Oral Communication

Organising the Structure

Overviews and Signposting

As presenters our aim should be to structure our presentations in a clear, logical and coherent manner. It is helpful for your audience if you can give them an overview of what you will cover, and in what order, to allow them to orientate themselves and understand the journey you are taking them on. The use of signposting is recommended, as it helps direct and guide the audience from one point, observation or argument to another. For example, you might signpost by saying "Now I have given a brief overview of the problems, let's move on to the possible solutions." Signposting is a useful technique for ensuring that the audience is aware of what to expect next, rather than being lost in a seemingly endless maze of information. It is especially important if you are working as a group that you have a strong transition between presenters. This can achieved by summarising your part and introducing the next presenter and their topic. A later presenter might also refer back to what a group member has previously said to remind the audience.

Stay in Control of your Stucture

Edward Tufte, Yale-based expert in the presentation of informational graphics, argues that PowerPoint encourages presenters to over-simplify their ideas by constraining them to the bulleted lists that PowerPoint defaults to. Try to avoid this by resisting the temptation to begin designing your slides before you have planned your presentation. Don't be forced to create hierarchies and relationships between ideas that don't exist just because it would be easier to fit them on a PowerPoint slide!

Ideas for Structuring your Content

This well-known rule of thumb offers a useful starting point and reminds us that audiences need strong orientation and clear reminders of what has been covered:

  • Tell them what you're going to tell them
  • Tell them
  • Tell them what you told them

If key information about you and your topic is not communciated fully, in a clear and logical way, the audience may fail to be convinced of your argument. In order to avoid this consider the ingredients below when organising the structure of your presentation.

The Introduction:

  • Tell them who you are and why you are giving this presentation.
  • Tell them what the presentation is about and what you will be covering.
  • Give them a route map.
  • Tell them what your objectives are.
  • Tell them what the background to the presentation is.
  • Tell them what's in it for them.
  • Use an opening attention grabber (image, pertinent quotes, shocking statistic etc.).

The Main Body

  • Give details of your topic in a logical, smoothly linking order.
  • Sign-post between and recap on each section.
  • Use anecdotes and real examples to illustrate your points.
  • Tell them how this information applies to them.
  • Back up all the claims that you made at the start.

The Conclusion

  • Summarise and highlight your main points.
  • Tell them the benefits that your solution, options, conclusions etc. will bring to them.
  • Tell them what you want them to do next.
  • Ask for questions.
  • Tell them how to get in touch with you if they need to.
  • Use a closing attention grabber (image, pertinent quotes, shocking statistic etc.).
  • Try to end on a high. Avoid saying "That's it!"

 

Variety

You might like to add some variety to your presentation's structure. When planning the structure reconsider your purpose. You might think it best to begin with a question to actively engage your audience, and end your presentation by answering the question. You may also choose to include a video clip or photo to stimulate their thoughts. You might find this Presentation Planner template useful.

Watch and Learn

The video clips on the right hand side of the screen illustrate several of the points made above and the discussion points aim to support you in evaluating these examples and your own practice.

Follow the reading list and useful websites links for further suggestions.

 

Brunel University (West London)

Strong Introduction to a Group Presentation

Clear Overview

Summing Up and Transition

Signposting

Using Questions for Signposting