Structuring a Presentation
An effective way to transfer information to an audience is through structuring a presentation. A speaker has a chance to provide, gather, or discuss important information with a group of people. Business presentations are very common both inside and outside organizations. They allow an organization to communicate, inform, and train their staff. In addition, a presentation is a company’s means to connect with other businesses and make themselves known. Due to their importance to business settings, a presentation needs to be well-structured and properly planned to achieve its goal.
To make structuring simple, we divide a presentation into three sections: introduction, the body, and conclusion. The introduction aims to prepare the audience for the presentation. Therefore, the topic, timing, speaker’s intention, and the outline of the presentation have to be addressed in this section. These information provide a map for the audience and makes it easier for them to follow the presentation.
The second section is the main part. All the information and the activities intended by the speaker are provided in the body. Structuring the body of a presentation depends on its function as well as the information. For example, a presentation that intends to persuade its audience has to carefully plan it reasoning approach and offer convincing information. In the last section, the speaker concludes its presentation by summing up, answering questions, and providing handouts if necessary.
Make the topic known to your audience
There are many ways to introduce the topic of a presentation. However, the choice depends on the nature of the message and the audience. While in a department or staff meeting a speaker can even start with a joke that tactfully hints the topic of the presentation, a formal introduction may be more appropriate in board meetings, seminars, and conferences. Of course, humor can help break the ice, but it has to be used wisely and with care.
Although personalizing the introduction can be enjoyable to both the speaker and the audience, there are always simple ways to introduce a topic that never go wrong. Since a speaker plans to provide the steps they are going to make throughout the presentation, future simple is the perfect tense for an introduction. Adding transition words to move from one point to another is another way to ease the audience through the steps in both the introduction and the body. Here are some examples on how you can introduce the topic:
– Today, we’re going to go through our employee valuation process.
– I’m going to talk about how we can better manage the accounts receivable collection period.
– My presentation will focus on our marketing strategies.
– First, I’m going to explain why we need to rethink our training programs. Then, I will move on to how we can improve them.
Inform the audience about the timing
Making the timing known to your audience is beneficial to the addressees as well as the speaker. Letting the audience know the length of the presentation provides a predictable time frame and prevents them from wondering how long it will take you to give your presentation. Although not necessary, it is a smart way to let the audience know you value your time and theirs. The time limit also alerts you not to go past the timing you gave. Therefore, time management becomes another incentive to better structure the presentation and avoid giving too much information or deviate from the subject. You can either add the timing to your introduction of the topic, use it to move on to the main points, or state it after separately.
– We’re going to go through the budget status and why we have a deficit at this point in 30 minutes.
– It will take roughly 20 minutes to cover the following points.
– The presentation will take 15 minutes.
Clarify your intention
Another way of structuring a presentations is to let the audience know why you are giving a presentation. This is the reason why you decided to do a presentation or the goal you intend to achieve. Having people sit through a presentation without knowing why they were asked or invited to be there leads to confusion. It can result in irrelative questions and even worse, make the audience feel bored. The purpose of a presentation informs the audience about the reasons behind it as well as their role or part in it. This is an important part of structuring the introduction. You can state the reason on one sentence or explain more, but make sure it is short and clear.
– As the HR manager, I would like to have your feedback on our performance appraisal, therefore, I asked you here to explain the process first, so that we can then go through the evaluation process together. (asking for active participation, clarifying audience role)
– We all know that recent training programs didn’t go as well as we expected. That’s why we came up with solutions that can improve them. (to improve training programs)
– The company has recently spent a large sum of money on the new product, but sales haven’t been growing. We need to analyze the situation and decide what to do. (to make a decision)
Taking questions and comments
Questions and comments are inevitable, but they’re timing can be arranged in a way that it doesn’t interrupt the flow of the presentation. Therefore, it is an important part of structuring a presentation. Even the best questions at the wrong time can lead to deviation from the topic and lead to more questions. To avoid having questions or comments thrown at you during the presentation, decide on the times when you are willing to take questions and let your audience know before you move on to the main part.
