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FYS Understanding Life and the World: The French Way

Etown Presentation Textbook

Excerpted from: Moore, T. (2022). Building presentation skills at Etown: A resource for first year seminar students. Elizabethtown College.


Chapter 2. How to Structure a Presentation

The first thing you need to do is develop your main message.  Put a hold on planning how you will run your presentation until you have determined what you want to say.  The what has to come first.

Once you know what you want to convey to the audience, think about your audience’s perspective. Doing audience analysis will help you know what parts of your research talk should receive the most time and detail.  

Audience members have one thought: “What’s in it for me?” (Miller, 2011, p. 42). You’ll need to design the talk so that they recognize what’s in it for them.  This means unpacking acronyms or contexts with which this audience is unfamiliar. It also means finding persuasive reasons they will care about.

Also, know that the audience expects your message to be clear. Since the audience can’t go back and read your oral presentation again—they can’t backtrack—you need to be very clear on the message. This might mean finding a signal phrase that you repeat at transition points. It could mean wrapping up the talk with the main takeaway you know the audience will care about.  Plan the talk so that they can see, “What’s in it for me?”

Watch: “Knowing Your Audience,” by Jay from Toastmasters, 4:41 min.

This video covers audience analysis tips.

2.1 The Opener

Openers matter. You want to engage your audience. Public speaking experts recommend these opening approaches:

  • Open with a question.
  • Start with a story.
  • Share a startling fact.

Follow your attention-getting opening with your big idea. Tell the audience what you are going to tell them.

As you listen to public talks, listen to how the speaker opens. What approach do you like? What do you want to try in your next talk?


2.2 The Body: 3-5 Main Points

Keep it simple. Reinforce your points with stories. Stick to topics relevant to your big idea.

Lucas (2020) recommends developing three structural parts: a specific purpose, a central idea, and the main points

For example, when speaking about the benefits of study abroad to the first year class at Etown, it is first useful to identify the talk’s specific purpose.


Specific Purpose: To inform the audience about the benefits of study abroad opportunities at Etown.

Central Idea: Study abroad enhances students’ college learning experience and makes a life-long impact on students’ global perspectives. 

Main Points:   

  1. Study abroad helps students develop independent skills as travelers.
  2. Study abroad supports experiential, hands-on learning.
  3. Study abroad sensitizes students to nuances of cultural contexts.


Watch "How to Make a Good PowerPoint Presentation (Tips),” by HubSpot, 5:07 min.

This video overs planning process before opening PowerPoint, and how to create in PowerPoint. 



Keep your audience’s experience in mind. Do they have all the information they need to understand the facts you present to them? How can you make the main points interesting and memorable for this particular audience?


2.3 Conclusion

Briefly summarize your main message, then close with something memorable.  You could return to a question you posed earlier, the conclusion to a story, or a clear statement of what’s imperative about your topic. 

Have a plan for your final line, the last thing you say.  Without a plan, you might feel stuck on stage or say something silly like “that’s all!” Lucas (2020) recommends that you “[m]ake your last impression as forceful and as favorable as you can” (p. 193). This takes planning and practice. 

Finally, think about how you want to transition into the Question and Answer (Q&A) time. Often that can be as simple as “I’m now able to take your questions about [this topic].”

Background Reading

Excerpted From: Stand up, speak out. (2011). University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing.


Full-Sentence Outline

Your full-sentence outline should contain full sentences only. There are several reasons why this kind of outline is important. First, you have a full plan of everything you intend to say to your audience, so that you will not have to struggle with wordings or examples. Second, you have a clear idea of how much time it will take to present your speech. Third, it contributes a fundamental ingredient of good preparation, part of your ethical responsibility to your audience. This is how a full-sentence outline looks:



Name: Anomaly May McGillicuddy

Topic: Smart dust

General Purpose: To inform

Specific Purpose: To inform a group of science students about the potential of smart dust.

Main Ideas:

  1. Smart dust is an assembly of microcomputers.
  2. Smart dust could be an enormous asset in covert military operations.
  3. Smart dust could also have applications to daily life.

