3.6 Structuring Your Presentation

Lucinda Atwood; Christian Westin; [Author removed at request of original publisher]; and Linda Macdonald

Learning Objectives

By the end of this chapter, you should be able to

  • Explain how to integrate a Land Acknowledgment
  • Describe various techniques for creating a “grabber” or “hook”
  • Describe various methods of organizing the body of the speech
  • Describe the elements to include in the ending of the speech

Speeches can be organized in many different ways, and one way is no “better” or “more correct” than the others. The choice of an organizing principle, or a core assumption around which everything else is arranged, depends on the subject matter, the rhetorical situation, and many other factors, including your preference as speaker.

If your speech is delivered in a public forum or at an event, particularly if it is a gathering at which you represent an industry with a strong connection to the land and nature, you should begin with a Land Acknowledgment, as addressed in Chapter 3.5. The Land Acknowledgment should not be tacked on to the start of the speech; it should flow into the content. Incorporating the Land Acknowledgement smoothly and effectively honours the relationship with Indigenous peoples and demonstrates that working toward Reconciliation is an integral part of our individual and corporate missions.

The simple structure outlined below is adaptable to most topics. The presentation begins with a “hook”, a claim, and an overview of key points that will be addressed. The main part of the speech follows with two to five main points; and concludes with a summary and, in a persuasive speech, a call to action.


In the Introduction of your presentation, you’ll capture the audience’s attention, tell them who you are, state the main point of your presentation, and provide a preview.

Land Acknowledgment: If appropriate for your event or purpose, begin with an Acknowledgment.

Grabber/hook:  A very brief and interesting statement or question grabs the audience’s attention. See Grabber Types below for more details.

Self-introduction: If a self-introduction is necessary, place it before or after the grabber. Tell the audience your name and credentials. For example: I’m Minh and I’ve been a professional presenter for 10 years.

Thesis: The thesis is the main point or argument of your presentation. Be brief and precise, not general or vague. For example: I’m going to show you how practising your presentation 10 times will improve your grade by 20%.

Overview of main points: Briefly outline the main points that you’ll cover in your presentation. To help your audience, list these points in same order that you’ll deliver them later on. For example: First, we’ll talk about what makes presentations great, then I’ll share some data on how practice affects your confidence and performance, and finally we’ll look at how to practice.

Grabber types

Remember that the grabber’s job is grabbing the audience’s attention, so it must be interesting and engaging. It must also be related to your presentation’s topic. Some descriptions and examples are presented here:

You can also mix and match grabbers. For example, you could show an image and ask the audience to guess what it is.

The length of your grabber is relative to your total presentation time. For a 2-minute presentation, it should be quite brief, maybe 20 seconds. For a 16-minute team presentation, a one to two-minute grabber would be appropriate.


In this part of your presentation, you’ll deliver detailed information. Depending on the length of the presentation and your purpose, you might have two to five points in the body main points, each with supporting sub-points.

Your points can be arranged in a variety of ways. In her TED Talk The Secret Structure of Great Talks and her Harvard Business Review article titled “Structure your presentation like a story” (click here for direct link to her article), Nancy Duarte advocates organizing a presentation according to what is and what could be. Before reading on, take a moment to read the Duarte article, then check your knowledge.

Check Your Knowledge (4 Questions)

There are many other ways to organize the body of your presentation. The most common types are presented in Table 3.6.1. The centre column explains how the principle works, and the right column provides an applied example.

As you read each organizational structure, consider how the main points and subheadings change or adapt to meet each pattern.

