Using Logic for Productive Presentations and Reports


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An approach to writing consulting style reports using a method proven for over 40 years using logic based on pyramid logic. Ensuring a clear structure and story is key to conveying a set of messages.

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  • Creating reports and presentations often seems like trying to climb a mountain - like these in the Picos de Europa in Northern Spain.Finding the right path up the mountain is difficult without a clear map to the top.In creating a report or presentation we need a technique to enable us to find the right path to communicate effectively. This presentation describes a technique to be used where a report is being created to answer a problem. It can be used not only for presentations but also documents and emails to create a clear logical storyline to keep an audience interested and gain the agreement needed.I am describing a technique using logic based on the The Minto Pyramid Principle that has been used by the worlds leading management consultancies for over 40 years. It is supplemented by material from other bestselling authors of presentation techniques and my experience using the technique over the past 10 years.
  • So What?I have split the presentation into six sections:We start with the section Frame It to set the context on why using logic for a presentation is important and then introduce the TheMinto Pyramid Principle. The second section, Structure It elaborates the top-down approach used with the concepts of horizontal and vertical logic. We follow this with the section Introduce It where I describe the structure of the introduction of a report in a presentation or document. It is important to set the context to idea being presented. We then continue on to the section Question It where I describe how to create a hierarchy of questions and answers to build the body of a report.Once we have described how to introduce and create the main content of a report the section Describe It shows how a slide should be laid out to give a clear message. and finally the section Reuse It shows how the same approach can be used in other forms of communication including documents and emails.TransitionSo lets start...
  • So What?...with the sectionFrame It where we look at how presentations, reports and emails - if poorly structured can cost effort, introduce delays and reduce customer satisfaction.TransitionToday we spend large amounts of time creating and presenting presentations to persuade people of our point of view – so getting this right is extremely important.
  • So What?Getting a presentation right is key to enabling change: Many jobs need presentations and reports that clearly convey key messages. With face-to-face meetings becoming a rarity and many of the stakeholders never attending the meeting you may hold online, the message needs to be clear. We may get to a meeting and the key decision makers often say they have less time than is allocated. They are often short of time and grow bored easily if the presentation takes a long time to get to the key message. The stakeholders that may be short of time or not attend the meeting may be key to gaining agreement to decisions that will enable the change needed.TransitionSo what key factors do we need to think about when creating a presentation?
  • So What?We need to think about the The Format andStructureof a presentation or report.The format can hide a message by beingUntidy ... Inconsistent ... Too busy ... Boring ...Most importantly, no logical flow or structure can make the messageConfusing... Lost in detail... Missing message... Incorrect ...There are many great books on the format of a presentation but having a well formatted presentation does not help if the message is not clear.TransitionSo why should we spend the effort on getting the format andstructure of a report right?
  • So What?If we don’t get it right it could resulting in a decision not being made or a failure to gain support for what is being presented.If I am trying to persuade a meeting of 20 people who have all travelled to hear you present a report where you do not have a clear message this is time wasted. This is a very expensive meeting that may need to be repeated or it might mean you have lost the opportunity to make the important change.If this was a major incident that is causing a service outage you may extend the outage as the solution us not clearly communicated.If you are dealing with a customer it could reduce customer satisfaction as a result of being unable to communicate clearly.If you are a student, if you cannot communicate your ideas in coursework you may get marked down. The person who moderates across the course (and did not attend your verbal presentation) may mark you down if they cannot understand the ideas.All of these are good reasons to get your communication clear.TransitionThis presentation is focussing on the structure of a presentation as there are many great books on the format of presentations that are easy to read.One such book is “Say it with Presentations’ by Gene Zelazny.So what sort of presentation structure are we focussing on?
  • So What?The technique we are discussing uses the structure of a formal report but in the form of a presentation.It is not a Key Note presentation where the slides need a speaker to elaborate the message. The slides in this context need to standalone without a speaker and can be understood without a speaker.TransitionThe technique is based on a technique developed over forty years ago at McKinsey and Company to write reports.
  • So What?The Pyramid Principle is about the ordering of ideas that align with the way the mind processes information and was originally developed by Barbara Minto in 1967 whilst at McKinsey and Company.It uses a pyramid structure to bring ideas to a single thought.Where the ideas will relate vertically by summarising the thoughts belowAnd the ideas relate horizontally to present a logical argumentMany consulting companies including IBM teach this to their consultants.TransitionSo lets examine how this works.
