Chapter 5: Presentation Organization

30 Strategies for Success

Given the diverse nature of audiences, the complexity of the communication process, and the countless options and choices to make when preparing your presentation, you may feel overwhelmed. One effective way to address this is to focus on ways to reach, interact, or stimulate your audience. Charles Kostelnick and David Roberts outline several cognate strategies, or ways of framing, expressing, and representing a message to an audience, in Designing Visual Language: Strategies for Professional Communicators (Kostelnick & Roberts, 1998). The word “cognate” refers to knowledge, and these strategies are techniques to impart knowledge to your audience. They help answer questions like “Does the audience understand how I’m arranging my information?” “Am I emphasizing my key points effectively?” and “How does my expression and representation of information contribute to a relationship with the audience?” They can serve you to better anticipate and meet your audience’s basic needs.

Table 5.1 summarizes the nine cognate strategies in relation to Aristotle’s forms of rhetorical proof; it also provides areas on which to focus your attention as you design your message.

Aristotle’s Forms of Rhetorical Proof

Cognate Strategies



  • Tone
  • Emphasis
  • Engagement
  • Expression
  • Relevance
  • Relationship


  • Clarity
  • Conciseness
  • Arrangement
  • Clear understanding
  • Key points
  • Order, hierarchy, placement


  • Credibility
  • Expectation
  • Reference
  • Character, trust
  • Norms and anticipated outcomes
  • Sources and frames of reference

Aristotle outlined three main forms of rhetorical proof: ethos, logos, and pathos. Ethos involves the speaker’s character and expertise. Logos is the logic of the speaker’s presentation—something that will be greatly enhanced by a good organizational plan. Aristotle discussed pathos as the use of emotion as a persuasive element in the speech (Wisse, J., 1998), or “the arousing of emotions in the audience.” If you use pathos in a strategic way, you are following Aristotle’s notion of rhetorical proof as the available means of persuasion. If logic and expertise don’t move the audience, a tragic picture may do so.

The cognate strategies are in many ways expressions of these three elements, but by focusing on individual characteristics, can work toward being more effective in their preparation and presentation. Many of these strategies build on basic ideas of communication, such as verbal and nonverbal delivery. By keeping that in mind, you’ll be more likely to see the connections and help yourself organize your presentation effectively.

You’ll want to consider the cognate strategies and how to address each area to make your speech as effective as possible, given your understanding of the rhetorical situation.


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