• The Minto Pyramid Principle (Barbara Minto) Book Review

  • Posted on March 26, 2011
  • 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.

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.

  • 5 Storytelling Lessons from Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” Speech

  • Posted on March 22, 2011
  • In Resonate, Nancy Duarte uses the “I Have a Dream” speech to illustrate the use of the Duarte storytelling method, which consists of alternately contrasting what is today and what could be in the future.

    In fact, there are numerous storytelling lessons we can learn from King’s speech that you can use in your next boardroom or ballroom presentation. I use this speech text in my corporate workshops to illustrate five important storytelling principles.

    1. Classic story structure with a beginning, middle and end. King’s speech is arranged along a loose timeline, with a beginning, middle and end. He starts his speech with the past (“five score years ago”), then moves to the present (“but 100 years later, the Negro is still not free”) where he elaborates on the many promises that were broken. Finally, he moves to the future (“I have a dream”), painting a picture of a glorious future. Amazingly, according to Nick Morgan, he may have improvised this section.

    2. Inciting Incident. All great stories begin with something happening – a specific incident – that puts the hero’s world out of balance. In this case, the inciting incident was promises broken. The world is out of balance, not because the black man does not have equal rights, but because he was promised equal rights 100 years ago and those promises are still not fulfilled.

    3. Picture words. Great stories, the kinds that make an audience holds its breath and get caught up in the speaker’s narrative, use picture words. These picture words direct the audience to imagine an inner world and enter a sort of trance — called the storylistening trance — that makes them more likely to accept the speaker’s words. King sprinkles his speech with picture words of ordinary things that are easy to imagine: flames, ocean, island, check, hills, table. Action words are also picture words: sear, languish, sit down together.

    4. Analogies and metaphors. Comparing one thing to another makes audiences transfer the characteristics of one thing (eg. mighty stream) onto the other thing (eg. justice). King was a master of analogies, like calling the broken promises a bad check. Especially, King uses metaphors persistently: the manacles of segregation and chains of discrimination, lonely island of poverty midst a vast ocean of prosperity, quicksand of racial injustice.

    5. No slides. This speech would NOT be stronger by showing pictures of a cancelled check, the red hills of Georgia or – heaven forbid — a list of bullet points outlining his complaints. Why? Because the purpose of this speech is to motivate and move an audience, not inform and instruct them. Slides are best used for information transfer. But if you want to move an audience, then draw pictures on the whiteboard of their own minds with the velvety ink of your words.

    PowerPoint slides are terrific for influencing and persuading in the boardroom, where the audience wants to see your analysis and to engage in a discussion about your assumptions. And you can still use analogies and stories to enhance your presentation.

    But when you want to rattle the chains of your audience’s heart and stir the simmering coals of their courage, then throw off the shackles of the clicker and rain storytelling on them like a mighty storm.

    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.

  • Secret to Choosing Slide Colors Like a Pro – PowerPoint Video Tip #7

  • Posted on March 17, 2011
  • Color choice is one of the secrets to professional-looking PowerPoint slides. Here’s a trick for choosing colors that always look professional when used together.

    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.

  • Clear and to the Point (Stephen Kosslyn) Book Review

  • Posted on
  • Clear and to the Point, by Dr. Stephen M. Kosslyn, is one of the better books on how to use PowerPoint effectively. This is not water-cooler advice, or guidance on how to make pretty slides, but a smart book on what brain science says about how your audience’s mind works and what makes a slide effective.

    Says Dr. Kosslyn, there are 8 principles to attend to when building PowerPoint slides:

    1. Principle of Relevance. Slides should contain as much information as your audience needs, but not more.

    2. Principle of Appropriate Knowledge. Speak to your audience’s level of knowledge, which means: avoid jargon, use the words your audience uses.

    3. Principle of Salience. Attention goes toward the things with the greatest contrast. So big bold letters stand out well on a simple background, but less so on a background with distracting swirling lines.

    4. Principle of Distinguishability. Items must have enough contrast, or they will not look different. So blue text next to greenish-blue text may not have enough contrast to stand apart from each other.

    5. Principle of Perceptual Organization. This is a set of Gestalt principles which says the eye tries to “chunk” things into groups. For instance, four red circles in a straight line will be seen as one thing. If that’s not your goal, give each circle a different color.

