Managers, specialists and consultants have to create reports und presentations to decision makers pretty often, but for the most part use these in a time consuming and boring way. After all they present a school essay. Yet, it can get worse: for instance Excel charts included in slide presentations…
Barbara Minto formulated a radically different concept in her book “The Pyramid Principle”: putting the core idea, the solution markedly at the beginning of the presentation. From there, she derives logical, structural, content-related and formal aspects.
Firstly, in her introduction she proposes to get the addresse from where he or she stands. Nothing new indeed. Secondly she expands the topic much wider. The listener to the presentation should be presented to a story she or he already knows, more like an intro. Thirdly this should lead to a sequence of situation – difficulty – solution. With the last one finally presenting the core idea of the presentation itself!
For the following structure she presents her actual “top down approach”. This means particularly from the top of the pyramid “die klarste Abfolge ist immer, die summarische Idee anzugeben vor den einzelnen Ideen, die zusammengefasst werden.” (Übers. By)
Minto specifically recommends to design different ideas according to the pattern:
Situation – was weiß der Empfänger schon?
Schwierigkeit – was ist das Problem dabei?
Frage – was wird der Empfänger also fragen?
Antwort – die eigene Antwort, also Lösung, Idee…
In terms of form she furthermore proposes to create a picture in the mind of the addresse. Still, to reduce these finally to geometrical form (circles, lines…) to illustrate abstract topics. Even in texts “ist der Trick, die Substantive zu finden und nach der Beziehung zwischen ihnen zu schauen, um sie als Visualisierung zu sehen.”
The followung recommendations for the design of reports and presentations can be derived:
- The actual argument has to be put first,
- Additional informationen belongs into back up.
- Begin with the key recommendation (idea),
- explain the next level top down.
- Offer statetements in full sentences – all sentences combined are the “story”,
- Support statements with information, especially graphics.
- Finish on a short summary (the core idea), orienting towards the next steps.