As you begin writing your presentation, remember that the introduction and conclusion are very important, for several reasons. The introduction serves some vital purposes. First, it introduces your topic. It also sets the tone for the remainder of the speech. It must also grab and hold listeners’ attention so they will be more likely to pay attention to the rest of your presentation.
The conclusion, while not quite as significant as the introduction, can also serve you in a few ways. If your speech is persuasive, it can make clear your call to action. No matter what kind of presentation you’re giving, it should always end with a few strong statements that clearly summarize your key points.
Here are a few tips for making your introduction and conclusion as strong as possible:
- In the introduction, use shocking or surprising facts and statistics that lead into your main point(s).
- Begin the speech with a dramatic story, either true or fictional, that illustrates a major point of the presentation.
- Start the speech with humor, a funny quote, or story that is appropriate to the speech and your main points. Remember that humor is not appropriate for all speeches.
- Remember, a picture paints a thousand words. Start your presentation with a great slide show, visual piece, or demonstration that may dramatically illustrate the overall theme of your presentation.
- Open by asking a question that may challenge the listeners.
- Once you’ve gained listener attention, proceed by introducing your topic and the points you plan to make. If you have a surprising or dramatic point to present, you may want to allude to it in the introduction, but reserve the actual idea for the proper time in the speech.
- When it comes time to conclude your speech, try to end on a positive note, even if your topic wasn’t positive in nature. “Positive” doesn’t always mean bright and sunny. Be realistic but looking forward to a better position in the future.
- Make sure you tie up all loose ends and thank your listeners for their attention in your conclusion. You might also want to close with an appropriate quote that is humorous or sums up the overall theme in a profound way.
- Remember, when writing your presentation, it’s important to give special thought and consideration to the introduction and conclusion.
Defining the Goals of Your Presentation
You may want to just sit down and start writing your presentation, but if you do so without really thinking through what you want to accomplish, you may have a difficult time writing it. In fact, writing a presentation without first defining your goals is like driving to a city 500 miles away without a map or GPS. Before you start writing, first ask yourself some questions. What do you hope to accomplish by giving the presentation? What is the desired outcome? Even if your presentation is just about informing your listeners, you’ll have an overall message you want to convey. For example, let’s say you’re presenting the results of your biology project to your classmates. Yes, the goal is to present the results, but you also want your teacher or professor to have a favorable impression of you and your project. When you’re preparing to write your presentation, make sure to think of ALL the possible outcomes you want to achieve with your presentation.
Once you have defined your presentation’s goals, you’ll next need to think about what type of presentation you’re giving. There are three primary types of presentations you may be asked to deliver over the course of your high school and college careers:
- Informative Presentation: This kind of presentation is like the one mentioned earlier. You are simply explaining the facts or results of a project or subject.
- Persuasive presentation: In this kind of presentation, you want to persuade the audience to take some kind of action. For example, you may be assigned to make a presentation that will persuade the audience to recycle. Your goal for this presentation is to gather information, statistics, and compelling data that persuades the audience to act.
- Instructional presentation: The major difference between this kind of presentation and an informative presentation is that you aren’t just endeavoring to present information—your goal is to teach the audience facts and information they didn’t know before. This translates into a very different kind of presentation than one that simply informs.
You can see that taking the time to define your goals and to know what type of presentation you will be delivering will have a big impact on what you’re going to say. So take the time to properly prepare and ask yourself these questions. Once you have your answers, you’re ready to continue to develop your presentation.
Developing Your Presentation’s Outline
You might be tempted to sit down and write your presentation without first coming up with an outline. Even the best writers often find that practice a recipe for disaster. Without first organizing your thoughts and points on paper, you could end up writing 20,000 words for a ten minute presentation. You could ramble, stray, forget important points, and end up with a low grade for your efforts. It’s always worthwhile to develop an outline before writing your presentation. An outline also ensures that you’ll present your ideas in a logical way that your listeners are able to understand. So how do you go about developing an effective outline?
- Gather your points and ideas. Here’s your opportunity to “drain your brain.” First write down all of the points you want to discuss or make in your presentation. Include as many appropriate points as you can, whether you have the data to presently back them up or not. (You can always find the data later, and if you don’t you can adjust the speech then.) Start looking at these points to find a natural way to organize them?for example, all pre-experiment preparations, experiment execution, and lessons learned from the experiment.
- Create the order in which you’ll deliver your points and ideas. For some presentations the order will be obvious and flow chronologically—for example, explaining your chemistry project. For others, you’ll need to really think about a logical order to your ideas. Does the audience need to hear the points from Group A before understanding the points from Group B? Then Group A’s points should come first. Once you’ve created the order of your points, those groupings become the subsections of your outline.
- Finalize your outline. Now that you have defined your subsections and have listed them in the order that makes the most sense, it’s time to fill in the missing pieces of your outline. Those missing pieces are the title of the speech, the introduction, conclusion, and main headings that go with each subsection. Don’t underestimate the importance of an introduction and conclusion. The introduction sets the tone and audience expectations, and the conclusion leaves the audience with your final thoughts.
- Much like baking a cake without a recipe, trying to create an effective presentation without an outline will be very hard to accomplish. Use these steps to ensure you get the results you desire.
Writing Your Presentation
Once you’ve completed all the steps that help you develop your presentation, such as defining your goals and developing your outline, it’s time to start writing. You should have already laid the groundwork for writing, so it should be fairly easy to get started. For example, you should know how many words the introduction should be and what your introduction will consist of, like startling facts, an interesting or humorous story, or an attention-getting image.
You should also know approximately how many words you need for each section that follows your introduction and conclusion. You should already have done your research and gathered all the data and information you need so it’s all at your fingertips. As long as you’ve done all of this prep work, writing the presentation should flow fairly easily.
If it doesn’t, then you may need to flesh out your outline in more detail. It also helps if you give yourself more than one day to complete the writing. For example, if you’re writing a 1,500-word presentation, write 500 words over a three-day period. This puts less pressure on you and allows you to focus on the presentation in shorter, more digestible “bites.”
It’s always best to stick to the outline and follow it as closely as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t make some changes to your speech, if as you’re writing it you feel it makes more sense to present some ideas in a different order, for example. But in general, if you’ve taken the time to think through the presentation so it flows in a logical manner, it’s best to stick to that order.
You’ll also need to know when and how to insert appropriate quotes, facts, research, and other information. If the point of your presentation is to present certain facts, then there will be a logical place in it to insert these facts. If you’re inserting a quote or fact to get the audience’s attention, it’s best to place it at the beginning of the speech, and then pepper the presentation with other information and quotes that are also pertinent to your goal or point.
Then you’ll be ready to write the conclusion, which should wrap up the speech and drive home your points. Using a humorous or profound quote is also a great way to end a presentation. If it’s required, don’t forget to allow time for questions and answers.