Introduction: (Grabber) In 2002, famed science fiction writer, Michael Crichton, released his book Prey, which was about a swarm of nanomachines that were feeding off living tissue. The nanomachines were solar powered, self-sufficient, and intelligent. Most disturbingly, the nanomachines could work together as a swarm as it took over and killed its prey in its need for new resources. The technology for this level of sophistication in nanotechnology is surprisingly more science fact than science fiction. In 2000, three professors of electrical engineering and computer Science at the University of California at Berkeley, Kahn, Katz, and Pister, hypothesized in the Journal of Communications and Networks that wireless networks of tiny microelectromechanical sensors, or MEMS; robots; or devices could detect phenomena including light, temperature, or vibration. By 2004, Fortune Magazine listed “smart dust” as the first in their “Top 10 Tech Trends to Bet On.”

(Thesis Statement) Thus far researchers hypothesized that smart dust could be used for everything from tracking patients in hospitals to early warnings of natural disasters and as a defense against bioterrorism.

(Preview) Today, I’m going to explain what smart dust is and the various applications smart dust has in the near future. To help us understand the small of it all, we will first examine what smart dust is and how it works. We will then examine some military applications of smart dust. And we will end by discussing some nonmilitary applications of smart dust.

(Transition) To help us understand smart dust, we will begin by first examining what smart dust is.

Main Point I: Dr. Kris Pister, a professor in the robotics lab at the University of California at Berkeley, originally conceived the idea of smart dust in 1998 as part of a project funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

  1. According to a 2001 article written by Bret Warneke, Matt Last, Brian Liebowitz, and Kris Pister titled “Smart Dust: Communicating with a Cubic-Millimeter Computer” published in Computer, Pister’s goal was to build a device that contained a built-in sensor, communication device, and a small computer that could be integrated into a cubic millimeter package.
  2. For comparison purposes, Doug Steel, in a 2005 white paper titled “Smart Dust” written for C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston, noted that a single grain of rice has a volume of five cubic millimeters.

    1. Each individual piece of dust, called a mote, would then have the ability to interact with other motes and supercomputers.
    2. As Steve Lohr wrote in the January 30, 2010, edition of the New York Times in an article titled “Smart Dust? Not Quite, But We’re Getting There,” smart dust could eventually consist of “Tiny digital sensors, strewn around the glove, gathering all sorts of information and communicating with powerful computer networks to monitor, measure, and understand the physical world in new ways.”

(Transition) Now that we’ve examined what smart dust is, let’s switch gears and talk about some of the military applications for smart dust.

Main Point II: Because smart dust was originally conceptualized under a grant from DARPA, military uses of smart dust have been widely theorized and examined.

  1. According to the smart dust website, smart dust could eventually be used for “battlefield surveillance, treaty monitoring, transportation monitoring, scud hunting” and other clear military applications.
    1. Probably the number one benefit of smart dust in the military environment is its surveillance abilities.
      1. Major Scott Dickson, in a Blue Horizons paper written for the US Air Force Center for Strategy and Technology’s Air War College, sees smart dust as helping the military in battlespace awareness, homeland security, and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) identification.
      2. Furthermore, Major Dickson also believes it may be possible to create smart dust that has the ability to defeat communications jamming equipment created by foreign governments, which could help the US military not only communicate among itself, but could also increase communications with civilians in military combat zones.
  2. According to a 2010 article written by Jessica Griggs in new Scientist, one of the first benefits of smart dust could be an early defense warning for space storms and other debris that could be catastrophic.

(Transition) Now that we’ve explored some of the military benefits of smart dust, let’s switch gears and see how smart dust may be able to have an impact on our daily lives.

Main Point III: According to the smart dust project website, smart dust could quickly become a common part of our daily lives.

