• Unit 4: Structuring Your Presentation

    Now that you have a topic and have considered how to make it relevant to your audience, you need to choose the content for your presentation. Here, we will explore how to create an outline of your presentation to identify and clarify your central message with supporting points. We will also explore how to select an appropriate speech pattern to organize your presentation's main points.

    Completing this unit should take you approximately 5 hours.

    • 4.1: General Purpose – Presentations

      The first step for writing your presentation is to identify the broad goal you have for your presentation. You have three options: to inform, to persuade, or to entertain. While each presentation engages all three purposes, as a presenter, you should only focus on one.

      • 4.1.1: Presenting to Inform

        Informative presentations provide new information. You are not trying to change minds, but tell your audience something they did not already know. For example, you may explain how to stay safe on a job site or describe a new piece of software.

      • 4.1.2: Presenting to Persuade

        During a persuasive presentation, you aim to change your audience's attitudes, beliefs, values, or behaviors. You want your audience to think differently about a topic. For example, you may want voters to choose a certain candidate or convince people to wear a facemask. You should present new information, but your main goal is to change minds.

      • 4.1.3: Presenting to Entertain

        Entertaining presentations aim to set a friendly mood and engage the audience. You may be toasting your best friend at their wedding, roasting a prominent figure, or delivering a comedy routine. Your goal is to engage the audience and entertain them.

    • 4.2: Specific Purpose – Presentations

      Your general purpose is to inform, to persuade, or to entertain. Your specific purpose is a more focused combination of your general purpose and your topic. Your specific purpose should typically take the form [general purpose] [audience] [topic].

      For example: to inform (general purpose) my new employees (audience) about our company's safety policies (topic). The more specific you are when making this statement, the easier it will be to write your presentation.

    • 4.3: Writing a Thesis

      You should begin writing your presentation by developing your thesis. A thesis is a simple, clear sentence that identifies the central message or idea you want to convey to your audience. Use your specific purpose to write a sentence that takes a clear position. Good thesis statements are clear, brief, and contain only one main idea.

      As you develop your thesis, there are three red flags you should avoid: 

      1. Do not use conjunctions like "and", "or", and "however". These words indicate your thesis has more than one idea. If your thesis has these words, consider what you are saying and simplify it into one idea.

      2. Do not have more than about 15 words. Thesis statements should be simple sentences. Remember your grammar school days: subject, verb, object, in that order. If you have more than 15 words, it may be difficult for your audience to understand what you are trying to prove.

      3. Ensure it does not fail the "speak test". Is it easy to say? Do any words trip you up? Does it make sense when you read it out loud? If the answer is yes, your thesis may be too complex. Remember, your listeners cannot rewind or reread your thesis.

    • 4.4: Main Points and Speech Patterns

      With your thesis in place, your next step is to think about your main points. Your thesis is what you plan to prove to your audience, while your main points reflect how you want to support your thesis. Your main points should flow clearly and logically. Several common speech patterns can help you develop and organize your main points appropriately.

      You need at least two main points. Having more than five main points can overwhelm your audience and make it difficult for them to remember your content. Most presenters try to offer three main points. Your main points should include three elements: a topic sentence, sub-points, and evidence. If you follow this structure, you can consistently expand the outline of your presentation to fit any context or fill any amount of time.

      The evidence you provide in your presentation includes the facts, stories, or examples that prove your sub-point is true. Think of evidence like the meat of your presentation. Each main point begins with a topic sentence. Think of this as a mini-thesis statement and the claim you are making to prove that your larger point is correct.

      For example, if the thesis for your presentation is "dogs make great pets", one of your topic sentences might be "dogs are loyal". You could then support that main idea with the sub-point that "dogs recognize members of their pack". Your evidence could be a story about your dog greeting you every day when you come home from work.

      We will discuss how to find credible and reputable evidence or supporting materials in Unit 5.

    • 4.5: Introductions and Conclusions

      Now, let's explore how to get your presentation started with a strong introduction and close it with a powerful conclusion. While the goals of these two elements differ, they both use attention material to grab your audience and orienting material to provide a map of where the presentation is going, where it has been, and what will come next.

      Your introduction should draw in your audience and provide a clear idea of where your presentation will take them. The introduction sets expectations and provides a path the audience will follow as they listen.

      A strong introduction has five elements:

      1. it grabs your audience's attention and introduces your topic;
      2. it connects your topic clearly to your audience;
      3. it explains your connection to the topic;
      4. it includes your thesis statement; and
      5. it previews the material you plan to cover in your presentation.

      Your conclusion should remind the audience what you have covered and create a memorable closing. It should help your audience transition out of the presentation to what is coming next: a question and answer session, a meet-and-greet, lunch, a reception, or the adjournment of the session.

    • 4.6: Getting the Audience's Attention

      The first and last thing your audience should hear is attention material, which engages your audience and leaves them with a final thought. In your introduction, include an attention-grabber (something that engages the audience and gets them interested), a relevance statement (what the audience will learn), and a credibility statement (why you are a credible presenter on the topic).

      After you grab your audience's attention, your job is to help them understand where you plan to take them and how you plan to get there. You do this in the introduction and conclusion.

      Begin articulating your thesis statement in your introduction, followed by a preview of the main points you will use to prove your central idea. Orienting your audience to where you intend to take them will make your presentation more understandable. You are explaining your main points and outlining how they connect.

      You should ensure your audience understands your presentation is coming to a close. You want to give them a sense of closure as you finish and a clear direction for what comes next. Do not make your audience guess; tell them what to do.

    • 4.7: Transitions

      Incorporate transitions to explain where you are taking the audience between the introduction, each main point, and the conclusion. A basic transition structure is [now that we have discussed X, we'll talk about Y]. Explain why you put your main points in the order you did.

      For example, if your presentation is about dogs and your main points are to compare small, medium, and large dogs, your first transition could be, "while small dogs are cute, some people need something a little bigger, such as a medium-sized dog like a beagle or a boxer".

      The transition to your third point could be, "while medium-sized dogs can do many things, if you need a dog to help you work, you should consider getting a bigger dog, such as a German shepherd or a Labrador retriever". In both cases, the transition alerts the audience that you have finished your main point and are introducing your next one. You are also explaining why you have put your main points in the order you did.