8.7 Outlining Your Presentation

cartoon showing the outline process from idea to drawing to creating a presentation, delivering and revising
ST035: Figure 15.6” by Rosenfield Media, CC BY 2.0

You’re now ready to prepare an outline for your presentation. To be successful in your presentation, you should have two outlines: a preparation outline, and a speaking outline.

Preparation outlines are comprehensive outlines that include all of the information in your presentation. Your presentation outline will consist of the content of what the audience will see and hear. Eventually, you will move away from this outline as you develop your materials and practice your presentation.

Your speaking outline will contain notes to guide you, and is usually not shared with your audience. It will summarize the full preparation outline down to abbreviated notes for the actual delivery; although a PowerPoint may give you enough detail to spark your memory, it is always good to have a backup plan in case your mind goes blank while in front of your audience. Sometimes nerves can get the best of us!

Your organizational model will help determine how you will structure your preparation outline. However, most, if not all, of the organization models will align with this structure:

  1. Attention Statement: an engaging or interesting statement that will cause your audience to sit up and take notice.
  2. Introduction: setting out your general idea statement and giving the audience an idea of what to expect.
  3. Body: This section contains your research, main points, and other relevant information. It will follow your organizational pattern.
  4. Conclusion: reiterating your idea statement, and/or includes a call-to-action — what you want the audience to do or think about following your presentation.
  5. Residual Message: this is an optional section, but a powerful one. It is the final message you want the audience to remember.

You can use your presentation outline as a starting point to developing your speaking outline. It’s a good idea to make speaking notes to align with your main points and visuals in each section.

Using Examples and Scenarios

Presenters will often use examples and scenarios to help illustrate the their message. The main difference between examples and scenarios is that while both help “show” the audience what you mean, an example is the “thing” itself, while a scenario would include more detail about the sequence or development of events. Scenarios also tend to be longer and more nuanced.

An ‘example’ of a sales target might be: to sell 500 units in 30 days. A ‘scenario’ might be described as: Company A is selling vacuums to the Atlantic Canada region. They are trying to increase their sales, and so have set a target of 500 units in the region in 30 days, using a sales incentive program for employees and promoting a sale at local stores.

A Word About Storytelling

Storytelling can be an effective way to convey your message to your audience. Stories are a fundamental part of the human experience, and, if well-told, can resonate with listeners. Some of the most inspiring TEDTalks speakers use storytelling effectively in their presentations. You can find out more about how to incorporate storytelling techniques into presentations from the TEDTAlk speakers directly.

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35. Outlining Your Presentation” from Communication for Business Professionals by eCampusOntario is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


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Talking Business Copyright © 2023 by Laura Radtke is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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