Great oral presentations often follows the same structure as great written communication. As every essay-writing high school student knows, you lead with an introduction, elaborate your main points in the body, and summarize your argument in the conclusion. A well-developed oral presentation adheres to the same structure.
Of the three parts, it is your opening that will vary the most from presentation to presentation in terms of style and content. Many factors will influence what you say and how you deliver your words: degree of formality, familiarity of the audience, whether or not you have been introduced by a previous speaker, etc. However, one rule remains constant no matter the type of presentation. Before you dive into your main points, the audience must know: 1) who you are, 2) what you are going to talk about, and 3) why they should care. Review these points prior to your presentation and spend no more time addressing them than you have to. For example, if the audience is entirely made up of familiar colleagues, great, move on to point two. On the other hand, if the audience is comprised of potential clients who you are presenting to for the first time, you might want to give them a brief overview of who you are and who you represent (and, obviously, why this information is noteworthy – i.e. your prior successes).
Keep your main points short, use stories as often as possible, simplify your visuals, make good eye contact with your audience, avoid using crutch words, exercise body language, use good intonation and volume, and refrain from using notes.
As with essay writing, a conclusion should summarize your key points and reinforce the overall message of your presentation. Consider if your presentation was intended to motivate your audience to a particular action. Your conclusion should make this suggestion explicit. If, however, the presentation was for information purposes only, then it might be a good idea to repeat the most important information one last time.
Are there any other ways you like to structure your presentations? Let me know in the comments section below.