First organize your material

All the technical expertise in the world will not be enough if a talk is poorly organized. If you want an audience to follow along, you must provide a road map. This is as true for spoken exchanges as it is for written ones. When you are planning to use computer-based text-heavy graphics, it is doubly true.

Talks can be organized on a deductive or inductive pattern. With deductive organization, you present your bottom line (conclusion, solution) at the onset. Then, you provide the background and information that led you to this conclusion. Inductive organization is more or less the opposite of deductive. First, you give a general sense of the main topic, then present specific instances or examples as evidence, leading to the conclusion that you state at the end.

Deductive organization is probably the more common approach to scientific presentation, with good reason. This scheme helps audiences understand and follow a speaker, because they can see clearly how supporting material fits into a bigger picture. In contrast, even a well-done inductively organized presentation can be difficult to follow. For this reason, we recommend avoiding this approach unless you are sure it is the only possible alternative. For example, inductive presentations are sometimes useful if you know the audience might not readily agree with your conclusion unless they are led through the train of thought leading up to it.

Other organizational systems less commonly used in oral presentations also may be worth considering. Refer back to Table 2.1.

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