    6. Principle of Compatibility. We draw meaning from the form of things, so be careful you don’t choose images that convey the wrong meaning. For instance, don’t have text saying “Things are going great” in alarming red font color. Don’t use a 3-D pie chart because the slice tilted toward the audience will show the top as well as the side of the pie slice and look larger than the slices that only show the top.

    7. Principle of Informative Changes. When we see something change, we expect it to mean something. So don’t use motion paths, animations or transitions just for novelty. It confused the audience.

    8. Principle of Capacity Limitations. People have a limited capacity to search for and retain information. Complex slides that are poorly organized become such a chore that audiences simply give up trying to understand.

    Although many of these principles appear straightforward, most PowerPoint slides could be improved if more people actually FOLLOWED these principles.

    Clear and to the Point is not a breezy read; it’s definitely written for the serious student. For instance, some of these principles could have more playful names. But it’s wonderful foundational stuff and when you turn these principles into habits, your PowerPoints will be more effective.

    Dr. Kosslyn’s book is one of the few that takes a scientific look at how to use PowerPoint effectively, rather than depending on rule-of-thumb advice or enthusiastic but baseless rhetoric. Other books that also look at PowerPoint with a scientific lens include my own (Speaking PowerPoint), Advanced Presentations by Design by Dr. Andrew Abela and (to a lesser extent) Beyond Bullet Points by Cliff Atkinson.

    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.

  • The Uglier the Slides, the More You Need Storytelling

  • Posted on March 15, 2011
  • Have you ever had to deliver a presentation using someone else’s slides? Were they a mess?

    This was the question asked by T.J. Walker on the Forbes blog.

    This all-too-common occurrence is unfortunate, for both the presenter and the audience. In addition to the 7 tips offered by TJ, I would add the following:

    8. Open with a strong story before even launching into your slides. This will grab the audience’s attention and help them connect with you in a way the slides never could.

    9. Pepper stories, analogies and metaphors throughout your presentation. Complex slides will leave audiences baffled. Stories, analogies and metaphors clarify complex ideas.

    10. Move around the presentation platform, and even into the audience. The audience will be drawn away from looking at the slides and drawn to looking at you

    The rule of thumb is this: the uglier the slides, the more you need to use storytelling to grab attention, clarify complex ideas and engage the audience.

    What other tips do you follow when you have to present someone else’s slides?

    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. Join my LinkedIn group or subscribe to this blog.

Page 30 of 35« First...1020...2829303132...Last »

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

In Resonate, Nancy Duarte uses the “I Have a Dream” speech to illustrate the use of the Duarte storytelling method, which consists of alternately contrasting what is today and what could be in the future.

In fact, there are numerous storytelling lessons we can learn from King’s speech that you can use in your next boardroom or ballroom presentation. I use this speech text in my corporate workshops to illustrate five important storytelling principles.

1. Classic story structure with a beginning, middle and end. King’s speech is arranged along a loose timeline, with a beginning, middle and end. He starts his speech with the past (“five score years ago”), then moves to the present (“but 100 years later, the Negro is still not free”) where he elaborates on the many promises that were broken. Finally, he moves to the future (“I have a dream”), painting a picture of a glorious future. Amazingly, according to Nick Morgan, he may have improvised this section.

2. Inciting Incident. All great stories begin with something happening – a specific incident – that puts the hero’s world out of balance. In this case, the inciting incident was promises broken. The world is out of balance, not because the black man does not have equal rights, but because he was promised equal rights 100 years ago and those promises are still not fulfilled.

3. Picture words. Great stories, the kinds that make an audience holds its breath and get caught up in the speaker’s narrative, use picture words. These picture words direct the audience to imagine an inner world and enter a sort of trance — called the storylistening trance — that makes them more likely to accept the speaker’s words. King sprinkles his speech with picture words of ordinary things that are easy to imagine: flames, ocean, island, check, hills, table. Action words are also picture words: sear, languish, sit down together.

4. Analogies and metaphors. Comparing one thing to another makes audiences transfer the characteristics of one thing (eg. mighty stream) onto the other thing (eg. justice). King was a master of analogies, like calling the broken promises a bad check. Especially, King uses metaphors persistently: the manacles of segregation and chains of discrimination, lonely island of poverty midst a vast ocean of prosperity, quicksand of racial injustice.