Table 3.6.1

Sample Organizing Principles for a Speech

Organizing Principle Explanation Applied Example
Time (Chronological) Structuring your speech in a chronological pattern shows a series of events or steps in a process, which typically has a beginning, middle, and end. Purpose: To explain the process of applying for a job

  1. First, search for positions in your field.
  2. Second, research the companies that are hiring.
  3. Third, update your cv.
  4. Then, write a cover letter that shows how  your skills and values fit with the organization’s needs and culture.
  5. Finally, submit your application through Career Services.
Space (Spatial) Structuring your speech by space involves categorizing by area or direction Purpose: To describe the prospects for a new retail business in three Atlantic provinces

  1. Nova Scotia
  2. Newfoundland and Labrador
  3. New Brunswick
Classification (Categorical) Structuring a speech by topics, reasons, or categories is the most common. Purpose: To persuade the client to make changes in their website

  1. Visual elements appeal to modern readers
  2. Font affects reader mood
  3. Headings add structure
Cause and Effect Structuring your speech by cause and effect establishes a relationship between two events or situations. Purpose: To show the effects of the pandemic on the health care industry

  1. The pandemic led to increased use of technology for healthcare delivery.
  2. The pandemic led to regulatory reforms in healthcare.
Problem and solution Structuring your speech in this way identifies the problem and possible solution(s) or identifies what is and what could be. Purpose: To persuade a client to lease a larger restaurant space

  1. Problem: Lack of growth due to small kitchen and seating areas.
  2. Solution: Larger spaces will increase the number of ovens and double the available seating


The structure of your presentation should be clear to your listeners at the start of the presentation and reinforced throughout with transitions. Transitions both connect to your thesis and indicate a shift to your next point.

1. As part of your introduction, you should make clear the structure of your points. For example,

“Slack Desktop offers three time-saving benefits for our team collaborations.”

“First, I will discuss the current inefficiencies in our collaborations and then explain how Slack Desktop can resolve these problems.”

“Slack Desktop’s built-in notification system, keyboard shortcuts, and convenience in switching between workspaces are advantages for team collaborations.”

2. Provide a transition as you move from the introduction to the first point. For example,

“The first advantage for our teams in using Slack Desktop is…”

“First, I will provide an overview of Slack’s capabilities before addressing the two features that are most compelling for our teams…”

“Let’s begin with the built-in notification system…”

3. As you move to the second and third points, you can reinforce the structure of the presentation for your listener by stating where you have been and where you are going. For example,

“We have covered the benefits of the notification system and the range of keyboard shortcuts and will now discuss the greatest benefit for our work– the simplicity in moving between teams.”

“A final benefit of Slack Desktop for collaborations is the ease in switching between teams.”

“Now that I have demonstrated the problems with the current system, I will demonstrate the solutions to these problems with Slack.”

“It is clear that the notifications systems and keyboard shortcuts are time-saving features, but the greatest time-saving feature is the ease and convenience in switching between teams.”

“Although Slack has several beneficial features, team collaborations in our company may be better facilitated through Chanty.”

“Just as keyboard shortcuts provide added convenience, so too does the notification system.”

4. Finally, transition to the conclusion:

“In summary, Slack has indisputable advantages.”

“In conclusion,..”

“What I would most like you to take from this presentation is…”

Transitions connect your points and ensure the audience follows you. The audience will clearly see where you have been and where you are going next. Practice your transitions so that the content flows naturally. As we will discuss in Chapter 3.12, moving as you transition between points can help you remember the order of points as well as engage your audience.


At the end of your presentations, you’ll remind the audience of what you told them, and tell them what to do next.

Summary of main points:  (can be merged with your conclusion) Clearly restate your three main points in the same order you delivered them. It’s the same as your overview but in past tense.

“First, I described what makes presentations great, then I shared data on how practice affects confidence and performance, and finally we looked at how to practice.”

Conclusion:  Restate your thesis in past tense. For example,

“I have showed you that practicing your presentation 10 times will improve your grade by 20%.”

Call to action:  Give your audience clear, active and compelling direction, based on what you told them. For example,

Practice your presentations ten times and start collecting those A-plusses!

Check Your Knowledge (11 Questions)


Duarte, N. (October 31, 2012). Structure your presentation like a story. Harvard Business Review (HBR). https://hbr.org/2012/10/structure-your-presentation-li



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3.6 Structuring Your Presentation Copyright © 2021 by Lucinda Atwood; Christian Westin; [Author removed at request of original publisher]; and Linda Macdonald is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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