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11.4: Speaking Strategies - Presentation Structure, Part I

  • Page ID
    188598
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    Some would agree that the beginning of anything—a poem, a song, a play, a new job, a friendship, a conversation, a meal, a lesson—is the most important part, as it sets up what is to come. The same can be said for a presentation, a classroom discussion or a formal debate. How you begin will prepare your audience for what they are about to see and hear. A sound structure to your presentation, discussion or debate will help you create a persuasive and memorable message for your audience. Let’s look at one way we can accomplish this!

    Like any academic essay, there is always a beginning, a middle, and an end. The beginning to an academic essay is called the Introductory Paragraph, and we are going to take aspects from these types of paragraph to structure our presentations, discussions, and debates. Take a look at this flow chart for a speech, presentation or opening remarks for a debate:

    11.4.1.PNG

    The first step is optional, but strongly recommended. A “hook” is a way to grab your audience’s attention, and this can be accomplished in a number of ways. One way is to ask a question—usually a rhetorical question, or a question that doesn’t require an answer from the audience. For example, if your topic is Halloween Cultural Costumes, you could begin by asking, “Would you ever consider dressing up as a Chinese person for Halloween?” If you’re using PowerPoint or a similar program, another way to do this is to show a photograph, chart, graph, map, etc., and ask a question. Going back to our example, you could show one of the costumes above and ask, “Would you ever consider wearing one of these costumes for Halloween?” Your questions don’t need an answer, so don’t wait for one! Don’t pause for too long after you ask your question, and simply continue with your presentation. A third way to grab your audience’s attention is by making a bold statement: “Halloween and racism. These two words may not seem connected, but they are.” There are many more ways to create a hook for your presentation or speech, so be creative the next time you have to give one!

    The second step is the basic greeting. Saying “good morning/afternoon,” “or even a simple, “Hello” will create a feeling of warmth and connection between the speaker (you) and the audience. Don’t forget this key point!

    The third step is introducing your topic. This can be done in a number of ways, but try this standard phrase: “Today, I’m going to talk about ______________________ (your topic).” It’s a very simple, yet very effective way to let the audience know what the focus of your presentation or speech will be.

    Although the third step seems to be the most important, it can be argued that the fourth step is, as it establishes the reason why you’re presenting this topic in the first place. Why are you talking about Halloween costumes? More importantly, why should the audience care about Halloween costumes? There needs to be a solid rationale as to why you’re discussing this topic, otherwise the audience won’t become invested in what you have to say. In short, you need to give them a reason to care about what your topic. Usually, but not always, the rationale is your opinion on the topic. Look at these two examples:

    “I want you to stop buying cultural costumes for Halloween because I think they are racist!”

    vs.

    “Cultural costumes for Halloween may unknowingly offend people from the cultures that are being represented, so it is important to discuss the cultural significance of these costumes so that better choices can be made.”

    What is the difference between the two? While it is clear that the second one is more detailed, there is one small difference that makes a huge impact on your message. Notice that “I” is missing from the second example. This is critical because, while both examples are opinions, the first one sounds too subjective (based on the speaker’s feelings or opinions). The second example, while still an opinion, sounds more objective (not influenced by the speaker’s feelings or opinions). This is an important point to remember when giving presentations, speeches, and debates!

    The fifth step is the summary. This is the part that lets the audience know what your main points will be. This step will be covered in more detail in the next unit, but for now, just remember this line: “I’m going to talk about three points.”

    Speaking Activity

    Follow the flow chart above, and complete the introduction for a presentation you’re giving on Chinese fashion.

    Hook (optional):

     

    Greeting:

     

    Topic:

    “From the Chinese Timeline of Fashion, the best outfit is from __________________________________________

    because it is __________________________________________________________________________________________________

    ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________.”

    Reason:

    “It is important to know this information because _____________________________________________

    _____________________________________________________________________________________________________.”

    Summary:

    “I will talk about three points.”

    After you complete the boxes above, take turns presenting your introduction to the class. Give each other advice on strong points and areas that could use improvement.


    This page titled 11.4: Speaking Strategies - Presentation Structure, Part I is shared under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Daniel Velasco.

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