This Presentation Was Bad (Yours Doesn’t Have to Be)


Someone I know recently attended a premarital counseling seminar. Considering how she’s about to be married, this friend of mine – we’ll call her Joy – was very interested in what was going to be said.

Prepared to take notes and everything, she sat down with her fiancé… only to end up tuning out.

The woman directing the seminar was apparently all over the place, crisscrossing her points, jumping forward and then backtracking. She seemed to mean well, but there was no logical order to her presentation to the point where Joy simply couldn’t follow her.

So Joy gave up overall, letting her mind wander down her various to-do lists instead. What had begun as something she’d been looking forward to turned out to be a waste of an evening instead.

Which is sad.

What else is sad is how the topic of the seminar was none other than communication.

Perhaps you have a big assignment up ahead of you that you’re not sure how to put together. Perhaps, like the counselor mentioned above, presentation isn’t your normal strong suit.

That doesn’t mean you’re hopeless though. You can do this, and you can do it pretty well. Maybe even phenomenally.

To get started on the right foot, consider the potential writing structures below to base your presentation on. They may sound old-fashioned, and perhaps they are to some degree. But old-fashioned is a far cry better than a rambling mess on a topic you care enough about to present on.

As you continue reading, recognize that not every topic or objective is going to fit well into every structure. Your personal preference isn’t the most important factor here. Getting your message across in the most clear, effective and compelling way possible is.

Let’s say you want to write about the benefits of drinking smoothies. To make your point go down easier, you have five examples for readers to try. Each of them are equally delicious and nutritious in your opinion, so there’s no level of importance to the list.

In that case, you can consider a categorical writing structure. This involves establishing your smoothies-are-the-best platform before presenting the different ways to enjoy them.

When it comes to lists that do need to be orderly, such as How-To guides, a sequential writing structure would probably work better. This is when you let readers know that they must do A before they can move on to B.

Though I only heard about the premarital counseling presentation secondhand, I imagine that the instructor should have gone with one of these two.

A chronological writing structure, meanwhile, also depends on an A, B, C mode of communication. Though this one's more in a storytelling sense. As Writer’s Digest put it:

When your focus is more the actual telling of the story than the end result, employ a chronological structure. Think of joke telling, “Three guys walk into a bar…” sets up a sequence of events to deliver that final punch line.

While it goes on to note that “most short stories and novels are written chronologically,” it’s equally important to mention how there are nonfiction reasons to write this way as well. For instance, if you’re using a personal story to make a point, this could be the best way to go.

Then there’s the comparative writing structure, best applied to showing the differences and/or similarities between two or more people, places, things or ideas. This can be set up:

  • In a back-and-forth point-by-point manner, where you mention subject A’s size and then subject B’s, move on to subject A’s shape and then subject B’s, and so on

  • By addressing all of subject A’s characteristics and then all of subject B’s.

If you’re trying to prove one superior to another, the comparative writing structure can be ideal.

Need to know more about these and other logical orders you can rely on? Check out the aforementioned Writer’s Digest article and/or this School Tutoring Academy post.

And here's wishing you the absolute best on your presentation, whatever it may be.

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