Creating an Effective Presentation Outline

If you have been invited to speak at a conference or seminar, then you are going to need to prepare a presentation that makes an impact. However, you don’t have to be a professional speaker to give a high quality speech. With the right planning and outline, you can sound like one of the top speakers.

Select and Define the Key Points of Your Presentation

When creating an outline for your presentation, you want to focus on the overall objective or goal first. Is it to make a sell or to teach people a new idea? Or are you trying to raise some form of awareness and explore an industry trend? Once you’ve defined the main point of your presentation, you will need to really hammer out the key points and ideas of your speech.

Gather Evidence for Each Presentation Key Point

“The evidence of your speech is what backs up you main claims and key points of your presentation” suggests Dan Smith of Keynote Speaker. This evidence later becomes a lot of the main body of your speech. For an effective presentation use a variety of evidences. Quality evidence for a presentation can include:

  1. Facts – Verifiable data that is often given a higher weight in terms of validity, persuasive power and integrity with the audience.
  2. Testimony – Supporting statements from experts or civilians has varying weight given to it in the audiences mind depending on the topic, and the qualifications of the person giving the testimony.
  3. Narrative – Stories that provide the “human element” often leave a lasting impression in the mind of the audience so they should carefully selected for your presentation.
  4. Definitions – Defining words and situations also helps emphasize a key point; i.e. Doula means “with woman”.

Decide How you Want to Organize your Speech Material

You can progress through a presentation in a number of ways. “The important thing is to select one organizational structure for your speech and stick with it” says John Rogan of Motivational Speakers. Common organizational structures include:

  1. Topical or Thematic – Progressing from theme to theme in a logical way.
  2. Chronological – Presenting your material from past to present.
  3. Cause/Effect – Well suite for an informative speech this presents what happened and why it happened.
  4. Problem/Solution – Well suited for a persuasive speech this organizational structure presents what the problem is and what should be done about it.

Create an Outline for Your Presentation

An outline will solidify and clarify your presentation so you know exactly what information is being presented and when you will be presenting it. A presentation outline also helps keep you on topic, prevents you from losing your place, ensures you cover all your key points, allows flexibility in your speech because it isn’t written word for word and at the same time gives your speech structure. 

An outline is not the entire speech written out word for word but rather a point by point shell of the material you will cover. A complete presentation outline will include an opening, visual aid use, subject material, transitions and a closing. Let’s touch on each of these parts in more detail.


The opening is one of the most crucial portions of the entire presentation and should be carefully planned and rehearsed. You’ll want to introduce yourself and share a bit of information about yourself that will show your experience in the field. “Some speakers even use inspirational quotes to set the tone of their speech” says Sean Adams of Motivation Ping. “It’s a great way to grab people’s attention and let them know what the theme of your presentation will be.”

Summarize the main point you defined in “How to Prepare a Great Presentation” and clarify the subject focus for your audience. Briefly outlining the key points you plan to cover will assure your audience that you know where you are heading, help them retain the information through repetition and get their attention.

Visual Aids

You will want to include the visual aids you plan to use right in your outline, complete with track numbers, time stamps, page numbers or demonstration title. The design of your presentation is almost as important as your speech since people will want to see something other than looking at you the entire time.


Transitions are what move you from section to section in your speech. In a presentation, the transitions bring you from the opening, through the main body material to the closing. A transition can reinforce the speeches organization or demonstrate how the ideas presented relate to that all important single main point.

Practice these transitions head of time! Include a note about the transition in your presentation outline. This is really important because a bad transition is as jarring and upsetting to the flow of the speech as a high speed U-turn would be to a car ride.

Closing Your Presentation

The closing of the presentation is very important because it will be the last thing the audience hears. Begin by letting the audience know your speech is coming to an end.

The closing of your presentation should not include any new key points or ideas – all of these should be in the body of the speech. However, the presentation closing can include new evidences, facts or stories that support the main point, or key ideas as long as they are a continuation of objectives already presented and discussed.

The presentation closing portion should summarize the main point again. If your speech was persuasive it should also include a call to action. You presented the information – now what should they do about it?

The presentation closing should also “give ’em something to talk about” with a poignant statement that will stay with them. Consider a fantastic statistic, a poignant quote or heart warming story (especially one that ties back to a story shared in the opening portion of the speech).