9.4 – How to structure your presentation

Learning Objectives

  • organize your presentation into a clear, simple structure
  • use valid resources and avoid plagiarism


There are lots of ways to structure a presentation, but we like this one best. It’s clear, simple and fits most presentations. This structure has 10 parts:

  1. Grabber/hook: A very brief and interesting statement or question that grabs the audience’s attention
  2. Self-introduction including full name & credential: Who you are and why you’re qualified to present this content
  3. Thesis: What you’re going to speak about
  4. Overview of main points
  5. Key point 1
  6. Key point 2
  7. Key point 3
  8. Conclusion: Restate the thesis
  9. Summary of main points: Restate the overview
  10. Call to action: What you want the audience to do


In this part of your presentation, you’ll capture the audience’s attention, tell them who you are, and give them a preview of your presentation.

  • Grabber/hook  (Goes before or after the self-introduction) A very brief and interesting statement or question that grabs the audience’s attention. See Grabber Types below for more details.
  • Self-introduction  (Goes 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 main point or argument of your presentation. Be brief and precise, not general or vague. For example: I’m going to show you how practicing 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, do list these 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.


In this part of your presentation, you’ll deliver the detailed information of your presentation.

  • Key point 1  A major point that supports your thesis and may have supporting sub-points
  • Key point 2  Another major point that supports your thesis and may have supporting sub-points
  • Key point 3  The final major point that supports your thesis and may have supporting sub-points


In this part 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’m 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!

Grabber types

Remember that the grabber’s job is grabbing the audience’s attention, so it must be surprising, fascinating or intriguing. It must also be related to your presentation’s topic. Here are some descriptions and examples:

Bold statement
  • An opinion or view that may be extreme, perhaps even shocking.
    “Gambling in all forms should be completely banned!”
Strong statistic
  • A strong statistic is a fact from a reputable source.
    “More Canadians die each year as a result of a tobacco-related disease than due to traffic accidents in Canada and the US combined.”  Source: The Canadian Lung Association [New tab]
  • A story is a great way to capture your audience’s imagination and get them to “project” themselves into your presentation. Powerful stories are often emotional. They could be about you or someone else, or may be allegorical.
    In 1964, I was a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor of my mother’s house in Milwaukee, watching Anne Bancroft present the Oscar for best actor at the 36th Academy Awards. She opened the envelope and said five words that literally made history: “The winner is Sidney Poitier.” Up to the stage came the most elegant man I had ever seen. I remember his tie was white, and of course his skin was black. I’d never seen a black man being celebrated like that. And I’ve tried many, many, many times to explain what a moment like that means to a little girl — a kid watching from the cheap seats, as my mom came through the door bone-tired from cleaning other people’s houses. … In 1982, Sidney received the Cecil B. DeMille Award right here at the Golden Globes, and it is not lost on me that at this moment there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this same award!
    ~ Oprah Winfrey accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 2018 Golden Globe Awards
  • Questions can be powerful because they prompt the audience to think and interact. There are different types of questions:
    • Rhetorical: you ask a question without expecting an answer. For example: Have you ever wondered how electricity works?
    • Closed-ended: you ask the audience to respond. For example: Raise your hand if you’ve ever wondered how electricity works.
    • Open-ended: where you don’t give options to the audience and they can answer freely. For example: What’s your favourite candy?
  • It’s important to consider that they audience might not respond exactly as you expect. So prepare responses for what you’ll do based on a variety of responses.
Invitation to imagine something
  • Similar to a story, an invitation to imagine something is powerful because it gets the audience to use their imaginations, and can transport them “into” your presentation. You could ask the audience to imagine something extremely positive, or could have them imagine something very negative.Example: “I want to invite you all to close your eyes and imagine that the term is over. You earned an A+ in 1500, Covid is over, and you’re on vacation on a lovely tropical beach. You can hear the soft ocean waves and feel the warm breeze as you sip an ice cold drink. You’re in paradise, and think to yourself… I don’t have a care in the world… everything is perfect.” 
  • A quote is something that a famous person said. The person should be credible / well known.