  • So What?We will now move on to look at structuring a presentation using a top-down approach.Unless the words and relationships between ideas are easy to understand, readers will find it hard to understand their significance.A reader will read from the start of the documentWill first have to recognise and interpret the contentThen have to understand the relationship between ideasAnd then they have to understand the significance of ideasAll of this takes a lot of processing by the brain and unless it is clearly presented the key idea will be lost.TransitionLets start with an example showing a recommendation that is difficult to process and how it can be rearranged.
  • So What?Here is an example.On the left is a report where the information reads as a story but you cannot tell the message until the end is reached. The messages on the left also do not explain the significance of what is being presented. When you get to the end the brain is trying to remember the context of what has come previously and understand how it relates to the conclusion.On the right the message is given at the start allowing the reader to then ask in their mind for the next level of detail. The messages also in this example emphasis the significance at each stage.Putting the main message at the top and elaborating top-down enables the reader understand the significance from the start.If the main point is at the end of a report (in a conclusion) a reader will have to wait until they reach the end before they understand the relationship and the significance of the writing.TransitionThis forms the basis of the pyramid logic. We will now walk through the principles step-by-step.
  • So What?The starting point is a single idea that should be at the top of a pyramid with elements of the story line below.These story line items are then broken down further into supporting information about the ideas above.TransitionThis is a simple pyramid but documents are normally much more complex.
  • So What?For a longer report the story line can be grouped into sections or categories to make the story easier to remember - in the same way this presentation has been created for different topics.The topics could connect to form a story such as step 1, 2 and 3 in a process. Or they could be categories where the connection is that they are of the same type such as London, Birmingham and Manchester.TransitionThe brain is limited in what it can process and the number of ideas below the main idea need to be limited to not confuse the reader.
  • So What?To help people remember the story the number of ideas need to be limited to seven +/- two.Look at the example of the shopping list on the left. The list is made of 10 items that are not related.By grouping the items into groups of small lists of items the items can be more easily remembered. I know I have three groups and it is easier to remember there are three or four items.In this case to make things easier to remember I might display using colour to remember the grouping. I could use the colour code – Pink/red for hazardous cleaning materials, Yellow for dairy products such as butter and cheese with green for vegetablesI might even relate the Vegetables to individual colours: I want Red Potatoes, Orange Carrots and Green BeansYou could use colour coding to get people to remember your message.TransitionTo ensure the information is complete and related to the key idea there also needs to be a vertical relationship.
  • So What?In a pyramid, each idea above should summarise the ideas below and the ideas below should be within the scope of the idea above.If the sections or story lines are not within the idea above1. Either the idea above needs to change2. Or the idea below should be removedThis ensures the ideas are complete and do not deviate from the message being presented.TransitionAs well as a vertical relationship there must be a horizontal relationship.
  • So What?There should be a horizontal relationship between the main ideas being presented to create a story line. This makes the presentation flow in a logical sequence.TransitionAt this point we have talked about a pyramid starting with a single principle idea broken down further with a vertical and horizontal relationship between the ideas.Lets now look at how we practically structure this in a report.
  • So What?The report we create needs to be introduced using a section to provide the context for the report.
  • So What?The overall report should have two main sections An introduction to set the context A body to convey the main ideas in the form of a pyramidThe introduction consists of a Situation, Complication together with a Key Question and/or Answer.This information sets the context to the report.TransitionLets look at the introduction in more detail.
  • So What?The first part of the introduction is to set the context by stating something the audience can agree with and leaves them expecting more.It contains only the information needed for the report and no moreIt should be sufficient in itself without the need for additional information.Look at the example from a web page introducing the IBM tech trends report. we need to introduce the problem we are trying to solve
  • So What?The complication identifies the problem in the context of the situation Something went or could go wrong Something changed or could change Here is what we might expect to find A person has a different point of view There are n alternatives we haveIt should be sufficient to understand all the elements being considered later in the report.In this example is that there is a lack of skills in key technology areas.TransitionIt does not yet tell you what question is going to be answered.
  • So What?This comes next with a question and potentially an answer that is elaborated in the rest of the report.Again, this should be in the context of the Situation and Complication previously.This is sufficient to introduce the report based on a single idea.In this example, an answer is provided without a question.TransitionLets look at another example.
  • So What?In this example, the situation is stating we need more energy and there is a projected growth of 36.8%The complication is that the industry faces challenges in meeting that demand and this is inhibited.The Question/Answer goes direct to three recommendations or answers.TransitionYou will see in these examples the question has been removed and the slide goes direct to the answer. You can change the order to change the tone or emphasis.
  • So What?The standard Situation-Complication-Question/Answer can be changed to Situation-Complication-Solution.You can also change the tone completely with an agressive order of Question-Situation-Complication.In all cases the Situation and Complication is used and the Question/Answer part can be changed to Solution.The order of these standard parts can be used to change the tone or emphasis.TransitionLets move onto the next section.
  • So What?There is a logical process of refinement to create the main body of the text by using a question/answer structure.TransitionIn this section we will take you through the principles of elaborating the ideas.
  • So What?Here is another example we can use as an introduction to the body of a report being used as an example. It describes the situation – a power failure and the complication is that it impacted the data centre with the question being ‘how did this happen?’TransitionLets look at a technique to elaborate the ideas within the body of the report.
  • So What?In this example, we take the first question and produce answers as to why the failure took place. This question and answer dialogue continues on down.Notice that at the first level the answers are in sequence and one is a consequence of the previous one.From these first answers further questions are asked until no further logical answers come.The answers should go to the same level of detail – so don’t start getting into the detailed implementation for one component when another idea is at a high level.In this case I have not gone as far as I can but this gives you an idea of how it can be done.TransitionIn developing the question and answers the ideas below another a top-level generally follow two forms.
  • So What?You will see the deductive grouping where one answer is deduced from the previous answer. In this case there was a fire at the sub-station which cause a loss of power and as a result the generators supplying power to the data centre came online but were overloaded and the batteries that provided backup did not last for long resulting in a total failure of the data centre power. The other alternative is a set of related ideas. In this case the ideas are related as they were reasons why the generator was overloaded. If the projects had not added new demand for power and there was some spare capacity or resilience in the generators the generators would not have been overloaded.TransitionLets look at some other examples to describe the horizontal relationship between ideas.
  • So What?A deductive grouping may be used where process steps, a timeline, instructions or ordered recommendations are needed.An argument in successive steps is created with the next step implied from the previous step.In this example a process flow of paper production could be used to describe the flow of ideas to be described.TransitionLets look at an inductive grouping example.
  • So What?In this case the example a set of hazards in paper production. It is a set of related ideas that can be described by a plural noun – in this case ‘hazards’.The grouping should all be at the same level of detail and related to the primary idea.TransitionWe have now talked about the introduction and creating the body of the story by questions and answers. But what are the steps we should take to build the story?
  • So What?In the Minto Pyramid Principle they describe a series of steps starting with defining the Idea of what is being written.Then identify, the Question about the idea and the Answer you are looking for. In other words you should know what the top-level answer is before you start.Then go back and define the Situation that will set the overall context that people can agree with. Given you know the question/answer you can define the Complication that leads to the question.Check the Question and Answer still work with the Situation and Complication you have documented.What new Question or Questions are raised by the first Answer? You can then decided whether you want to use Deductive or Inductive reasoning. This will be indicated by the structure of the answer. If the answer is a process flow or follows a timeline it would be Deductive.If it is Inductive, what is the plural noun to describe the group of answers.Keep repeating the process making sure the answers are fully supporting the idea above to ensure vertical logic.TransitionThis process is the basis of all reports whether their form is a document, presentation, email or website.Tools can help in development of the structure.
  • So What?Using a mind mapping tool can help build the structure of the presentation visually that can then be the basis of the report to be created.There are many free mind mapping tools such as Freemind and Xmind.TransitionLets move onto the next section.
  • So What?Now we come to the section where we describe how a slide should be laid out to give a clear message.TransitionFirst we start with understanding why we use this format.
  • So What?When a report is presented, not all key stakeholders will be available (if you are a student this may include the lecturer who marks your work)Stakeholders not attending need to be able to understand the key messages without a verbal explanationThe story line at the top of each slide ensures the stakeholders not attending can understand the key ideas of the presentation clearly.TransitionAs I said before, this is not meant to be a key note presentation where a few picture will do to assist the speaker.Lets start then with the story line for each slide.
