Organizing a presentation or document can go any one of several ways. We recently listed eight common structural patterns along with the caveat that as you are settling on a particular pattern, you should align it with your communication strategy—what do you want your audience to feel, think, and do?

Any other caveats? Yes. Analyze your notes to help you select an arrangement or form that not only fits your purpose but best helps you achieve it. How will you know? The pattern that works best will replicate for your audience the cognitive processes you used to develop your messages.

But wait—there's yet another caveat.

Although all eight patterns are common overall structures, they may also make a cameo in sections or paragraphs of a presentation or document. Classification might work its way into a cause/effect pattern if you sort causes or effects (or both) into categories. Perhaps, for example, the reasons an initiative is struggling and the effects of that struggle could be classified as cultural, financial, and educational; those divisions could appear in your presentation or document even though its overall structure follows the cause/effect pattern.

Here are two more patterns to add to your copia, that accumulation of methods and tactics from which you select ways and means of communicating clearly and effectively.


Using this structure, you discuss the similarities between two or more things, their differences, or both. If you are presenting two or three PR campaigns, for example, in order to show that one is preferable because of its higher likelihood of success or better benefit/risk ratio, the comparison/contrast pattern works well.

Importantly, the points or dimensions you discuss must be identical for each item you compare or contrast. If your presentation concerns locations for a global team meeting and for the first site you delineate costs, you must do the same for the other site(s). And, like the cause/effect pattern, you can choose to organize the content in a comparison/contrast structure in either a point-by-point or block manner.

If you choose the point-by-point option, you would discuss each item in your comparison/contrast along one dimension before moving to the next dimension. So in the example above, you would first delineate costs for each site before moving to the next dimension or factor—amenities or weather or travel time.

In the block option, though, all dimensions of each proposed location would appear in its own section.


The chronological pattern presents events, conditions, ideas, or other items according to the time at which they occurred. Although the chronology may start with the most recent event or other item and reach back to the most distant, it can also follow a before-during-after progression. It can even flow from an imagined or predicted future to present and past events expected to create the future scenario. In short, it can begin at any point in time and move in the direction that best suits your purpose and message.

While the chronological pattern can certainly stand on its own, especially in historical or narrative documents and presentations, any of the organizational structures may contain a trace of it. In the comparison/contrast and cause/effect patterns, for example, it may enter into a discussion of now v. then. It may fit into a classification pattern if the categories you are discussing have undergone time-related changes in definitions or practices or beliefs.

Organizational possibilities, choices, alternatives. Stay aware of them and the strengths each offers. As an effective communicator, that's one of your strengths.