Formats for Group Presentations



The following is a brief list of alternatives for structuring a group presentation. It is by no means an exhaustive list of all the format options, but its enough to get you started. Keep in mind that your group can devise its own unique format by taking elements of each of the options presented below:


The group divides its topic up into a series of more or less equal parts, and each group member is assigned the task of presenting one part of the topic. The group needs to decide how to break up the presentation into several smaller topics, and the group should also plan the order in which the individual topics are to be presented. Each presenter should get the same amount of time to offer their part of the overall topic.

A big problem with this format is that one member might inadvertently cover material that another member thought was theirs to introduce. Groups which divide up the work and rarely meet to check in on each other’s progress are especially vulnerable to this problem. Groups doing a symposium have a high need to coordinate their efforts.

Timing is also a problem. Even if everyone understands that they have 10 minutes to speak, some group members may take longer than expected. This act forces other group members to compensate by rushing or eliminating ideas they had planned to present. Careful time management is essential in this format.

Finally, a symposium runs the risk of becoming a series of unrelated bits unless the group plans careful transition statements in between each of the individual presentations. These transitions help link the parts of the presentation together. It also helps if presenters refer to each other’s ideas — to integrate one person’s material with other ideas presented by different members of the groups. By referring to each other, the group communicates the “connectedness” of their material.


A panel is an interactive format. A moderator poses questions or makes statements to the group, and group members discuss. Each panelist speaks for only a short time — contributions continuing for more than two minutes uninterrupted run the risk of converting the interactive panel into a symposium! The idea is for the members of the group to have a discussion before the audience for the benefit of the audience. So, the panelists talk both to each other and the audience — shifting their focus of attention back and forth.

Panels are often lively, but run the risk of becoming disorganized! The group needs a good moderator and an outline of the topics to be discussed to ensure that the panel avoids becoming chaotic.

Additionally, panelists (other than the moderator) need to be aware of the following suggestions:
Know and stick to the outline of the discussion
Contribute frequently
Keep your contributions focused and BRIEF
Avoid repetition of points already made
Assert yourself-don’t wait to be called on
Listen carefully and critically
Indulge in friendly disagreements (productive conflict helps raise points
that might otherwise not surface)
Be fully prepared to discuss
Be sensitive to nonverbal communication (your own and others — look
like you’re interested and that you’re listening!)
Assist the moderator


Not nearly as threatening as the name sounds! In this approach, the group questions one or more “experts” before an audience of observers. These might be “bone fide” experts that the group has invited to be part of its presentation or members of the presenting group who “role play” an expert. (A group doing a presentation about global warming might ask a faculty member who has done research on the issue to answer questions; a group doing a presentation on a notable author might have one group member play the role of the author and answer questions about particular writings.)

Obviously, this format takes lots of planning. Experts are busy, and may be unable or unwilling to commit the necessary time to your project. Role playing presents different challenges. The group member(s) doing it must thoroughly research the person(s) they’re to become so that the simulation will be accurate and credible.

Because this format is somewhat untraditional in academic settings, it’s essential to check with your instructor to see if he/she will approve of the use of these approaches.


You can arrange a “pro/con” presentation in which members of the group are split. Some present information in favor of a particular issue, while the others in the group present the opposing side. There’s a separate link about debate where you can learn more.


This is a panel presentation where members of the audience can interact with the panel. The moderator asks for audience input during the discussion, and audience members who so desire either ask questions, make statements, or argue with the panel. (If you’ve seen a typical TV talk show, you’ve seen this approach.) The format works best with a skillful moderator who can easily bounce back and forth from panel to audience without getting rattled or confused.