The Pyramid Principle was developed in the 1960s by Barbara Minto, at the time a communications consultant at McKinsey. The main idea of The Pyramid Principle can be summarised as: Bottom line upfront. In other words, first the core message, then the explanation. This is because it’s more pleasant for a reader, and an audience during a presentation, to get the core message of a story presented first, and then the more detailed explanation. Both the message and the explanation can be understood immediately.
For example, suppose you are invited for a birthday, but unfortunately you’re unable to attend. You could explain it as follows:
Thanks so much for your kind invitation to your 30th birthday on 2 September. However, it just so happens that Susan is coaching the hockey team of our youngest daughter Emma that weekend, because I’m taking part in an international golf tournament in Portugal from 1 to 4 September. Sadly, this means we’ll be unable to be there on your birthday. Have a nice day!
If you reverse the order, so first the core message and then the details, your text will be a whole lot easier to read and understand. Will could have written the above as follows:
Thanks so much for your kind invitation to your 30th birthday on 2 September. Unfortunately neither Susan nor I will be able to attend. I’m taking part in an international golf tournament in Portugal, and Susan is coaching the hockey team of our youngest daughter Emma that weekend. Have a nice day!
What applies to a short and simple e-mail is even more applicable to presentations and reports in which a multitude of ideas are intertwined in a complex way. The Pyramid Principle will help you design convincing storylines and catchy slides.
In the book ‘Een IJzersterk Verhaal’ and our trainings, we’ve transposed Minto’s theory to make it completely applicable to presentations. We also refer to other principles that you can apply to presentations, obviously, such as storytelling, slide design and visualisation techniques. For effective presentations, we’ve also drawn on the expertise of a range of specialists in areas such as concentration, stage fright, internal dialogue, use of voice, theatre techniques, and so on.
More info? Contact us about our training Effective Presentations.