Organization and Outlines

Site: Saylor Academy
Course: BUS210: Business Communication
Book: Organization and Outlines
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Date: Tuesday, May 28, 2024, 9:59 PM

Description

This section addresses the elements of the rhetorical situation and the ways that a presentation should be organized. Elements of focus are the "who", "what", "where", "when", "why", and "how" of your speech. After you read, try the exercises at the end of the section.

Introduction

Speech is power; speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson


Getting Started

Introductory Exercises

  1. Please read the following paragraph and rearrange the sentences in logical order:
    A. I saw "The Day After Tomorrow" recently. B. The Northern Seas got very cold, very quickly. C. People in the United States fled to Mexico. D. Have you ever seen a movie you just couldn't forget? E. Soon it was hailing, snowing, and raining all around the world. F. In the movie there was a scientist who forecast a sudden change in the climate. G. They were declared illegal aliens and not allowed in the country. H. The film made me think about global warming and global politics. I. The U.S. president forgave their debts, and the Mexican president allowed U.S. citizens to cross the border.

  2. Consider the following words and find at least two ways to organize the words into groups.
  • Knife
  • Fork
  • Spoon
  • Corkscrew


Answers

  1. D, A, F, B, E, C, G, I, H
  2. Table service (knife, fork, spoon), sharp implements (knife, fork, corkscrew), Tools (all). Can you think of any other organizational principles by which to group these items?


In earlier stages of preparation for a speech, you have gained a good idea of who your audience is and what information you want to focus on. This chapter will help you consider how to organize the information to cover your topic. You may be tempted to think that you know enough about your topic that you can just "wing it" or go "freestyling". Your organization might be something like this: "First, I'll talk about this, then I'll give this example, and I'll wrap it up with this". While knowledge on your topic is key to an effective speech, do not underestimate the importance of organization. You may start to give your speech thinking you'll follow the "outline" in your mind, and then suddenly your mind will go blank. If it doesn't go blank, you may finish what was planned as a five-minute speech with three minutes remaining, sit down, and then start to remember all the things you intended to say but didn't. To your listeners, your presentation may have sounded like the first of the Note 12.1 "Introductory Exercises" for this chapter - a bunch of related ideas that were scattered and unorganized.

Organization in your speech is helpful both to you and to your audience. Your audience will appreciate hearing the information presented in an organized way, and being well organized will make the speaking situation much less stressful for you. You might forget a point and be able to glance at your outline and get back on track. Your listeners will see that you took your responsibility as a speaker seriously and will be able to listen more attentively. They'll be able to link your key points in their minds, and the result will be a more effective speech.

An extemporaneous speech involves flexibility and organization. You know your material. You are prepared and follow an outline. You do not read a script or PowerPoint presentation, you do not memorize every single word in order (though some parts may be memorized), but you also do not make it up as you go along. Your presentation is scripted in the sense that it is completely planned from start to finish, yet every word is not explicitly planned, allowing for some spontaneity and adaptation to the audience's needs in the moment. This extemporaneous approach is the most common form used in business and industry today.

Your organization plan will serve you and your audience as a guide, and help you present a more effective speech. If you are concerned with grades, it will no doubt help you improve your score as well. If you work in a career where your "grades" are sales, and a sales increase means getting an "A," then your ability to organize will help you make the grade. Just as there is no substitute for practice and preparation, there is no substitute for organization and an outline when you need it the most: on stage. Do yourself and the audience a favor and create an outline with an organization pattern that best meets your needs.

In the 1991 film What about Bob? a psychiatrist presents the simple idea to the patient, played by actor Bill Murray. If the patient takes whatever he needs to do step by step, the process he once perceived as complex becomes simple. In this same way, your understanding of giving business presentations will develop step by step, as the process and its important elements unfold. Read and reflect on how each area might influence your speech, how it might involve or impact your audience, and how your purpose guides your strategies as you plan your speech.

If you take it step by step, presenting a speech can be an exhilarating experience not unlike winning a marathon or climbing a high peak. Every journey begins with a first step, and in terms of communication, you've already taken countless steps in your lifetime. Now we'll take the next step and begin to analyze the process of public speaking.


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Rhetorical Situation

Learning Objective

  1. Label and discuss the three main components of the rhetorical situation.

In the classical tradition, the art of public speaking is called rhetoric; the circumstances in which you give your speech or presentation are the rhetorical situation. By understanding the rhetorical situation, you can gauge the best ways to reach your listeners and get your points across. In so doing, you'll make the transition from your viewpoint to that of your audience members. Remember that without an audience to listen and respond to you, it's really not much of a speech. The audience gives you the space and time as a speaker to fulfill your role and, hopefully, their expectations. Just as a group makes a leader, an audience makes a speaker. By looking to your audience, you shift your attention from an internal focus (you) to an external (them/others) emphasis. This "other-orientation" is key to your success as an effective speaker.