  1. Everything from pasting smart dust particles to our finger tips to create a virtual computer keyboard to inventory control to product quality control have been discussed as possible applications for smart dust.
    1. Steve Lohr, in his 2010 New York Times article, wrote, “The applications for sensor-based computing, experts say, include buildings that manage their own energy use, bridges that sense motion and metal fatigue to tell engineers they need repairs, cars that track traffic patterns and report potholes, and fruit and vegetable shipments that tell grocers when they ripen and begin to spoil.”
  2. Medically, according to the smart dust website, smart dust could help disabled individuals interface with computers.
    1. Theoretically, we could all be injected with smart dust, which relays information to our physicians and detects adverse changes to our body instantly.
    2. Smart dust could detect the microscopic formations of center cells or alert us when we’ve been infected by a bacterium or virus, which could speed up treatment and prolong all of our lives.

(Transition) Today, we’ve explored what smart dust is, how smart dust could be utilized by the US military, and how smart dust could impact all of our lives in the near future.

Conclusion: While smart dust is quickly transferring from science fiction to science fact, experts agree that the full potential of smart dust will probably not occur until 2025. Smart dust is definitely in our near future, but swarms of smart dust eating people as was depicted in Michael Crichton’s 2002 novel, Prey, isn’t reality. However, as with any technological advance, there are definite ethical considerations and worries related to smart dust. Even Dr. Kris Pister’s smart dust project website admits that as smart dust becomes more readily available, one of the trade-offs will be privacy. Pister responds to these critiques by saying, “As an engineer, or a scientist, or a hair stylist, everyone needs to evaluate what they do in terms of its positive and negative effect. If I thought that the negatives of working on this project were greater than or even comparable to the positives, I wouldn’t be working on it. As it turns out, I think that the potential benefits of this technology far outweigh the risks to personal privacy.”


Crichton, M. (2002). Prey. New York, NY: Harper Collins.

Dickson, S. (2007, April). Enabling battlespace persistent surveillance: the firm, function, and future of smart dust (Blue Horizons Paper, Center for Strategy and Technology, USAF Air War College). Retrieved from USAF Air War College website:

Griggs, J. (2010, February 6). Smart dust to provide solar early warning defense. New Scientist, 205(2746), 22.

Kahn, J. M., Katz, R. H., & Pister, K. S. J. (2000). Emerging challenges: Mobile networking for “smart dust.” Journal of Communications and Networks, 2, 188–196.

Lohr, S. (2010, January 30). Smart dust? Not quite, but we’re getting there. New York Times. Retrieved from

Pister, K., Kahn, J., & Boser, B. (n.d.). Smart dust: Autonomous sensing and communication at the cubic millimeter. Retrieved from

Steel, D. (2005, March). Smart dust: UH ISRC technology briefing. Retrieved from

Vogelstein, F., Boyle, M., Lewis, P., Kirkpatrick, D., Lashinsky, A.,…Chen, C. (2004, February 23). 10 tech trends to bet on. Fortune, 149(4), 74–88.

Warneke, B., Last, M., Liebowitz, B., & Pister, K. S. J. (2001). Smart dust: Communicating with a cubic millimeter computer. Computer, 31, 44–51.



When you prepare your full-sentence outline carefully, it may take as much as 1 ½ hours to complete the first part of the outline from your name at the top through the introduction. When you’ve completed that part, take a break and do something else. When you return to the outline, you should be able to complete your draft in another 1 ½ hours. After that, you only need to do a detailed check for completeness, accuracy, relevance, balance, omitted words, and consistency. If you find errors, instead of being frustrated, be glad you can catch these errors before you’re standing up in front of your audience.

You will notice that the various parts of your speech, for instance, the transition and main points, are labeled. There are compelling reasons for these labels. First, as you develop your message, you will sometimes find it necessary to go back and look at your wording in another part of the outline. Your labels help you find particular passages easily. Second, the labels work as a checklist so that you can make sure you’ve included everything you intended to. Third, it helps you prepare your speaking outline.

You’ll also notice the full references at the end of the outline. They match the citations within the outline. Sometimes while preparing a speech, a speaker finds it important to go back to an original source to be sure the message will be accurate. If you type in your references as you develop your speech rather than afterward, they will be a convenience to you if they are complete and accurate.

Don’t think of the references as busywork or drudgery. Although they’re more time consuming than text, they are good practice for the more advanced academic work you will do in the immediate future.

Continue reading the full chapter: