Paired Sequences

Learning Objectives

Explain when to use paired-sequence organizing principles for a speech.

Two roadsigns pointing in opposite directions. One points to Superstore, the other to Town centre

An example of a pro-con or advantage-disadvantage speech would be to talk about big-box stores like Walmart vs. small downtown businesses.

The human inclination to compare and contrast is the basis for paired sequences, which link natural pairings that audiences can understand. One version is cause-effect, where one main point is the cause and the other main point is the effect. A speech about an increase in opioid use in a particular state might explore various causes in the first main point and the effects in the second main point. (Please note that a speech that only addresses the causes of a situation—say, poor reading scores in U.S. schools—would be arranged topically). Other versions of paired sequences are pro-con, benefits-risks, and advantages-disadvantages topics. Examples include speeches about the pros and cons of uniforms in elementary schools or the risks and benefits of intermittent fasting. This sequence works for both persuasive and informative speeches.


While a problem-solution structure is technically a paired sequence, it earns its own category because it is such a useful pattern for persuasive speeches. The first main point focuses on the state and extent of a particular problem. The second main point provides a viable solution or solutions. A third option would be to include the cause of the problem resulting in a problem-cause-solution pattern. For example, a speech to persuade your audience to adopt a vegetarian diet would begin with problems associated with a meat-based diet, then identify meat and meat production as the cause of those problems, and finally present a practical solution about how to adopt a vegetarian diet to address those problems.

Problem-solution is a powerful strategy in persuasive speaking, but it also carries risks: if the proposed solution isn’t convincing to the audience, the problem-solution strategy falls flat.

To Watch: Navi Radjou, Creative Problem-Solving in the Face of Extreme Limits

In this problem-solution speech, Navi Radjou discusses how innovations made in the global South can teach the whole world an important lesson in creative problem solving. Radjou discusses various problems and clever solutions (such as a clay refrigerator), but also organizes his whole speech in terms of a problem and a solution. The problem is limited resources. The solution, according to Radjou, is jugaad, a Hindi word meaning “frugal innovation”—learning to do more with less.

You can view the transcript for “Navi Radjou: Creative problem-solving in the face of extreme limits” here (opens in new window).

What to watch for:

Since this is a very big topic with lots of moving parts, Radjou ends his speech with three clearly worded principles—a good example of packaging a clear takeaway for the audience. Each of the three principles is illustrated with an example from his speech, thus helping us to remember some of the material he covered: 1) Keep it simple (like the C.T. scanner in China), 2) Do not reinvent the wheel—use existing resources (like using mobile telephony to offer clean energy), and 3) Think and act horizontally with a distributed supply chain (like Grameen Bank).