More Organizational Structures
The list below contains descriptions of many traditional structures for organizing speech. They should help you think about structure, but should be abandoned or reinvented to suit the needs of your presentation. It is hazardous to use any form as a template because it can influence the content and purpose of your presentation in arbitrary ways. Ideally, your content will guide you to make choices about your structure so that all elements of your presentation help you achieve your purpose.
word on Persuasion: Persuasion = Process
There are infinite ways to structure persuasive presentations, but they all have one thing in common. They guide the audience through a process of learning about a problem and finding a solution. Very few people will be persuaded by a speaker that does not demonstrate the process by which they come to the solution they advocate.
Ciceronian structure prepares the audience to be as receptive as possible to the speaker’s thesis, which is not given until the middle of the speech, and to assent to the speaker’s conclusion or call to action, which is reserved for the end of the speech. Below is a minimal version of the structure. As with any organizational structure, the elements listed below should be moved, modified or abandoned as is necessary for the creation of a convincing argument.
Exordium: introduce the topic; define ethos, logos and pathos appeals (or appeals of credibility, reason and emotion). Demonstrate that the topic affects the audience directly
Partition: introduce the major sub-topics of the presentation (this is a “preview”)
Narration: give important and non-controversial background information
Confirmation: cite sources and authorities
Refutation/Concession: minimize resistance by dispelling opposing arguments or by demonstrating that they do not apply to the topic of the presentation. One might also think of this part of the speech as an attempt to establish a common understanding with the audience by conceding their viewpoint, before presenting the argument
Definition: define the THESIS of the argument, and define important terms used in the thesis
Evidence/Digression: present evidence/examples in support of the thesis
Prolepsis/Anticipation: respond to possible rebuttals to evidence/examples
Peroration: climax of speech; appeal to the audience to affirm the thesis of the speech and therefore affirm a specific course of action or belief
This structure was designed by Alan H. Monroe to convince an audience that there is a problem and to “motivate” them to follow a specific course of action to solve it. The structure is persuasive because it demonstrates a problem solving process for the audience.
Attention: Get the audience’s attention with an interesting and topical start
Need: Identify the problem and convince the audience that the problem is significant to them
- Explain background of problem
- Identify criteria for a good solution
- Identify possible solutions
- Identify the best solution
Action Step: Tell your audience what they can do to solve the problem
This explanation is taken from Effective Public Speaking by Joe Ayers and Janice Miller. It is based on John Dewey’s “Five Steps of Reflective Thinking.”
Define the problem
Test the solution:
- does it solve the problem?
- is there a better solution?
- are there disadvantages, and do benefits outweigh them?
- what are the barriers to implementing the solution?
A standard way of organizing a persuasive appeal is to persuade the audience that a particular goal should be achieved, then develop a set of criteria for solutions to determine whether they meet this goal, and finally to demonstrate that a solution meets these criteria. Sometimes an entire argument is structured this way, and sometimes this pattern is found within a larger structure (this pattern is found in both Monroe’s motivated sequence and the problem-solution organization described above). Since the chosen goal and criteria can determine the solution to a problem and therefore the actions taken, they are often hotly contested.
Other Organizational Processes
- Cause -> effect
- Comparative Advantage: compare two proposed plans of action and demonstrate that one offers more advantages than the other
Caution: Presentations organized by categorical themes may imply that the category is what is being analyzed. Sometimes this is the speaker’s aim, but often it is not. Some categories include: