Structuring your presentation before diving into content or slides is essential. It ensures a logical flow and a defined focus, which helps to make the presentation easier to follow and understand.

Not determining your structure is like building a house without drafting up an architectural plan first. It could result in a layout and home that isn’t ideal for your living arrangements or lifestyle and issues that need to be retrospectively fixed once the home is built.

I know I was guilty of letting my slides dictate my structure when I didn’t know better and in essence not giving it a lot of thought upfront. Now before ANY presentation I map out my structure on either a post it note or notepad well before I progress to even thinking about visual aids.

So what’s the BEST way to structure a talk…..!?

For me, it’s always the same high level structure, no matter how long my talk is:

  • Opening
  • Section 1
  • Section 2
  • Section 3
  • Closing

The Opening needs to grab your audience’s interest and give them a reason to pay attention to your whole talk. This isn’t the time to talk about you and your job and step people through a boring agenda. Think of something punchy that will get people curious to know more.

The 3 sections need to be the most effective chunks of information you can tell your audience to achieve your overall objective. Within each point you may have sub-points, but again only up to 3. (If you haven’t already read my article on how to drastically improve your ability to influence your audience via an objective, check it out now).

Note there is a reason you shouldn’t cover more than 3 key sections. Humans (as opposed to computers) can only hold a small amount of information in our working memory. Contemporary scientists have determined the amount we can hold is 3-4 chunks of information at a maximum. It’s why things like our mobile phone numbers are chunked down into 4, 3 and 3 digits blocks. This helps not only your audience retain this information, but also helps you to remember it.

Some examples of what your 3 sections could be are as follows, but what you cover should be specifically tailored based on your overall objective:

  • Current State, Future State, Benefits
  • Issues, Proposal, Benefits
  • Why, What, How
  • Background, Approach, Examples
  • Beginning, Turning Point, End

etc.

The order of these sections are crucial as well, so make sure it flows in a way that logically follows your audience’s understanding of what you’re talking about.

The Closing should summarise your key points and is where you articulate your call to action. This drives home your points, helps with recall and increases your chance of successfully influencing your audience.

Note that there may be instances where your whole talk is a story and as such the Opening would be the start of the story and the Closing would be the lesson learnt from the story, which would slightly amend the format of your structure.

If you have any questions about how to structure a presentation that this article doesn’t answer, please let me know either in the comments below or DM me. I will happily reply! Or if you approach the structure of a presentation in a different way, that you think works better, I would love to know. Please share in the comments below.