If your audience’s opinions and questions are integral to you presentations, let the audience that there will be intervals when you will take them. Otherwise, inform them that you will take any comments or questions at the end. This allows the addressees to prepare for a Q&A at the end and refrain from interrupting your presentation. You can also ask them to write their questions down and hand them to you, so you can provide answers later through a phone call or email.
Outline main points
The outline is the heart of structuring a presentation. It structures the body and provides a map for the audience. An unstructured presentation can become sloppy and confusing for both the speaker and the addressees. It is difficult for the speaker to remember the beginning and the end and time management becomes almost impossible. They are effective in helping you remember the points you wish to cover. Outlines make it easier for the speaker to plan the flow of information.
On the other hand, a presentation that does not follow an outline becomes difficult for the audience to follow. This can defeat the purpose of the presentation since the audience may barely understand the speaker’s logic. The audience can best retain information and follow the presentation when they know there is a path from A to B and C. The outline also enables the speaker to address each point and move on to the other, providing a sense of closure for each item and leading the audience to the next.
main part of presentation
Follow the order of your outline
The body of a presentation contains all the information intended for its audience. Therefore, it takes most of the time of the presentation. As explained above, outlines help structure the body and inform the audience what lies ahead. It is important that the main points be limited to a small number. A presentation cannot include an exhaustive list of point since it is not possible to focus on all of them. Instead these points need to be categorized into main points. Each of the main points can include several items to be discussed. It makes it easier to categorize issues and address them in a limited amount of time. In case more details are required, handouts can be given to the addressees during or at the end.
Moving from one point to another
It is important to let your audience know that you are moving from one point to another, rather than suddenly addressing a new one. Transition words are one of the tools the speaker can use to hint the change of topic. If the number of the main points are limited to 3 or 4, you can use ordinal numbers to let the audience know which point you are addressing. To go further into details on a point you can use words such as moreover, besides, on the other hand, etc. Another way is to use simple verbs to announce the transition.
– The first issue regarding the training program is the time.
Most of the employees are busy from 2-4 and they can’t attend the program. Others who attended said they couldn’t focus because they were worried about work. Moreover, managers are not happy with the time either.
– The second problem is the content.
The information is too technical for all staff members to understand. The HR staff could understand everything fairly easily, but the marketing staff were confused and disappointed.
– Last but not least, employees didn’t have a say in choosing their programs.
We have received emails from staffers, telling us they were interested in certain programs that can help them improve their performance. It seems our one-sided training decisions have to change.
– Let’s move to another suggestion: to hold training programs from 4-6.
– Moving on to the next point: we can make programs optional, but also offer a bonus for those who successfully finish them.
Concluding the presentation
A conclusion provides a concentration of the information provided in the presentation and is important to structuring a presentation. It can include the topic, the reason, and outlines or solutions discussed in the body. Since a conclusion aims at finishing the presentation, it does not introduce new information. However, it can be used to propose a new question or a point for more consideration. Thanking the audience for their time is also a part of the conclusion. The following phrases can be used to signal the end of a presentation.
– To conclude, I would have to say that the evaluation process has to bring managers and employees together, not set them apart. It also has to become less time consuming and more practical. Now that we have a mutual understanding, we can move on to simplifying the process in a way that it serves both the organization and the employees. Thank you all.
– In the end, I would like to thank you for your time and cooperation. We are going to make some changes and ask you for your feedback. We should be able to improve our training programs together.
If a person suddenly asks a question during the presentation, you have two choices: answer them or ask them to keep it in mind until later. You might have to answer the questions of a CEO or board member on the spot, but it is impossible to finish a presentation when there is a large number of audience. This is how you can tell your addressees that you will answer questions later:
– Let me finish my point, then I will answer your question.
– I’ll go to that point in a minute.
– Let’s get to the questions at the end of this section/the presentation.
– Please write down your questions and hand it to me at the end of the presentation. I will answer them then.
Remember that the more prepared you are before the presentation, the less anxiety you will feel. Preparing for possible situations or issues will allow you to manage them more easily as you have thought of them beforehand. The confidence in your presentation comes from two sources: being prepared information-wise and being prepared to deal with issues that you may face during the presentation. Reviewing and improving your content (information) and thinking about what may go wrong as well as how you can deal with possible issues prepares you for a successful presentation.