5. No slides. This speech would NOT be stronger by showing pictures of a cancelled check, the red hills of Georgia or – heaven forbid — a list of bullet points outlining his complaints. Why? Because the purpose of this speech is to motivate and move an audience, not inform and instruct them. Slides are best used for information transfer. But if you want to move an audience, then draw pictures on the whiteboard of their own minds with the velvety ink of your words.

PowerPoint slides are terrific for influencing and persuading in the boardroom, where the audience wants to see your analysis and to engage in a discussion about your assumptions. And you can still use analogies and stories to enhance your presentation.

But when you want to rattle the chains of your audience’s heart and stir the simmering coals of their courage, then throw off the shackles of the clicker and rain storytelling on them like a mighty storm.

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.

Color choice is one of the secrets to professional-looking PowerPoint slides. Here’s a trick for choosing colors that always look professional when used together.

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.

Clear and to the Point, by Dr. Stephen M. Kosslyn, is one of the better books on how to use PowerPoint effectively. This is not water-cooler advice, or guidance on how to make pretty slides, but a smart book on what brain science says about how your audience’s mind works and what makes a slide effective.

Says Dr. Kosslyn, there are 8 principles to attend to when building PowerPoint slides:

1. Principle of Relevance. Slides should contain as much information as your audience needs, but not more.

2. Principle of Appropriate Knowledge. Speak to your audience’s level of knowledge, which means: avoid jargon, use the words your audience uses.

3. Principle of Salience. Attention goes toward the things with the greatest contrast. So big bold letters stand out well on a simple background, but less so on a background with distracting swirling lines.

4. Principle of Distinguishability. Items must have enough contrast, or they will not look different. So blue text next to greenish-blue text may not have enough contrast to stand apart from each other.

5. Principle of Perceptual Organization. This is a set of Gestalt principles which says the eye tries to “chunk” things into groups. For instance, four red circles in a straight line will be seen as one thing. If that’s not your goal, give each circle a different color.

6. Principle of Compatibility. We draw meaning from the form of things, so be careful you don’t choose images that convey the wrong meaning. For instance, don’t have text saying “Things are going great” in alarming red font color. Don’t use a 3-D pie chart because the slice tilted toward the audience will show the top as well as the side of the pie slice and look larger than the slices that only show the top.

7. Principle of Informative Changes. When we see something change, we expect it to mean something. So don’t use motion paths, animations or transitions just for novelty. It confused the audience.

8. Principle of Capacity Limitations. People have a limited capacity to search for and retain information. Complex slides that are poorly organized become such a chore that audiences simply give up trying to understand.

Although many of these principles appear straightforward, most PowerPoint slides could be improved if more people actually FOLLOWED these principles.

Clear and to the Point is not a breezy read; it’s definitely written for the serious student. For instance, some of these principles could have more playful names. But it’s wonderful foundational stuff and when you turn these principles into habits, your PowerPoints will be more effective.

Dr. Kosslyn’s book is one of the few that takes a scientific look at how to use PowerPoint effectively, rather than depending on rule-of-thumb advice or enthusiastic but baseless rhetoric. Other books that also look at PowerPoint with a scientific lens include my own (Speaking PowerPoint), Advanced Presentations by Design by Dr. Andrew Abela and (to a lesser extent) Beyond Bullet Points by Cliff Atkinson.

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.

Have you ever had to deliver a presentation using someone else’s slides? Were they a mess?

This was the question asked by T.J. Walker on the Forbes blog.

This all-too-common occurrence is unfortunate, for both the presenter and the audience. In addition to the 7 tips offered by TJ, I would add the following:

8. Open with a strong story before even launching into your slides. This will grab the audience’s attention and help them connect with you in a way the slides never could.

9. Pepper stories, analogies and metaphors throughout your presentation. Complex slides will leave audiences baffled. Stories, analogies and metaphors clarify complex ideas.

10. Move around the presentation platform, and even into the audience. The audience will be drawn away from looking at the slides and drawn to looking at you

The rule of thumb is this: the uglier the slides, the more you need to use storytelling to grab attention, clarify complex ideas and engage the audience.

What other tips do you follow when you have to present someone else’s slides?

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. Join my LinkedIn group or subscribe to this blog.