Five Presentation Sequences Used by the Best Young Professionals
The organization of any presentation is important but is often overlooked by technical professionals. Technically trained professionals usually default to a chronological sequence. Most decision makers do not solve problems this way. Communicating with FINESSE surveyed two groups of young professionals to see if the next generation approaches presentation sequences the same way as the preceding ones. The results may surprise you.
A presentation sequence is the order in which information is presented during a presentation, including the introduction, body, and conclusion. It refers to the logical flow of information guiding the audience through the presented topic.
What Decision Makers Want
Decision makers allocate resources. At the executive level, senior management distributes an organization's biggest resources to the highest priority issues. The goal is to prioritize and allocate as quickly as possible while understanding that more time will be needed for the most critical problems.
The 80-20 Principle is in play with executive decision making. However, the executives decide which 20 percent of problems will dominate their time.
Decision makers often think in other sequences that are just as valid as chronological order. These include priority order, spatial arrangement, and problem-solution. A risk-based prioritization model is an example where decision makers prefer priority order in a presentation to chronological order. Many political and policy-making bodies prefer a spatial orientation because it helps them better understand and identify constituents affected by their decisions.
Common Communication Sequences
Here are the top five most often-used presentation sequences:
Chronological Sequence: This presentation sequence follows a timeline or a sequence of events, starting from the earliest event and progressing to the most recent.
Problem-Solution Sequence: In this sequence, the presenter first shows a problem or challenge and then proposes a solution.
Cause-and-Effect Sequence: This presentation sequence explains the relationship between a cause and its effects. The presenter starts by discussing the cause and then explains its effects.
Spatial Sequence: This presentation sequence provides information according to a spatial arrangement or geographic location. For example, a presenter might discuss different parts of a city or areas within a manufacturing plant.
Topical Sequence: In this sequence, the presenter presents information by topic or subject. Each topic is discussed separately, and the presentation ends with a summary of the main points.
Why Technical Professionals Prefer Chronological Sequences
In addition to the lack of formal business communication training, two variables strongly influence technically trained professionals.
The Scientific Method
Technical professionals are trained in the scientific method, and their analysis is based on chronological order. In other words, we start with a hypothesis, develop a test plan, evaluate the hypothesis, analyze the data, and conclude whether the hypothesis is valid. This logic builds from problem to conclusion over a period of time.
Science, technology, engineering, and math professionals are not simply biased to a chronological view because of alignment with the scientific method. Traditional educational approaches are based on the underlying tenant that we learn in a bite-size, cumulative manner. Our default toward the chronological organization of reports and presentations is at least partially rooted in the way we were educated from an early age.
A Survey of Young Professionals Said…
Communicating with FINESSE had the opportunity to poll 63 young professionals in two separate forums. This is what we found.
Most young professionals used the chronological order and did not think much about it.
A majority liked all five methods. Lack of exposure and experience were two reasons young professionals would not venture into non-chronological sequences.
Many used the comparative sequence in their presentations but not as the primary structure.