  • So What?Once you have defined the key story for the introduction and body a good place to start is to define the storyline as a storyboard with the key message for each slide on a separate piece of paper.Read the story line in sequence and it should be the basis for an executive summary of a written report.Even if you are going to write a formal report, writing the storyline for a set of slides give you the opportunity to check the flow of the key messages.TransitionThere are some key rules you need to follow when creating the storyboard.
  • So What?One have one message slide and no more.Only what is relevant and no more. Don’t add an interesting unrelated fact that will divert the audience.If you have two ideas – create two slides. It should take no longer to talk about but the message will be clear.TransitionHaving a single message is still not enough.
  • So What?It is important that the message is relevant. So what is this slide telling the audience? So what is so important I need to have the slide? So what role does the slide have in presenting the message?If you cannot answer this – change the slide or remove it?Often the storyline will state a fact and follow this with an implication that gives the ‘so what?’ message.TransitionLets look at an example.
  • So What?In this case we have two examples.On the left the slide just has a title but does not meet the ‘So What?’ rule and the supporting graph below gives us no clue as to the message.The second example on the right passed the So What? Test as it states the fact and an implication of the fact. The content below supports the storyline above as well.TransitionLets now spend a bit of time looking at the layout.
  • So What?Different people have different ways of absorbing the information and in this case I am using a short title. I have found that some people do not like the storyline and still want a short snappy title.This is then followed by the storyline following the ‘So What?’ principles and below that the main body of the slide that supports the storyline.TransitionLets talk more about the storyline.
  • So What?The storyline of the slide has a single idea and follows the ‘So What?’ principle. It should also be sufficient to communicate the key message without the body of the slide.TransitionAnd the body of the slide...
  • So What?The main body should elaborate the storyline but not introduce any further ideas. This follows the vertical logic principles introduced earlier. Each of the three bullets support ideas in the storyline.TransitionTo support the slide some notes may need be documented.
  • So What?Elaborate the So What message by documenting them in the notes of the slide.You may not read these notes word for word but they are useful in making sure the message you are presenting flows.TransitionNext it is important to move to the next slide in a controlled way.If you just put the next slide up the attention is diverted from the words you are speaking to the content of the slide.So start the message of the next slide before you move on.
  • So What?Writing the Transition words into the Notes is also a useful step to keep the flow of the presentation.TransitionNow we have described the concepts of the pyramid principle and how it can be used practically in writing a report in a presentation.The next section shows how you can reuse the same techniques in other writing.
  • So What?This section demonstrates how the same approach can be re-used for reports and emails.TransitionFirst lets consider how this can be used in reports.
  • So What?When creating a formal report, create a presentation first to create story line and ensure a coherent story.When creating a formal reportCreate a story line using a set of slidesElaborate in each slide further messagesDefine what information needs to be gatheredWhen a report is being developed as part of a group isIt can be used to ensure the story line is coherentWork can be distributed to complete the detailThis helps when creating a report with a groupTransitionHere is an example of an executive summary using the same structure of writing.
  • So What?The report has the same Situation, Complication and Question structure for the introduction for a written report.This could have started life as three slides in a presentation.TransitionMoving onto the body of the report...
  • So What?There is a single answer or main idea is then supported by three further ideas. These ideas would form the basis of three sections for the report.TransitionSo lets go on to look at the structure of the report...
  • So What?The introduction and main body of the report shown in the previous two slides will form the executive summary.A formal report will follow the same structure as a presentation with the next level ideas and/or sections forming the chapters of in a document.Senior management should be able to just read the Executive Summary to understand the implications.TransitionThe same structure can also be used for emails...
  • So What?In this case the email uses the same structure we introduced for the presentation and formal report.It makes sure the key recommendations are up front and clearly documented. It leaves you with an understanding of what is recommended and interested to examine the report that is attached.TransitionNow we have come to the end of this presentation...
