Organizing Principles: how to play with sequence

As humans, we are programmed to doing things sequentially. A series of actions, carried out in the right sequence, is how we navigate our waking moments, our work and our leisure. Lists are one of our favorite means of organizing our lives. Organizing material for a presentation, however, needs more than a listing of what the presentation needs to cover. And while A-Z is always a tried and tested way to go, there are other ways in which you can add surprise, ingenuity and memorability to your PPT.

Let’s take a look at some analogies that lead us to varied organizing principles within a broadly “chronological” sequence:

  1. Flashback: In other words, begin at the end! This may seem like a risky thing to do – but depending on the nature of your pitch, and the level of narratorial expertise – this reversal of the norm can work in the presenter’s favor as it suggests inventiveness and demands attentiveness. For this kind of beginning, you would need a statement that has the flavor of an exciting conclusion – a startling and mind-bending quality that will make the audience want to know more. How did you get there? Is such an outcome possible? These are the questions that will arise, and that will have to be answered by your presentation. To set up an analogy, think films. Films routinely use “flash-back” as an effective mode of hooking and engaging prospective audiences.
  2. Russian dolls: Those familiar with Matryoshka dolls will know that this method of organizing material is simply about nesting progressively smaller stories within the bigger one. So, if the all-encompassing theme is that of faster connectivity, when you open that out – what can you reveal that will take us closer to the topic – and closer and closer? A variant on this is simply a box within a box within a box – the shape is the same for each one, but inside each box is a different treasure – which is really the kernel of that part of your presentation.
  3. Page-turner: This is simply about knowing how to keep the suspense going. Think of your favorite bestselling novels. Every chapter ends at a critical moment… You turn the page, hoping to find the answer in the next chapter, which instead takes you to some other part of the story, returning to the cliff-hanger moment only in the chapter after that. It’s about pacing, cutting, timing, and following the human instinct that makes us ask: “And then?”

And if you feel like a refresher course on storytelling and storyboarding why not revisit these earlier posts? Happy reading and trying out new sequences…

Just keep in mind the first principle of interesting, engaging, innovative sequencing: Organizing material can sometimes simply mean reorganizing material!