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Understanding the application of structure

Learn about how written structure, grammar and style can be applied to oral communication.
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At the beginning of this course, you read about the power of writing and the influence it can have on how you think and learn.

This concept applies to oral communication as well, because how you write influences how you speak. When considering oral communication, it is important to address structure, grammar and style.

Structure

When people are talking, they will usually order their speech according to their thoughts as they come to mind. Therefore, the way people think dictates how they speak, and according to the writing-thinking-learning connection, writing improves the thinking process. This concept applies to structure because the more you practise writing using clear and concise structure, the more naturally that structure will start to form in your speech.

Structure is important in oral communication because like written communication, it will influence how your audience receives your message. Having an introduction, body, and conclusion with structured paragraphs is necessary for effective comprehension. This will create a clear purpose from the opening to the conclusion, which gives the audience a context to the information and helps them to follow your train of thought.

For example, if your manager came up to you and said “please change the student-facing communication”, it would be very difficult for you to complete that task. You would be left wondering what needs to change, why it needs to change, and what the expected timeline is. In this example sentence, the manager has disregarded the communication structure and failed to give an introduction and body, which is essential for context and understanding. In order for you to complete the task, you would have to ask clarifying questions to find out the missing information. Whereas if the manager had said, “Hi Jenny, we had a student point out that the email listed on the landing page is incorrect. Please change this by close of business today”, you would have a clear introduction, problem, and conclusion (solution).

Structure is also important when verbally proposing an idea or argument in a meeting. More often than not, meetings are filled with spontaneous discussion, so it is important to be able to structure your speech on the spot. Ordering your ideas with the essay structure in mind will keep your speech clean and avoid jumping around as you remember other things to add. This will allow your audience to follow your line of thinking and understand what you are arguing/proposing and why. This is also important in job interviews, as you will have clear and ordered answers to the interviewer’s questions. This will say as much about you and your capabilities as your actual words.

Presentations

You may also be required to give presentations as part of your role, and it is essential to apply good structure to get your message across. However, it is important to note that the introduction, body, and conclusion can be the overarching structure of a piece, and you can have a variety of structures within the body. It also doesn’t have to be a conventional introduction and conclusion, as they can be more than a direct “this essay will discuss x, y, and z”.

A writer at Visme collated the seven most common presentation structures used in TED Talks to get some inspiration on different ways to structure presentations (Verlade, 2018). One of their main recommendations was to choose the purpose of your presentation, which was either to inform, entertain, persuade, or inspire, and then choose your structure based on that.

The seven types are:

  1. Fact and story
  2. The explanation
  3. The pitch
  4. The drama
  5. Situation, complication, resolution
  6. Situation, opportunity, resolution
  7. Hook, meat and payoff

The seven structures are explained in more detail in the graphics below, or if you prefer, in a PDF document in the downloads section at the bottom of this step.

Fact and story

The explanation

The pitch

The drama

Situation, complication, resolution

Situation, opportunity, resolution

Hook, meat and payoff

When approaching any written or oral communication, applying a purposeful structure can help you to clearly and logically present your ideas and arguments to your audience.

Verlade, O. (2018). “7 ways to structure your presentation to keep your audience wanting more.” Visme, https://visme.co/blog/presentation-structure/.
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