So….. what are you going to talk about?
If you regularly produce content either online or for live presentations, you know that coming up with fresh ideas is challenging. Even if you have a general topic, you’ll need to decide how you want to narrow that topic so it is interesting and relevant for your audience, is technical enough to add value, but not too technical to confuse or overwhelm the audience, and fits within your allotted time/space. Having a system to brainstorm content is critical, but you don’t want to systematize that process so much that you kill your creativity. That is a lot to think about!!
In this post, you’ll learn how to use Kenneth Burke’s pentad to brainstorm content for your presentation, video or post.
I first discovered the pentad in a rhetorical studies class. It is used to analyze a rhetorical situation, specifically to uncover the drama and motivations behind actions. This is perfect for brainstorming content because that is exactly what you want to do; that is, you’ll want to discover their motives for action. Once you discover the motives, you can create a captivating story about any topic.
There is always drama under the surface, even in mundane topics. Since it it tax season, we’ll use accounting as an example.
Following are three steps to use the pentad to identify the drama in any situation, giving you something interesting to talk about.
Step 1: Learn the 5 Parts of the Pentad
The first thing is to understand the pentad. There are five parts.
The second step is to identify these elements in your particular situation. To do this, make a list of all the components down the side of a paper. Then, assign each element to a piece of a story or text.
Example: You are an accountant. It is tax season. This isn’t sexy stuff. Yet, you’ll want to find the drama in the situation – that which is motivation for your audience to take action. Let’s see what we can come up with.
Step 2: Analyze the Situation
Actor: The small business owner.
Note: There are always multiple actors. Let’s just analyze one for now and you’ll get the idea.
Purpose: to adhere to all tax laws while still paying as little as possible and saving time in the process.
Agency: An annual event
Scene: Quickbooks, Freshbooks, the internet.
Act: Searching for information to help.
Step 3: Find the Tension
Now that you have used the pentad to analyze the situation, you can now begin to look for tension between these elements.
The purpose of the pentad is to identify the drama. By finding the drama, you will locate the emotion behind any situation. It always exists. As you begin to analyze each element, try pairing each up. For instance, pair the actor with the purpose. Does the actor carry some sort of fear that is motivating the act? What about the agency and the scenario? Did the situation elicit some sort of special circumstance that made this event possible when it otherwise wouldn’t have been?
In this situation, perhaps there is tension between the actor and the purpose. For instance, if we identify a small business owner as the actor, s/he might fear adhering to all laws. Or, might fear the amount of fees involved with the entire process. Could you capitalize on this emotion while telling your own story? Could you create a blog post or presentation that specifically highlights a small business owner who is experiencing this fear and confusion? Can you brainstorm any other content ideas by looking at other possible areas of tension?
The fun, the excitement and the interest lies within the tension. Find the combination that your audience can best identify with and that is where your focus lies. This will serve as a way to brainstorm content for your audience and allow you to use drama and narrative to convey your points. For more information about the effect of story in your message, see this article that summarizes a study from Ohio State University.
You’re now able to brainstorm content that captivates using these 3 easy steps.
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