    Example: “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”  John Lennon
    Example: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.”  Wayne Gretzky

  • A proverb is a common saying. These can be somewhat cliché, and less than exciting because we’ve heard them a lot. To keep things interesting, you could consider introducing a foreign proverb to the audience:Example: “the first pancake is always ruined” (Russian proverb conveying that things might not be perfect at first, but will improve as you continue to practice. Used in a presentation designed to convey that you should never give up)
  • Alternatively, you could “twist” a common proverb and contradict it:Example: “I’m here to tell you that an apple a day doesn’t keep the doctor away!” (Used in a presentation on diabetes and being mindful of sugar intake)
  • A prop is a physical item that you can show to the audience. Make sure the item is large enough to be easily seen.Example: Wearing a jersey and showing a basketball for a presentation on Michael Jordan
  • In presentations that include slides or other media, you can briefly show or play video, audio or images. Make sure the media isn’t too long – remember the audience is here to see you speak.Example: A short drone video of beautiful Thai beaches for a presentation designed to convince people to visit Thailand
  • You can use humour or a joke as a grabber, but be careful that that everyone will get the joke and it won’t offend anyone.
Other creative idea
  • Some presenters have done other unexpected and creative things for their grabbers.
    • Example: Playing a guitar and singing (for a presentation on the mental health benefits of music)
    • Example: Beatboxing (for a presentation on the basics of beatboxing)
    • Example: Describing a lovely scene, then making a shocking noise (at the start of a presentation on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster)

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 one sentence. For a 16-minute team presentation, a 45-60 second grabber would be appropriate.

Outline your presentation

The fastest way to create a successful presentation is to start with an outline.

Use an outline, not a script; this will allow you to be more natural and let you look at the audience or camera. Reading is a guaranteed way to make your presentation boring.

The easiest way to create your outline is to work in this order:

  1. Determine your thesis and write this as a full sentence
  2. Determine your 3 Main Points
  3. Add key supporting points for each of your Main Points
  4. Complete the other parts – introduction, grabber, call to action, etc.

Working in this order is fast because it’s easier to create the conclusion and grabber when you’ve already decided on the content. Also, after you have the main structure it’s easy to add details, examples and stories that make your presentation interesting and convincing.

Another benefit of outlining is that you can use the outline as your presentation notes.

Presentation Model – Test your Knowledge

Presentation Model – Test your Knowledge

Label each part of the presentation correctly.


  1. Call to Action
  2. Key Point 2
  3. Thesis
  4. Summary
  5. Key Point 1
  6. Overview
  7. Grabber
  8. Key Point 3
  9. Conclusion
  10. Introduction

Presentation part

  1. Hello, my name is Sarah Green and I have been a barista for two years
  2. There is a famous company that was founded in Seattle, has a mermaid for its logo, and has over 31,000 stores worldwide. Can you guess which company it is?*
  3. I am here today to tell you why you should patronize Starbucks Coffee*
  4. because of convenience, quality, & amazing food
  5. Starbucks is Convenient~ many locations, mobile app, quick service*
  6. Starbucks has Quality~ arabica beans, top ingredients, staff trained to make drinks and food properly*
  7. Starbucks has amazing food~ grab and go, hot food, prepackaged meals*
  8. Today I told you why you should patronize Starbucks*
  9. because of its *convenience*, *quality*, and *amazing food*
  10. So, what are you waiting for? Go to a Starbucks store today and order an amazing coffee!*

Check your Answer: [1]

Activity source:
How to structure your presentation” In Business Presentation Skills by Lucinda Atwood & Christian Westin licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

Attribution & References

Except where otherwise noted, this chapter (text & H5P activities) is adapted from “How to structure your presentation” In Business Presentation Skills by Lucinda Atwood & Christian Westin licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0. / Grabber types converted to HTML from H5P.

  1. 1. j, 2. g, 3. c, 4. f, 5. e, 6. b, 7. h, 8. i, 9. d, 10. a


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Communication Essentials for College Copyright © 2022 by Jen Booth, Emily Cramer & Amanda Quibell, Georgian College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book