A presentation can be moulded into a shape very similar to that of an academic essay. A basic structure would be:
- introduction and overview
- body of presentation (main part of the information)
- discussion and questions
With the exception of the discussion / question stage this model could be a written ‘text’ as readily as a spoken ‘text.’ Knowing that there are four stages in a presentation gives a convenient way of selecting useful language according to stage.
It can be useful to think about a checklist of elements that when put together, create a powerful presentation.
The checklist has three categories:
'Language,' specifically for presentations, is focused on signpost expressions. That is those expressions that signal particular parts of a presentation or to move from one part of a presentation to another. It is not within the scope of this article to list the most useful signpost expressions. Most teachers will already be familiar with those expressions through their school’s course material for listening and speaking.
'Body' refers to how the speaker uses their body during a presentation. Typical mistakes are turning away from the audience and reading verbatim from PowerPoint slides, or facing the audience but looking down and hiding behind a stack of notes.
A powerful presenter engages with the audience. This means that the speaker’s primary focus is on the people he or she is talking to. Notes and slides are just to help that focus along, not to replace it. The powerful presenter looks at the people he or she is presenting to and is comfortable doing so.
The third component is voice. Non native speakers must learn new ‘tunes,’ and the relationship of those tunes with meaning and emphasis. Most people are used to conversation, fewer are used to addressing groups; learning how to give presentations requires the student to receive feedback about their volume, speed and pronunciation.
These are the three primary elements of a powerful presentation.