The Definitive Guide on Structuring a Speech and Presentation
So, you have an important presentation coming up which requires you to not only write up a speech but also present it.
You’re probably nervous, as most people are when it comes to public speaking, which is natural.
A good way to feel confident before and during your presentation is to ensure that you are well-prepared on the content you will be presenting.
To help you prepare, you can research and learn more about your subject, practice your presentation in front of friends or family or even in front of a mirror.
While practicing, factor in the time you’ve been allocated to give your presentation, which will allow you to keep time without rushing through your presentation. This will help you avoid leaving key points out.
Additionally, you should ensure that you are audible and well understood. So, if you are a fast speaker like me, you should try slowing down.
Nerves aside, you probably are a good speaker who writes good content. However, not having your speech structured properly may make it hard for your audience to not only understand each point you are trying to put across but also the gist of your whole speech.
A well-structured speech not only prevents your audience from getting lost but also assists your audience in understanding your message.
Without a proper structure, your speech will have no sense of direction, which will leave your audience scattered on the main points you would like to put across.
Note: Research has shown that audiences tend to retain structured information 40% more precisely than unstructured information.
To begin with, you first need to draw up a speech outline.
How to Structure a Speech to Get Your Message Across Clearly
A speech outline is a general description of what your speech will be about.
The General Speech Outline is most commonly used.
This is made up of the introduction, the main body and the conclusion.
- The Introduction
This tells your audience who you are and what you are to talk about. This is where you grab your audience’s attention.
- The Main Body
This is where you begin making your arguments. To make it easier for your audience to follow what you’re talking about, you should divide your arguments into easy-to-understand and short points.
To help the audience understand your point, think up a good analogy or give a real story that they can use to relate to the points you’ve put across.
If your speech relies on data that helps emphasize your key points, then include the data to add more weight.
Pro-Tip: Ensure your data has been sourced from credible sources.
- The Conclusion
Your conclusion should summarize everything that you’ve talked about in your speech and ties it up in a bow that is easy to recall. So ensure it’s memorable!
Now that your outline is drawn up, next, you should focus on the type of structure you will be using to write up your speech.
The Common Characteristics of a Good Speech Structure
Choosing the structure that you will use for your presentation may present a challenge, as you may be conflicted on the right structure for you. To help with this, you need to ask yourself:
- What is the objective of your presentation?
- Who is your audience?
- What is your audience most interested in?
- What are the key points your audience should recall after your presentation?
Taking these factors into consideration will allow you to structure your speech in a way that puts your main points across, helps the audience follow along throughout your presentation and also helps them remember the most important bits.
There are various types of speech structures, which include:
- Problem-Solution Structure
This type of structure is good for presentations that require you to influence the audiences’ thoughts on an issue.
This approach may need you to appeal to your audience both emotionally and logically.
- Demonstration Structure
This structure is particularly useful when your presentation requires a lot of demonstrations.
For instance, if your speech focuses on a specific product, this particular structure allows you to explain why the commodity is not only valuable but also necessary.
This may be followed up by how the product can solve various issues which can be better explained through a demonstration.
Now, we do a deep dive into a typical speech structure, highlighting its flow, which should incorporate the speech outline you’d already drawn up.
1. First things first, say hi.
Ever heard of a speaker who came up to the stage and without a greeting or an introduction began with their presentation? Well, me neither.
(Unless you are in a speech contest where time is very limited. But even then, the contest Toastmaster would have introduced you.)
Before you begin your presentation, introduce yourself to your audience, highlighting your relevant expertise. Your introduction need not be very detailed or long but it helps establish rapport (a connection) between you and the audience.
This is where you show exactly why you are worth listening to, through your words.
Under the introduction, you will be talking about the purpose and subject of your presentation. There will be no point to this if the audience is uninterested in your subject matter.
Therefore, your objective is to not only talk about the aforementioned points but also gain your audience’s confidence, attention and interest, while also connecting with them.
To help filter down your presentation, you should:
- Introduce your topic and explain the topic area
- Mention the challenges or issues that you will be exploring in this area
- Talk about the purpose of your presentation; this is the basis of your presentation.
- Give a statement of what you hope the outcome of your presentation will be
- Demonstrate using a preview how your presentation has been organized.
Additionally, you should also;
- Specify or give a general estimate of how long your presentation will take.
- Communicate whether you’d prefer to answer any questions the audience may have in an allotted time frame or throughout your presentation.
- Let the audience know whether handouts on your presentation will be provided or whether they should take notes (if applicable).
It should be noted though that how you structure your introduction may sometimes be dependent on the amount of time you’ve been allotted for your presentation.
Related: How to Start Your Speech to Engage the Audience
3. The Main Body
Here, you will be delving into details, talking about the topics you’d introduced in your introduction.
To ensure your audience doesn’t get lost as you discuss your presentation in detail, you should divide what you will be talking about into different topics.
This will allow you to talk about each topic in its entirety before moving onto the next, thus making it easier for your audience to not only understand your key points but keep up with the presentation.
Pro-Tip: Providing a mini-summary of what you have discussed under each topic before moving on to the next helps the audience distinguish the main points from the details and understand the key points better.
4. The Conclusion
Some speakers often make the mistake of not concluding their presentations with purpose, which leaves their messages unreinforced.
Presentations usually have a specific objective in mind that they plan to attain. While your presentation may have gone well, you need to reinforce your message in your conclusion.
To do this, you need to:
- Indicate that you are nearing the end of your presentation
- Rehash your topic and aim of your presentation
- Summarize your main points
- Give an enlightening call-to-action
- Proceed to the final section of your presentation
Pro-Tip: Always make sure that you make the closing statement for your presentation after the Q&A session. This is because audiences are likely to remember the last thing they hear.
Related: How to End a Speech With a Bang (And be Remembered)
5. Question and Answer Time
This depends on whether you had allotted a time frame where the audience would be allowed to ask questions concerning your presentation. If you had not, then this is a perfect time to invite questions from the audience.
To do so, you should begin by thanking your audience for their time and for participating (if there was a Q&A session throughout the presentation).
While it’s totally fine to make the Q&A session a part of your presentation, focusing on your topics of discussion and letting the session come at the end of your talk allows the audience time to fully grasp your content, is recommended.
Conclusion: On Building a Speech Structure
We’ve discussed the various types of structures you can use to make your presentation as good as you would like it to be. While presentation structures may be different, there are a few factors that may affect the structure of your presentation.
- If your talk is restricted by time constraints
- How much interaction you’d like from your audience
- If the audience is knowledgeable on the subject of your discussion.
- Whether you need visual assistance or need to give demonstrations
- The setting in which you will give your presentation
In summary, structuring your presentation in a simple and logical way that allows your audience to keep up with your talk is not only important but beneficial. As they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so go out and put into practice the suggestions above!