Chapter 5: Presentation Organization
34 Organizational Models for Presentations
Once you’ve completed your research, you’ll begin to collect your material into a series of main points by using an organizational model. Different models are used for different types of presentations – you’ll need to refer back to your Audience-Context-Purpose, as well as your purpose statement, to determine which will best suit your presentation.
Chronological always refers to time order. Since the specific purpose is about stages, it is necessary to put the four stages in the right order. It would make no sense to put the fourth stage second and the third stage first. However, chronological time can be long or short. If you are giving a presentation about the history of your company, that may cover years of decades. If your presentation is about a product development cycle, it may only a few weeks or months. The commonality is the order of the information. Chronological speeches that refer to processes are usually given to promote understanding of a process, or to promote action and instruction.
Another common thought process is movement in space or direction, which is called the spatial pattern. With this pattern, the information is organized based on a place or space that the audience can imagine (or “decode”) easily. A spatial-pattern presentation might cover the regional sales results for an automotive manufacturer, from the east coast to the west coast of Canada.
Topical Pattern/Parts-of-the-Whole Pattern
The topical organizational pattern is probably the most all-purpose pattern, used most often in informational and persuasive presentations. Many subjects will have main points that naturally divide into: “types of,” “kinds of,” “sorts of,” or “categories of.” Other subjects naturally divide into “parts of the whole.” However, you will want to keep your categories simple, clear, distinct, and at five or fewer.
Another principle of organization to think about when using topical organization is “climax” organization. That means putting your strongest argument or most important point last when applicable. This model is used most often in sales presentations and proposals.
If the specific purpose mentions words such as “causes,” “origins,” “roots of,” “foundations,” “basis,” “grounds,” or “source,” it is a causal order; if it mentions words such as “effects,” “results,” “outcomes,” “consequences,” or “products,” it is effect order. If it mentions both, it would of course be cause/effect order.
The problem-solution pattern is most often used in persuasive presentations. The principle behind problem-solution pattern is that if you explain to an audience a problem, you should not leave them hanging without solutions. Problems are discussed for understanding and to do something about them. Additionally, when you want to persuade someone to act, the first reason is usually that something is wrong!
A variation of the problem-solution pattern, and one that sometimes requires more in-depth exploration of an issue, is the “problem-cause-solution” pattern. In many cases, you can’t really solve a problem without first identifying what caused the problem. This is similar to the organizational pattern called Monroe’s Motivated Sequence (German, Gronbeck, Ehninger & Monroe, 2012).