Several of the first questions any audience member asks himself or herself are, "Why should I listen to you?" "What does what you are saying have to do with me?" and "How does this help me?" We communicate through the lens of personal experience and it's only natural that we would relate what others say to our own needs and wants, but by recognizing that we share in our humanity many of the same basic motivations, we can find common ground of mutual interest. Generating interest in your speech is only the first step as you guide perception through selection, organization, and interpretation of content and ways to communicate your point. Your understanding of the rhetorical situation will guide you as you plan how to employ various strategies to guide your listeners as they perceive and interpret your message. Your awareness of the overall process of building a speech will allow you to take it step by step and focus on the immediate task at hand.

The rhetorical situation involves three elements: the set of expectations inherent in the context, audience, and the purpose of your speech or presentation. This means you need to consider, in essence, the "who, what, where, when, why, and how" of your speech from the audience's perspective.


Context

As we consider the rhetorical situation, we need to explore the concept in depth. Your speech is not given in a space that has no connection to the rest of the world. If you are going to be presenting a speech in class, your context will be the familiar space of your classroom. Other contexts might include a business conference room, a restaurant where you are the featured speaker for a dinner meeting, or a podium that has been set up outdoors for a sports award ceremony.

The time of your speech will relate to people's natural patterns of behavior. If you give a speech right after lunch, you can expect people to be a bit sleepy. Knowing this, you can take steps to counter this element of the context by making your presentation especially dynamic, such as having your audience get up from their seats or calling on them to answer questions at various points in your speech.

You can also place your topic within the frame of reference of current events. If you are presenting a speech on the importance of access to health care for everyone, and you are presenting it in October of an election year, the current events that exist outside your speech may be used to enhance it. Your listeners might be very aware of the political climate, and relating your topic to a larger context may effectively take into consideration the circumstances in which your readers will use, apply, or contemplate your information.


Audience

The receiver (i.e., listener or audience) is one of the basic components of communication. Without a receiver, the source (i.e., the speaker) has only himself or herself in which to send the message. By extension, without an audience you can't have a speech. Your audience comes to you with expectations, prior knowledge, and experience. They have a purpose that makes them part of the audience instead of outside playing golf. They have a wide range of characteristics like social class, gender, age, race and ethnicity, cultural background, and language that make them unique and diverse. What kind of audience will you be speaking to? What do you know about their expectations, prior knowledge or backgrounds, and how they plan to use your information? Giving attention to this aspect of the rhetorical situation will allow you to gain insight into how to craft your message before you present it.


Purpose

A speech or oral presentation may be designed to inform, demonstrate, persuade, motivate, or even entertain. You may also overlap by design and both inform and persuade. The purpose of your speech is central to its formation. You should be able to state your purpose in one sentence or less, much like an effective thesis statement in an essay. You also need to consider alternate perspectives, as we've seen previously in this chapter. Your purpose may be to persuade, but the audience after lunch may want to be entertained, and your ability to adapt can make use of a little entertainment that leads to persuasion.


Key Takeaway

The rhetorical situation has three components: the context, the audience, and the purpose of the speech.


Exercises

  1. Is it important to consider the rhetorical situation? Why or why not? Discuss your opinion with a classmate.
  2. Think of an example (real or hypothetical) of a speech, a sales presentation, a news broadcast or television program. Using the elements listed in this section of the chapter, describe the rhetorical situation present in your example. Present your example to the class.
  3. Let's take the topic of tattoos. Imagine you are going to present two informative speeches about tattoos: one to a group of middle school children, and the other to a group of college students. How would you adapt your topic for each audience and why? Write your results, provide an example or explanation, and discuss with classmates.
  4. Examine a communication interaction and identify the context, the audience, and the purpose of the exchange. Write a brief description and share with classmates.
  5. You've been assigned the task of arranging a meeting for your class to discuss an important topic. How do context, audience, and purpose influence your decisions? Write a brief statement of what you would want in terms of time, location, setting, and scene and why. Please share your results with classmates.

Strategies for Success

Learning Objective

  1. Identify and provide examples of at least five of the nine basic cognate strategies in communication.


Given the diverse nature of audiences, the complexity of the communication process, and the countless options and choices to make when preparing your speech, you may feel overwhelmed. One effective way to address this is to focus on ways to reach, interact, or stimulate your audience. Humans share many of the same basic needs, and meeting those needs provides various strategies for action.

