Use The Pyramid Principle® to drive action and increase your influence.
What if we told you that there’s a better way to create and present your decks? One that will drive action and get you to the most important part of the conversation right away? That’s right – today we’re talking about the world-famous Pyramid Principle®, developed and popularized by Barbara Minto.
Haven’t heard of it? Or worse yet: do you willfully ignore it? Buckle up for a quick overview of The Pyramid Principle, and more importantly, some key takeaways on why you should implement it into your own presentations, emails and meetings.
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Pyramid Principle History
The Pyramid Principle is used the consulting world over – whether during interim internal discussions or executive-level presentations. Executive attention spans are notoriously short – don’t make your point in the first 10 seconds, and you’ve already lost your audience. That’s where the Pyramid Principle comes in. This is a seminal concept in executive communication, and has spread from McKinsey to every other consulting firm worth its salt, including of course Bain and BCG.
The Pyramid Principle was created by Barbara Minto – the first female post-MBA hire at McKinsey – in the 1970s. Her concept literally flipped presentations on their head, and her book on the subject is still widely recognized as the standard for communicating concepts and arguments in a logical, well-structured way.
Pyramid Principle Structure
The concept even goes beyond just talking to executives. It’s applicable anytime you are trying to convey a persuasive argument. No matter the medium of your presentation – whether a client-facing slide deck, an internal meeting, or a marketing pitch – structuring your thoughts with the Pyramid Principle will help you get your point across clearly and effectively, while staying MECE (mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive).
The Pyramid Principle starts with the end in mind. Give your conclusion or answer first, follow it up with your main arguments, and then follow those with data that supports each one.
Here’s the beauty of this approach: you lead with the most important part of your story and reinforce it only with the necessary messaging. It cuts out the fluff and focuses your audience on making a decision on whether to act on or believe your key takeaway.
This dramatically lessens confusion, shortens meetings, and motivates action from your stakeholders. Talk about a win-win-win!
Can’t leading with your takeaway first be abrasive? In situations where it is the first time you are interacting with an audience, and you don’t have pre-built trust, it can be.
However, when interacting with stakeholders where you’ve already built trust, leading with your proposed solution effectively frames the rest of your conversation. It gets right to the heart of the matter: either the takeaway aligns with what they were already thinking and you can move on to next steps, or they have objections that you get to use your supporting arguments to address. Either way, you’re discussing the most meaningful matters right up front.
Pyramid Principle Key Concepts
- Lead with the answer/recommendation/takeaway
- Give main supporting arguments as opposed to details
- Back up supporting arguments with curated data points
The other common objection to the Pyramid Principle is that it is perceived to take away from the authority of the answer or conclusion – the “punchline.”
Yet, put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Typically, executives think big-picture and “top-down.” What is the big picture? What other priorities and budgets are you competing with? They carved out 30 minutes (at most) to hear your perspective on the issue at hand.
Even if you’re not communicating with executives, use The Pyramid Principle to maximize the time you have to get to the part of the conversation you really want to engage in. If the stakeholder wants more details, they’ll ask!
Pyramid Principle Conclusion
Try it! During your next presentation (internal or external), present your findings and overarching recommendation in The Pyramid Principle structure. You’ll be giving your audience what they need in the way that they need it to say yes or no to moving forward.
Pyramid Principle Training for Teams
Use the Pyramid Principle to ensure your key takeaway “lands” with your target audience. While the concept is straightforward, it’s surprisingly difficult to master.
Ready to take your team’s performance to the next level? Whether your team’s focus is sales, advisory, marketing science, or anything else, Management Consulted offers customized live training and partners with some of the world’s leading companies. Learn more or reach out today, and let our expert team take your team’s executive communication to the next level!
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