Presentation Organization: Different Structures

Most presentations use a topical approach to organizing their supporting content, but there are other, less customary organizational patterns that can be used to structure a presentation. You can use these patterns to create your overarching structure or to organize content within a subtopic.

These four structures have a natural, storylike form that creates interest in presentations:

/1 Chronological:

Arrange information related to events according to their time progression (forward or backward). This is best used if a topic is generally understood in terms of when events transpired.

/2 Sequential:

Arrange information according to a process or step-by-step sequence. This is usually used in a report or to describe a project rollout.

/3 Spatial:

Arrange information according to how things relate together in a physical space.

/4 Climactic:

Arrange information in order of importance, usually moving from the least to most important point.

These four structures have contrast inherently built into them and work for persuasive presentations:

/1 Problem-solution:

Arrange information by stating the problem and then the solution. Establishing that there’s a problem helps convince people of the need for change.

/2 Compare-contrast:

Arrange information according to how two or more things are different from or similar to one another. Insights surface when information is put into this context.

/3 Cause-effect:

Arrange information to show the different causes and effects of various situations. This is effective when promoting action to solve a problem.

/4 Advantage-disadvantage:

Arrange information into “good” or “bad” categories. This helps the audience weigh both sides of an issue.

Select your organizational structure based on which one makes the most sense to support your big idea. But whichever you choose, be sure to guide your audience as you go through it, using verbal or visual cues to let them know where you are and where you’re going.