Writing Your Presentation

See also: Presenting Data

This page provides advice on how to write an effective presentation. 

Before you write your presentation, you should already have started to prepare by developing your ideas and selecting the main points to include.

For further explanation, see our pages on Preparing Your Presentation and Organising Your Material.

You should structure your presentation with an introduction, the main message or content, and a conclusion.

You should also aim to write a story that has maximum impact and one which conveys your message in a way that is easily understood by the target audience.

The structure and content of your presentation will be unique to you and only you can decide on the best way to present your messages.  However, you might like to consider some standard presentation structures for inspiration.

Harnessing the Power of Three

In public speaking and rhetorical debate, as well as in much communication, three is the magic number.  The brain finds it relatively easy to grasp three points at a time: people find three points, ideas or numbers, easier to understand and remember than four or more.  You could therefore structure your presentation about the magic number of three.

For example, your presentation should have three main elements: the introduction, middle and conclusions. Within the main body of your presentation, divide your key message into three elements and then expand each of these points into three sub-points.  If you are using a visual aid such as PowerPoint, limit the number of bullet points to three on each slide and expand on each of these as you go along.

What, Why, How?

You could try structuring your presentation by addressing the questions “What?”, “Why?” and “How?” to communicate your message to the audience.

“What?” identifies the key message you wish to communicate.  From the perspective of the audience, think about what is the benefit of your message.  What will they gain, what can they do with the information, and what will the benefit be?

“Why?” addresses the next obvious question that arises in the audience.  Having been told “what”, the audience will naturally then start to think “why should I do that?”, “why should I think that?” or “why should that be the case?”  Directly addressing the “why?” question in the next stage of your presentation means that you are answering these questions and your talk is following what the audience perceives as a natural route through the material. The result is that you have the audience on your side immediately.

“How?” is also the next question that naturally arises in the audience’s mind: how are they going to achieve what you have just suggested.  Try not to be too prescriptive here so, instead of telling people exactly how they should act on your message, offer suggestions as to how they can act. 

You should also finish by proving what you have just said: providing evidence that what you have just said is beyond dispute using either case studies, personal examples or statistics.

Editing Your Content

Once you have a first draft of your presentation, it is important to review and edit this.  Ideally, you should take a break from the presentation before editing so that you can look at your writing with a fresh pair of eyes. 

When editing presentation content, you should consider the following:

  1. Ensure that the language you use is appropriate for the audience.  Are there any terms they may not be familiar with?  If so use more familiar terms or explain the meaning.
  2. Is your language presentation friendly?  Presentations are spoken and so choose to use accessible and easily-understood words (such as those you would use in a conversation) rather than technical or obscure words.
  3. Eliminate long sentences.  Remember that you will be talking through your ideas and that the audience will be listening rather than reading.  Therefore keep sentences short, and their structure, simple to ease the audience’s understanding.
  4. Use metaphors to aid understanding and retention.
  5. Identify ways of grabbing the audience’s attention.  Are there additional visual materials that you could include to illustrate your key points? 
  6. Check, and double check, that any presentation slides or illustrations, titles, captions, handouts or similar are free from spelling mistakes.