The Minto Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto is simply a miracle. If you want to learn to organize your ideas for an executive report, there is no other book that covers the same breadth of topics as clearly and practically as the Pyramid Principle.
- Start by answering the reader’s question. You have been asked to present for a specific reason; the audience has a problem they want solved. So begin your presentation by answering that specific question and don’t leave your answer to the end of the presentation, wrapped up like a Christmas present.
- Organize your content by answering the reader’s next question: why? Once you’ve provided an answer to the reader’s question, their natural reaction will be “why do you recommend that?”. So proceed through your presentation by organizing your information to answer the reader’s questions.
- Develop an inductive argument – not a deductive argument. Each question you answer will be surrounded by evidence to back it up — charts, quotes, observations and so on. A deductive argument is a logical, step by step re-enactment of your analysis. Don’t do that. This leads to very boring presentations. Instead, present an inductive argument, which presents the evidence as a list of circumstantial events that require a leap of logic to reach a conclusion.
- If you can, organize your report along a timeline. Once you have all your evidence, don’t just sort it randomly. Instead, try to sort it along a timeline. Is lower employee morale causing higher error rate? Or is higher error rate causing lower employee morale? As you sort evidence along a timeline, you can begin to develop a storyline and also determine what evidence is still missing.
The ideas are simple in theory but take some practice to master. Once you do, though, you can apply her principles to everything you write: PowerPoint decks, business reports, email and blogs. Chris Witt recently posted a blog article that summarizes some of the same key points.
Barbara has been teaching this method to consulting firms around the world, including McKinsey, for more than two decades.
The Pyramid Principle is not cheap. Look for a used copy. But you will wow audiences with your clear and practical presentations and you simply must make room on your shelf for The Pyramid Principle.
About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the new language of business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.