Speech structure determines the content and how it is presented. The purpose of these structures also differs. In my experience, I’ve found that speeches and presentations all pretty much fit into seven basic structures.
What Type of Presentation Are You Giving?
Speech Structure Type 1, Business Presentation
The most common speech structure is a business presentation. These are typically given by team leaders, or first- or mid-level managers, and are usually in the context of a staff meeting. The content of this type of presentation includes project updates, new product launches, monthly sales reports and other topics critical to the group. These are usually given in small groups and kept fairly informal.
Speech Structure Type 2, Political or Persuasive Speeches
This type of speech is given by people running for, or already in, some form of political office. This can include anything from the local school board to national office. The purpose of this type of public speaking is to present the person’s ideas and approach to the issues. Since people have short attention spans, it is important that these types of presentations are concise and highly relevant. These are usually given to medium to large-sized audiences.
Speech Structure Type 3, Sales Presentation
Probably the second most common speech structure is the sales presentation. The purpose is to make a sale or at least move a prospective client or customer further along the sales funnel. These types of speeches are highly persuasive and benefit-laden. These are usually given to smaller groups.
Speech Structure Type 4, Job Interview
Many people don’t even think of the job interview as a form of public speaking, but it most definitely is. Whether a job candidate is simply responding to questions or has to make a more formal presentation about his or her qualifications, speaking skills are required for success. The key here is understanding the criteria the interviewers are looking for and presenting the applicable qualities within the given time frame. These are usually given to an audience of one. However, there are times when the presentations will be given before a panel of up to dozen individuals with hiring influence.
Speech Structure Type 5, Lecture
The most common way to present educational information is via the lecture speech structure. Because this structure is often not terribly interactive, a variety of other public speaking skills come into play to make sure that students are engaged with the information. These are usually given to medium to large groups.
Speech Structure Type 6, Conference or Seminar Presenter
Closely related to the lecture format, the conference or seminar presenter often will facilitate a series of lectures, as well as interactive activities that help participants learn new information. Sometimes the presenter is one of many, so bring your public speaking superpowers to bear will help keep your presentation memorable. These are usually given to medium to large groups.
Speech Structure Type 7, Debate
The debate speech structure is a two-person game, minimum. Practiced in school and used by political figures and activists alike, speakers take turns presenting one side of an issue. The goal is to persuade the audience to that side. Debate takes skill in persuasion, much like the sales presentation, and also includes emotional appeals. These are usually given to medium to very large groups.
Preparation is the Key to Success
Regardless of what type of structure your presentation will take, you need to prepare in advance. The following are things you need to keep in mind when planning our your speech.
Length of Time
Do you have 15 minutes or 5 hours? How much time you have dictates how much information you can include and to what level of detail you can present that information.
Typical Timing per Structure
- Business Presentation: 5 to 15 minutes
- Political or Persuasive Speeches: 15 to 90 minutes
- Sales Presentation: 10 to 20 minutes
- Job Interview: 2 to 15 minutes
- Lecture: 30 to 90 minutes
- Conference or Seminar Presenter: 45 to 90 minutes
- Debate: 5 to 10 minutes
Different topics require different presentation styles and structures. Is this an emotionally laden topic? Or is it more straightforward and factual? This will dictate how you present the information, what stories you will use, and whether humor is appropriate or not.
You don’t need to write out a speech word-for-word, you do need to have a roadmap. Plan what you will include in the presentation so you stay on topic.
Opening and conclusion
Your opening — how you hook your audience — and your ending — how you leave them feeling once you leave the stage — are the two most critical parts of any speech. These are the sections you should plan out word-for-word and memorize.
Who are you speaking to? What is their level of understanding of your topic? What language do they use to discuss your topic? How engaged in your topic are they already? You need to know your audience so that you can choose the right information to provide and provide it in a way that they can understand and relate to. If you don’t know anything about your audience, you will find it very challenging to engage them in your presentation.