A gift for students and lifelong learners

Dear class,

There are various ways that you are able to make class/public presentations, and what follows are some examples. While these presentation styles may not be appropriate for your presentations on say, research methods, it does helps you in formulating a style in your presentations, even if it means just talking to your friend(s) in a particular setting.

Before we proceed to the various presentation styles, I will like you to know that there are primarily two purposes for making presentations: informative and persuasive. An informative presentation is one whereby the presenter’s objective is to inform his or her target audience. It usually happens when the presenter has knowledge/expertise of something that his or her target audience does not but it is not always the case. A persuasive presentation is one whereby the presenters try to persuade their target audience to their way of thinking.  This may be used to strengthen the audience’s stand on certain issues or it could be persuading the audience to change their beliefs/values/behaviour. 

Now, let’s move on to the various presentation styles (do note that you can use the following techniques even if you are talking to your friend across the table):

  • Time: The use of the time concept in presentations should not be new to most of you. What presenters do when they use this style is to present from the past to the present to the future or vice versa.  Describing the happenings of World War II and a narration of an overseas trip are examples where this presentation style is suitable. This technique is more suited for informative presentations.
  • Spatial: The spatial concept refers to spaces around us. And when it comes to presentation style, it means that the presenter’s presentation moves around things, areas or countries. A travel journalist describing his adventure in Japan from Tokyo to Kyoto to Hokkaido is one good example of such presentation style. Do note that in this case, the travel journalist could have integrated the time concept (as mentioned above) into his presentation but do note that the presentation will get complicated (since the travel journalist could have travelled to the same place at different times or two places within a day. This complicates matters). This presentation style is more suited for an informative presentation.
  •  Topical: This presentation style will be one which you should be most familiar with as this is the style that most of you have been using in your presentations. That is, presenting something in terms of topics. Therefore, I will elaborate no further. This presentation style is more suited when presenting an academic subject of interest or informative presentation.
  • Problem-Solution: You should also be familiar with this presentation style, which presents the problem(s) first before coming up with the solution. Come to think of it, your lesson begins with the problem and you come up with the solutions, isn’t it? So, here’s letting you know that you have the privilege to come up with the problems and proposed your solutions to the audience at the same time. This presentation style is suited for both informative and persuasive presentations.
  • Cause-effect/Effect-case: Some of you may know this, while some may not. This presentation style brings the cause to the fore before backing it up with the effects. For example, a presenter may talk about the cause of smoking before he continues with the negative effects of it. On the other hand, the presenter might opt for the “shock” tactic by starting with the negative effects of smoking first before going into the scientific causes of it. The choice ultimately belongs to the presenter.
  • Motivated sequence: This presentation style comes in 5 stages, namely attention, interest, satisfaction, visualisation and action. “Attention” here refers to engaging the audience using various tools available, with the most common being a humorous or dramatic story or asking a rhetorical  question ( which is a question used to make a statement or produce some desired effect rather than to secure an answer, which is obvious. For example: ”Do you want to be rich?”, “Do you want to be famous?” etc). After you have achieved this, you enter the “Need” stage, whereby you create an awareness in your audience of a particular need to learn or do something. Next comes the “satisfaction” stage, where you as a presenter provide the solutions. The subsequent “visualisation” stage either demonstrates to the audience the positive benefits if they heed your message(s) or the adverse consequences if they ignore them. Finally, the “Action” stage brings about a behavioural change in your audience (or at least this is the hope of the presenter) whereby they will do something that is advocated by the presenter. Do note that should the presentation be informative in nature, the presenter need only proceed till the “satisfaction” stage. However, if the presentation is meant to be persuasive in nature, then the presenter needs to go only as far as the “visualisation” stage.
  • Structure-Function: As the name implies, this presentation style is most useful when describing the anatomy of a particular structure. It can be the ways that a particular educational institution is being run, the functions of the specific parts of a car etc. This presentation style is suited for informative presentations. 
  • Comparison and Contrast: This presentation style compares and contrasts two or more different entities (which can be anything from issues to products to functionalities). This presentation style may be helpful in your presentations in the classroom, depending on the subject matter.  This presentation style is more suited for informative presentations, but it may be applicable when it comes to persuasive presentations.
  • Pro and Con, Advantages and Disadvantages: This presentation style highlights the advantages and disadvantages of the issues that the presenters are presenting, often in a objective manner.
  • Claim and Proof: In the same way that a persecutor makes a claim in the courtroom and subsequent provide proof on his or her claim, this presentation style makes a statement (akin to a hypothesis in research methods) and then provide evidence to prove it (akin to your research method except that in this case, there are no processes or procedures to go through but merely the presentation of the physical evidence). This presentation style is suited for persuasive presentations.
  • Multiple Definition: This presentation style seeks to provide multiple interpretations to a single term or concept. For example, consider the act of looking at (and not measure) happiness. There are numerous ways to look at happiness. It can be considered in terms of social status, freedom, wealth, health, availability to basic necessities etc. This presentation style is more suited for informative presentations.
  • Who, what, why, where, when:  This presentation style makes use of the 5Ws that you have learnt and I will like to add a “H” as well (which is “how”). This presentation style is often useful for informative presentations.

Do note that professional presenters usually do not adopt a particular presentation style but combines them instead. With a certain level of experience, all of you can do the same with constant practice. There are some pasta buffets whereby you are able to “mix-and-match” according to your personal preferences and/or dietary requirements. It’s the same for your presentation. For example, using the example of the travel journalist again, he or she is able to use the “cause-effect” technique to explain the movement from one part of the country to another while using the “spatial” technique to describe the shift in setting as well.  The “time” concept also comes into the picture if the travel journalist highlights the time of the day for the visit as well. The primary difference is that you have control over a pasta buffet but when it comes to presentations, you select the techniques that work best for your target audience and not yourself.

Considering that improvement only comes with practice, it will be good to start practising right about now. 

By the way, this is my 100th post! How time flies!


Devito, J. (2005). Essentials of Human Communication. Boston: Pearson Education