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. The word "cognate" refers to knowledge, and these strategies are techniques to impart knowledge to your audience. Kostelnick and Roberts's strategies are cross-disciplinary in that they can be applied to writing, graphic design, and verbal communication. They help the writer, designer, or speaker 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.

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, or "the arousing of emotions in the audience". We don't always make decisions based on clear thinking. Sometimes we are moved by words, by a scene in a movie, or by other mediated forms of communication. As the speaker, you may create a message by selecting some aspects and rejecting others. A close-up picture of a child starving to death can capture attention and arouse emotions. 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 towards 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.

Here we adapt and extend Kostelnick and Roberts' strategies in order to highlight ways to approach the preparation and presentation of your message. Across the cognate strategies, we can see Aristotle's rhetorical elements through a range of strategies to communicate better with our audience. There is a degree of overlap, and many of the strategies draw on related elements, but by examining each strategy as a technique for engaging your audience, you can better craft your message to meet their expectations.


Tone

From the choice of your words, to the choice of your dress, you contribute to the tone of the speech. Tone, or the general manner of expression of the message, will contribute to the context of the presentation. First, consider your voice. Is it relaxed, or shaky and nervous? Your voice is like a musical instrument that, when played expressively, fulfills a central role in your ability to communicate your message to your audience. Next consider how your tone is expressed through your body language. Are your arms straight down at your sides, or crossed in front of you, or are they moving in a natural flow to the rhythm and cadence of your speech? Your dress, your use of space, and the degree to which you are comfortable with yourself will all play a part in the expression of your message.


Emphasis

If everyone speaks at the same time, it's hard for anyone to listen. In the same way, if all your points are equally presented, it can be hard to distinguish one from another, or to focus on the points that are most important. As the speaker, you need to consider how you place emphasis - stress, importance, or prominence - on some aspects of your speech, and how you lessen the impact of others. Perhaps you have a visual aid to support your speech in the form of a visually arresting picture. Imagine that you want to present a persuasive speech on preventing skin cancer and you start with a photo of two people wearing very little clothing. While the image may capture attention, clearly placing emphasis on skin, it may prove to be more of a distraction than an addition. Emphasis as a cognate strategy asks you to consider relevance, and the degree to which your focal point of attention contributes to or detracts from your speech. You will need to consider how you link ideas through transitions, how you repeat and rephrase, and how you place your points in hierarchical order to address the strategy of emphasis in your presentation.


Engagement

Before you start thinking about weddings, consider what key element is necessary for one to occur? If you guessed a relationship you were correct. Just as a couple forms an interpersonal relationship, the speaker forms a relationship with the audience members. Eye contact can be an engaging aspect of this strategy, and can help you form a connection - an engagement - with individual audience members. Looking at the floor or ceiling may not display interest to the audience. Engagement strategies develop the relationship with the audience, and you will need to consider how your words, visuals, and other relevant elements of your speech help this relationship grow.


Clarity

As a speaker, you may have excellent ideas to present, but if they are not made clear to the audience, your speech will be a failure. "Clarity strategies help the receiver (audience) to decode the message, to understand it quickly and completely, and when necessary, to react without ambivalence". Your word choices, how you say them, and in what order all relate to clarity. If you use euphemisms, or indirect expressions, to communicate a delicate idea, your audience may not follow you. If you use a story, or an arresting image, and fail to connect it clearly to your main point or idea, your audience will also fail to see the connection. Depending on the rhetorical situation, the use of jargon may clarify your message or confuse your audience. You'll also need to consider the visual elements of your presentation and how they clarify your information. Is the font sufficiently large on your PowerPoint slide to be read in the back of the room? Is your slide so packed with words that they key ideas are lost in a noise of text? Will it be clear to your listeners how your pictures, motion clips, or audio files relate to topic?


Conciseness

Being clear is part of being concise. Conciseness refers to being brief and direct in the visual and verbal delivery of your message, and avoiding unnecessary intricacy. It involves using as many words as necessary to get your message across, and no more. If you only have five to seven minutes, how will you budget your time? Being economical with your time is a pragmatic approach to insuring that your attention, and the attention of your audience, is focused on the point at hand.


Arrangement

As the speaker, you will gather and present information in some form. How that form follows the function of communicating your message involves strategically grouping information. "Arrangement means order, the organization of visual (and verbal) elements" in ways that allow the audience to correctly interpret the structure, hierarchy, and relationships among points of focus in your presentation. We will discuss the importance of hierarchy, and which point comes first and last, as we explore arguments and their impact on the perception of your message.


