Storyboarding: Four Patterns of Organization

Now, let’s talk about ways to actually take that storyboarding method and apply it to both classic and new methods of organizing persuasion. I am purposely avoiding the standard categorical style of organizing a presentation, in which you “Tell ’em what you’re gonna tell ’em; tell ’em; then  tell ’em what you told ’em” because, frankly, it sucks after watching 3 years worth of speeches mostly organized in this way. Most audiences respond to arguments that are structured around them and those that adapt based on context and situation. I find that the four following patterns help both novice and experience speakers develop effective PechaKuchas.

Inverted Triangle Structure or Problem/Cause/Solution

We will start with my pk, which I presented at PechaKucha Orlando, vol. 2.

My presentation is really informative and not persuasive, though I am asking the audience to accept my analysis of Plath’s “Metaphors” as truth.

I visualized my presentation as a triangle, as a shape that moved from the general subject of language to the specific topic of Plath’s poem. I moved from a general concept to a specific application of that concept.

In a similar way, students can begin with a general problem and then move into the individual real-life applications of that problem and the specific solution the presenter is focusing on.

This structure would be based on problem, cause, and solution.

Nancy Duarte’s Sparkline

I encourage students to develop a shape for their presentations, and we review Duarte’s sparkline as another example of shape. I referenced this in the previous post on Storyboarding, but I’ll go ahead and give you another chance to learn about this excellent organizational and analytical structure for persuasive speech. Duarte’s model essentially structures the presentation around this idea of constant contrast between what is, the status quo, the sucky competition, the way things are, and what could be, your solution, the intrepid solution, the way things could be. She also blends story structure and Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey into this model.

Her sparkline happens to be the pattern all great speeches follow, from Steve Jobs’ iPhone launch in 2007 to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Were you to storyboard using Duarte’s sparkline structure, your storyboard might take on this shape.

In this case, SUCESS is Chip and Dan Heath’s acronym for an idea that sticks: Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Stories

Criteria Application

Another possible pattern of organization is criteria application. This pattern essentially establishes criteria for a general idea and then applies that criteria to a specific case. It is a pattern often used when one is supporting a value claim, or one that is based on the relative merits of an idea.

For instance, arguing that something is morally right or wrong, or persuading us to see a particular film as the best example of its genre. Organizing what is essentially a supported opinion can be difficult–after all, some of this seems like an issue of preference or moral/value based judgment calls. However, using that criteria application pattern can enable you to take your supported opinion and present it in a way that is reasonable to your audience.

I use this example in class: “Volunteering is an integral part of the well-rounded college experience.” In order for me to prove this, I am first going to have to define what I mean by “well-rounded” and “integral” college experiences. I am going to have to establish some criteria. So, for instance, I could say that:

  1. A well-rounded college experience should help you grow as an individual.
  2. A well-rounded college experience provides you with valuable work experience.
  3. A well-rounded college experience increases your knowledge of others.
  4. A well-rounded college experience helps you contribute to society.

I would then illustrate and prove that volunteering can help add to that experience, in fact, it’s integral to that experience, providing you with what you can gain through no other similar experience.

  1. Volunteering helps you reach self-actualization.
  2. Volunteering is work in and of itself.
  3. Volunteering allows you to interact with a diverse group of people.
  4. Volunteering is community service–it betters society.

I could tell I’d taught those kids about unity and they’d listened when a student pointed out that this example was not very unified in terms of theme. I concurred, admitting I’d put the sample together quickly to give the class a visual example to hold on to.

Motivated Sequence

A final and very useful pattern of organization is Monroe’s motivated sequence. Alan Monroe developed the sequence or pattern for organizing information after studying John Dewey’s work on psycho-logic for human problem solving and combining it with our human tendency to be self-motivated and self-centered.

In pitching his ingenious ideas for ads, Don Draper uses Monroe’s motivated sequence beautifully. Check out one of my favorite scenes here.

In essence, people solve problems by first becoming aware of a problem related to themselves, then analyzing it’s scope and causes, searching out solutions, picking the solution that works best to solve the problem.

The motivated sequence follows the problem-cause-solution pattern, but it is focused on an audience’s specific needs. This pattern has been so successful in motivating action, that it’s basically the pattern we see in every infomercial and commercial. My favorite example? The Snuggie.

Want to keep warm but don’t want your energy bill to go up? Pesky blanket moving around too much?

The motivated sequence is broken up into these steps:

Hook–get the audience’s attention. 

This is the part in the snuggie commercial where the announcer asks you, “have you ever experience this…”

Need–isolate the audience’s problem.

Monroe indicates that we will not listen to an argument that isolates a problem we cannot see as relatable to ourselves. The problem has to correspond with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs–lower level first. In the Snuggie commercial, the problem is both a matter of physiological and security needs, but also those of self-esteem (I feel better about myself; the Snuggie lets me read unencumbered) and even self-actualization (my snuggie stops the infighting between me and my family at baseball games, thus bringing us closer together).

The lesser known hierarchy of robot needs.

Satisfaction–the solution must then be presented in an actionable way.

Solve the audience’s problem by providing a tangible, practical, and doable solution.

To me, this spells satisfaction.

In the snuggie commercial, the solution IS the snuggie.

It’s a blanket with arms! Eureka!

Visualization–Monroe also realized that it wasn’t enough for people to hear a solution. They have to believe it works

Audiences have to be able to test the solution, see it work in other instances. It’s essentially the doubting Thomas step.

If I can’t see it, it doesn’t work, sayeth the doubting Thomas that is your audience.

In the Snuggie commercial, the visualization step takes our previously incompetent commercial family and shows them joyfully basking in the light of their own self-generated blanket-with-arms glow.

Oh, the joys of being warm, fashionable, and literate.

Now, it’s time to call your audience to action.

They understand what they need, you’ve provided them with a solution, you’ve shown them it works. Now, use the momentum you built to inspire action (Throw in an extra Snuggie for good measure)!

One thought on “Storyboarding: Four Patterns of Organization

  1. […] Storyboarding: Four Patterns of Organization […]

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