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News Flash: You are Always Fighting for the Attention of Your Audience

We have talked about this issue before but it bears repeating. Just because you think what you have to say is ‘off the hook’ important and maybe even life-changing, doesn’t mean your audience thinks the same. You have to give them a reason to listen, and then another, and so on.

Enter the three S’s of presentation design: structure, storyboarding, and storytelling. This post addresses the first S, structure.

There are several ways in which a speech can be organized. They all serve your goal of keeping the attention of your audience. Which one you choose depends on your subject matter and your purpose. Are you trying to inform, motivate, convince, or persuade? Once you know the answer to that question, then you are ready to work with one of the following structures:

Chronological – when a time sequence must take center stage

Topical – when your key topic is so broad that you must break it down into component parts

Compare and Contrast – when you are trying to convince your audience of the pros and cons of a particular issue

Proposal to Proof – when you need to take a strong position or make a proposal. First you explain your proposal and then you prove to your audience why it’s the best option

Cause and Effect – we’ve been using this structure since our 6th grade reports on photosynthesis and it still works as a method for explaining why your audience should, say, quit smoking.

Motivated Sequence – perhaps the most used organizing tool when your goal is to persuade. The Motivated Sequence was created by a professor at Purdue in the 1930s. The structure includes five elements:

a. Attention – we have a problem
b. Need – explanation
c. Satisfaction – here’s a solution
d. Visualization – just imagine what could happen
e. Action – let’s do something

Now you’re ready to complete the first step in the preparation process. It takes a lot longer than winging it, but a good structure will increase your chances of speaking to an audience who actually pays attention.

– Barbara