Credibility

Here we can clearly see Aristotle's ethos - character and expertise. You will naturally develop a relationship with your audience, and the need to make trust an element is key to that development. The word "credibility" comes from the word "credence," or belief. Credibility involves your qualities, capabilities, or power to elicit from the audience belief in your character. Cultivating a sense of your character and credibility may involve displaying your sense of humor, your ability to laugh at yourself, your academic or profession-specific credentials, or your personal insight into the topic you are discussing.

For example, if you are going to present a persuasive speech on the dangers of drinking and driving, and start with a short story about how you helped implement a "designated driver" program, the audience will understand your relationship to the message, and form a positive perception of your credibility. If you are going to persuade the audience to give blood, practice safe sex, or get an HIV test, your credibility on the subject may come from your studies in the medical or public health field, from having volunteered at a blood drive, or perhaps from having had a loved one who needed a blood transfusion. Consider persuasive strategies that will appeal to your audience, build trust, and convey your understanding of the rhetorical situation.


Expectation

Your audience, as we've addressed previously, will have inherent expectations of themselves and of you depending on the rhetorical situation. Expectations involve the often unstated, eager anticipation of the norms, roles and outcomes of the speaker and the speech. If you are giving an after-dinner speech at a meeting where the audience members will have had plenty to eat and drink immediately before you get up to speak, you know that your audience's attention may be influenced by their state of mind. The "after-dinner speech" often incorporates humor for this very reason, and the anticipation that you will be positive, lighthearted and funny is implicit in the rhetorical situation. If, on the other hand, you are going to address a high school assembly on the importance of graduating from high school and pursuing a college education, you may also be motivational, funny, and lighthearted, but there will be an expectation that you will also discuss some serious issues as a part of your speech.


Reference

No one person knows everything all the time at any given moment, and no two people have experienced life in the same way. For this reason, use references carefully. Reference involves attention to the source and way you present your information. If you are a licensed pilot and want to inform your audience about the mistaken belief that flying is more dangerous than driving, your credibility will play a role. You might also say "according to the Federal Aviation Administration" as you cite mortality statistics associated with aviation accidents in a given year. The audience won't expect you to personally gather statistics and publish a study, but they will expect you to state where you got your information. If you are talking to a group of children who have never flown before, and lack a frame of reference to the experience of flying, you will need to consider how to reference key ideas within their scope of experience.

A good way to visualize this is as a frame, where some information you display to the audience is within the frame, and other information (that you do not display) lies outside the frame. You focus the information to improve clarity and conciseness, and the audience will want to know why the information you chose is included and where you got it. That same frame may also be related to experience, and your choice of terms, order or reliance on visual aids to communicate ideas. If you are giving a speech on harvesting crops on an incline, and your audience is made up of rural Bolivians who farm manually, talking about a combine may not be as effective as showing one in action in order to establish a frame of reference.

Table 12.1 "Nine Cognate Strategies" 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.

Table 12.1 Nine Cognate Strategies

Aristotle's Forms of Rhetorical Proof Cognate Strategies Focus
Pathos
  • Tone
  • Emphasis
  • Engagement
  • Expression
  • Relevance
  • Relationship
Logos
  • Clarity
  • Conciseness
  • Arrangement
  • Clear understanding
  • Key points
  • Order, hierarchy, placement
Ethos
  • Credibility
  • Expectation
  • Reference
  • Character, trust
  • Norms and anticipated outcomes
  • Sources and frames of reference

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.


Key Takeaway

The nine cognate strategies all contribute to your success in conveying the speech to the audience.


Exercises

  1. Make a copy of Table 12.2 "How I Will Apply the Cognate Strategies" and use it to help get yourself organized as you start to prepare your speech. Fill in the far right column according to how each rhetorical element, cognate strategy, and focus will apply to the specific speech you are preparing.

Table 12.2 How I Will Apply the Cognate Strategies

Aristotle's Forms of Rhetorical Proof Cognate Strategies Focus My speech will address each element and strategy by (verbal and visual)
Pathos
  • Tone
  • Emphasis
  • Engagement
  • Expression
  • Relevance
  • Relationship

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

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


  1. In a group with your classmates, complete the above exercise using Table 12.2 "How I Will Apply the Cognate Strategies" and demonstrate your results.
  2. Find an example where a speaker was lacking ethos, pathos, or logos. Write a brief summary of the presentation, and make at least one suggestion for improvement. Compare your results with classmates.
  3. Does organizing a presentation involve ethics? Explain your response and discuss it with the class.