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Organizational Formats

Organizational Formats

Different speeches call for different organizational formats. While many elements of most speeches are common (e.g., parts of an introduction, transitions, parts of a conclusion, etc.), the larger organizational structures vary depending on factors such as the purpose of the speech, the speech topic, instructor directions, or what the speaker feels is the best fit for a particular speech. Below, you will find some different organizational formats for your next speech. Some of these formats fit best with informative speeches, some with persuasive speeches, and others can be used with either type of speech.

Chronological: This format requires you to organize your main points by time or sequence of events. This structure is often used with an informative speech about a person, place, thing, or event. For a person, think of your speech as telling the story of their life. Begin with their background (birthdate, education, etc.), include relevant facts about their life, and finish with their death or what they are doing today. Remember, you cannot include every element of a person's life in a brief speech, so do not try to do so. Touch on the highlights or areas of the person's life that are relevant to your speech. For places or things, your speech may trace the development or evolution of a place or thing. As examples, you may discuss the growth of a major city over time, or the changing formula of Coca-Cola from the founding of the company until the present.  The keys to chronological organization are making sure it fits your topic and keeping your points in the appropriate order.

Complexity: This format requires you to arrange your main points from simple to complex. This approach is typically used when you are informing or teaching an audience about a topic with which they may not be familiar. Simply put, you want to begin with the simple elements of a new concept and build up to the more complex elements. For example, think of your high school or college chemistry class. Your instructor did not explain balancing equations on the first day of class. Instead, she first explained the periodic table and how to interpret its letters and numbers. Then, she moved on to chemical compounds and how to combine the elements. Finally, she moved on to the complex idea of balancing chemical equations. Remember, start simple and build on each main point so that your audience can clearly understand how each previous point connects with the next.

Recency: This format can be used for informative or persuasive speeches depending on how you approach its use. In general, the structure will require you to organize your main points from least important to most important, or from weakest to strongest.  For informative speeches, you will likely use the least to most important design. Deciding what is least/most important will be determined by either the speaker or the reason for giving the speech. For example, if you give a speech on the Empire State Building in a business course, the least important main point might be architecture and the most important point might be what corporations are housed in the building. However, if you give a speech on the same topic in a construction class, the importance of the points would be reversed. For persuasive speeches, you will likely use the weakest to strongest point design. If you have three points that are designed to persuade an audience, make your best point your last one. The idea here is that audiences remember best what they hear last. This way, your final (and strongest) persuasive point will resonate with them long after your speech is over.

Cause-and-Effect: This format is used to discuss a situation and its causes and/or effects. This setup is typically used for a persuasive speech because there are multiple possibilities for what caused something to happen and what effects (either good or bad) resulted from the situation. Consider the example of teenage pregnancy. There may be many contributing factors to an increase in teen pregnancy (e.g., poverty, lack of education, family values, lack of contraception, etc.). Your job is to choose one or more of these possible causes and argue that they have a true causal relationship to increases in teen pregnancy. On the other side of the coin, there are many effects of teen pregnancy (e.g., school dropouts, increased poverty, loss of opportunity, etc.). Again, you would argue that your selected effects are the most important. In short, a cause-effect pattern emphasizes causes, while an effect-cause pattern emphasizes effects.

Problem-and-Solution: This format is characterized by discussing a problem and various solutions to that problem. You will typically be advocating for a single solution you feel best fits the problem. For this design, you may choose to break your solution down into multiple points or break it down as sub-points of a single point. If you offer multiple solutions, each solution will act as an individual main point. For example, if your selected problem is drivers not wearing seat belts you may argue for the single solution of heavy fines for those who do not wear seat belts. However, you may argue for a combination of heavy fines, manufacturer designs that make it difficult not to wear seat belts, and ad campaigns aimed at motivating people to wear seat belts.

Monroe's Motivated Sequence: This persuasive format is a five step process developed by Alan Monroe. The first step is attention. In this step, you grab your audience's attention by using a typical attention getting strategy (e.g., rhetorical questions, illustrations, humor, etc.). The second step is need. In this step, you describe the problem, or what needs to be fixed as you see it. Be sure to cite evidence that proves your issue is problematic. The third step is satisfaction. In this step, you provide a solution to the problem, or your plan to fix it. Be as detailed as necessary and address important issues (e.g., who will fix it, when, how much will it cost, etc.). The fourth step is visualization. In this step, you will share an image of how your solution will look once it is enacted. You might consider this a type of cost-benefit analysis. The final step is action. In this step, you will urge your audience to take action in order to make your plan happen by giving them concrete steps to enact change.