Structuring your presentation

Having worked out your key message and main points, the next stage is to structure the content for your presentation. Just as other forms of academic writing, a presentation can be divided into three parts: an introduction detailing the purpose and structure of the talk; a body covering the main points; and a conclusion summarising and highlighting the significance of your talk. A template for your talk is given in the Presentations structure document. 


Either introduce yourself or thank your chair for introducing you. Capture the audience's interest and attention with a story or commentary on a current development that raises an important question/problem/dilemma that your talk will explore. Clearly state the purpose or key message of the talk:

  • 'Today I would like to talk to you about a highly contested issue...'
  • 'This question is central to understanding...'
  • 'I will make the case that...'

If necessary, limit the scope of the presentation:

  • 'Although there are several theories, this talk will only focus on two ...'
  • 'focuses only on the private sector as opposed to the public sector ...'
  • 'Implementation, rather than policy formation, will be considered ...'

Signpost the structure/approach of the talk:

  • 'My case is based on four main points. Firstly...The second point is that...This will then lead me to...Finally...'


This part of the talk provides the support for your main message. You should discuss each of your main points in a clear and logical order. As you do, be sure to explain how these points relate to each other and your key message:

  • 'Turning to the next point...'
  • 'Another important consideration is that...'
  • 'Having examined...I'd now like to talk about...'

All necessary concepts and terms need to be defined and explained before being used. Examples can be used to effectively illustrate your points.


Signpost that you have reached the end of the talk:

  • 'In conclusion...'
  • 'I'd like to finish by...'

Summarise the key points covered. In the process, remind the audience of the significance of the topic, the aims of your talk and demonstrate how you have met the aims. Thank the audience for their attention and invite them to comment or ask questions.

Acknowledging others ideas

As with all academic work, if you use other people's ideas, images, data etc, then you must appropriately acknowledge it in your presentation. You do this through your spoken words or supply references on your visual aids. In text references can be kept brief to enable the audience to read. If you have a long list of sources, you may want to consider supplying them as a handout. See referencing resources for more information.

Working with visual aids >>