When you structure a talk, you are determining how your key points are organized. A clear structure is important so your audience can easily follow what you have to say. Planning a clear structure also makes it less likely you will lose your place or get distracted during your presentation. This page will give you ideas of different ways to organize your talk and develop a clear, straightforward structure.
Pro Tip #1: The amount of time you have will largely shape the number of points you emphasize. Remember, it is better to explain one or two points really well as opposed to introducing too many new topics and concepts.
Pro Tip #2: Remind your audiences of your key points throughout the presentation (this is a technique called signposting). Using signposting and developing a thoughtful structure will help your audience better follow your presentation.
Pro Tip #3: Pay close attention to transitions when moving from one point to the next. A clear, smooth transition will ease the audience into each of your points. Without transitions, you risk confusing your audience.
- Do you Have Mysterious Dragons in Your Research?, by Joseph Barber
- Tips and Techniques for More Confident and Compelling Presentations, by Matt Abrahams
- Transitions in a Speech or Presentation, by John Zimmer
There are many video resources that can be useful as you think about summarizing and structuring your work. Watch some of the videos below and think about how you might use the organization and structure in thinking about your own work. Are there any strategies that you find were particularly effective that you can incorporate into your talk?
- Download our handout and look through some of the possible ways to organize your presentation. Choose two or three different structures and start to outline your presentation. Which style(s) work the best for your topic and why? Which didn’t and why? Which felt the most comfortable?
- Storyboarding is a great technique to use when you are organizing your presentation and determining how your topics will flow into one another. In a storyboard, you draw a picture to symbolize each point and write a short description. Download our storyboarding handout to see this technique in practice and use our template to create your own.
- Grab a stack of notecards and write the name of each structural element (e.g. hook, point 1, point 2, conclusion) on each card. Then, rearrange the cards so that they are in an order that works for the talk that you are delivering. If you are having trouble organizing your talk from beginning to end, try organizing it from end to beginning—in other words, what is your ultimate goal and how are you going to get there?
- Sign up for the Graduate College’s Research Live! competition, which challenges you to give a compelling talk about your work in three minutes or less for a public audience.