storytelling, you need to open up the context of the presentation in the 'A' section, present the bulk of your information in the 'B' section, and then summarize what you've said in the 'C' section.

However, there are many different ways of taking these basic parts and structuring a presentation. Unfortunately, many novice presenters give little consideration to the presentation structure, and start producing PowerPoint slides as and when ideas come into their head. Sure, all the information may be buried in their presentation somewhere, but because it is not structured, the audience is left feeling irritated and confused. In short, the presentation has failed!

So what does structuring a presentation involve? It can involve several steps from creating a mind map to developing an outline. The following articles examine different techniques in structuring a presentation and looks at different outline formats for a good and effective presentation.

Related articles

Create a Mind Map
Finding it difficult to know where to begin? Why not create a mind map to kick start your ideas and get that presentation structure off to a flying start. Read more...

Creating an Outline
Structure you presentation by creating an outline. Three basic types looked at here: spatial, topic and chronology. Read more...

More Outline Formats
To help structure your presentation, including cause-effect, problem-solution & issue-action outline examples. Read more...

More Outline Examples
Here we look at the acceptability outline structure. A perfect structure when you want to persuade or sell an idea.



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