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Canons of Rhetoric: Applying Arrangement to Presentations

We’ve discussed the canons of rhetoric and examined invention’s importance in public speaking. This post focuses on the second canon – arrangement.

In Classical Roman oration, arrangement is organizing a speech to maximize persuasiveness. This process of forming a coherent speech structure can be applied to any PowerPoint presentations.

If you’ve survived the invention phase, then this canon won’t give you trouble. Let’s talk about how to organize your argument the rhetoricians’ way.

Exordium: Introducing Your Speech

All speeches begin with introductions, where you state your purpose and establish your presenting credibility. Tell your audience what your message is about and why it’s important. Your introduction may sometimes require storytelling to make your material more convincing while reinforcing an element of fun.

Narratio: Stating Your Facts

Follow up your introduction by stating supporting facts, or further information on your topic. Narrating fact-based examples back up your argument, making it more persuasive. If you hook your audiences with your introduction, this is where you reel them in.

Partitio: Dividing Your Topic

According to the Roman rhetorician Quintilian, this is where you streamline your key points. This is your argument’s outline, that is, the trail that your audience follows.  This gives them an idea on how long your speech will take. Listeners always look for clues to find out if you’re worth their time.

Confirmatio: Proving Your Argument

The proof stage is the life of your presentation. Have you ever read a good story and expected a great ending, only to be let down because the ending doesn’t make sense? The elements for a good story were there; they just weren’t properly connected. That’s why you present and construct arguments that stem directly from your earlier stated facts.

Refutatio: Refuting Yourself

There will always be ideas that contradict yours. This is where you refute these counterarguments. Admit your argument’s flaws while assuring that they’re solvable or relatively insignificant. This shows that you’re human and lets you gain your audience’s sympathy and trust.

Peroratio: Concluding Your Speech

End your discussion with a potent conclusion. Don’t simply restate what you’ve already said. Make your ending meaningful by leaving a call to action that encapsulates your narrative, reasons, and explanations. This is your last and most important chance to leave a lasting impact.


The rhetorical canon of arrangement gives your speech good structure. If you’ve arranged your ideas in the right order, your audience will easily follow and understand your message.

Master this canon and the rest of your business presentations will not only make more sense but will also land you more sales and approvals.



Canons of Rhetoric: Applying Invention to Presentations.” SlideGenius, Inc. May 21, 2015. Accessed June 2, 2015.
McKay, Brett, and Kate McKay. “Five Canons of Rhetoric: Arrangement.” The Art of Manliness. 2011. Accessed June 2, 2015.
Why Storytelling Is an Effective Presentation Technique.” SlideGenius, Inc.. September 8, 2014. Accessed June 2, 2015.

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