  • So What?The presentation has demonstrated that Using a logic for structuring of presentations and reports will ensure a message is clearly communicated The Pyramid Principle is a proven way of structuring presentations and reports But making use of these techniques will take practice and extra time will be needed initially to learn – so don’t give up, spend the time – it will get easier. But spending the extra effort up front will improve yourperformance by reducing the time taken and cost to gain agreement on difficult decisionsTransitionIncluded in the pack is a list of references for material used to create this presentation.If you want to read more in-depth on the principles make sure you consult ‘The Minto Pyramid Principle’ published in 2012
  • Using Logic for Productive Presentations and Reports

    1. 1. Mark Buckwell, FBCS CITP CISM CISSP
    2. 2. Structure It Frame It Introduce It Present Using Logic Question It Reuse It Describe It 2
    3. 3. Structure It Frame It Introduce It Present Using Logic Question It Reuse It Describe It 3
    4. 4. Enabling Change Reports that convey understanding quickly are key to gaining agreement and enabling the change needed Understanding Agreement Time 4
    5. 5. Format and Structure The message can be lost through poor format or poor structure in a presentation or report Poor Format Poor Structure 5
    6. 6. Failure to Gain Support ...resulting in additional cost, delays in issue resolution or project and an unhappy customer Unhappy Customer Additional Cost Delays 6
    7. 7. Presentation as a Report This set of techniques is using the approach of a report within a presentation Report Key Note Formality Report in a Presentation 7
    8. 8. Proven Logical Structure The Pyramid Principle focuses on using a structure that orders ideas in the way the mind thinks  Barbara Minto defined The Pyramid Principle  Ordering of ideas aligned with the way the mind thinks  It uses a pyramid structure  Single thought  Ideas relate vertically  Ideas relate horizontally 8
    9. 9. Structure It Frame It Introduce It Present Using Logic Question It Reuse It Describe It 9
    10. 10. Top Down Ordering – Chemical Engineering Structuring a report starting with the main idea enables immediate understanding and need to know more Structure A  Report to determine whether Blue Engineering should invest in Benzene production  Topic A: Benzene Demand    Hazardous Replacement Competitive vs Middle East Conclusion     Increasing 3% per year Plant shutdown   Benzene is in oversupply Manufacturers moving from Benzene Not cost competitive with Middle East Recommend: Do Not Proceed  Benzene is hazardous and manufacturers are looking for alternatives Topic C: Not Cost Competitive   Although 3% growth plants are being shutdown due to oversupply Topic B: Benzene Hazardous   Benzene is in oversupply Manufacturers are moving from Benzene Not cost competitive with Middle East Topic A: Benzene Oversupply  Topic C: Cost     Topic B: Benzene Exposure    Structure B  Blue Engineering should not proceed with investing in Benzene production  Conclusion Preview South Wales is not cost competitive compared to Middle East Recommend: Do Not Proceed 10
    11. 11. A Pyramid to Tell a Story Structure a report as a pyramid under a single idea with elements of the story line below Idea Story Line Story Line Story Line 11
    12. 12. Decompose The Problem A longer report can be decomposed into sections that correspond to categories or parts of the story to be told Idea Section/ Category Story Line Section/ Category Section/ Category Story Line Story Line Story Line Story Line Section/ Category Story Line Section/ Category Section/ Category Story Line Story Line Story Line 12
    13. 13. Seven Ideas +/- 2 Keep the number of subsidiary ideas to seven (plus or minus two) to help people remember your story  A human brain can hold 7 ideas +/- 2 in short term memory  Breakdown into categories Difficult to Remember? Bleach Eggs Carrots Green Beans Vegetables Cleaning Potatoes Milk Easier to Remember? Bleach Floor Cleaner Mop Floor Cleaner Mop Cheese Potatoes Carrots Green Beans Dairy Butter Milk Eggs Butter Cheese 13
    14. 14. Vertical Logic Each idea above should summarise all the ideas below and all the ideas below should be within the idea above Idea Vertical Relationship Section/ Category Story Line Section/ Category Story Line Story Line Section/ Category Story Line Story Line 14
    15. 15. Horizontal Logic A horizontal relationship should create a storyline summarising the points being presented Horizontal Relationship Idea Section/ Category Story Line Section/ Category Section/ Category Story Line Story Line Story Line Story Line Section/ Category Story Line Section/ Category Section/ Category Story Line Story Line Story Line 15
    16. 16. Structure It Frame It Introduce It Present Using Logic Question It Reuse It Describe It 16
    17. 17. Report Structure Reports should start with a Situation, Complication, and Question structure followed by the main ideas Introduction Situation Complication Key Question (and/or Answer) Main Idea • First subsidiary idea • Second subsidiary idea • Second subsidiary idea 17
    18. 18. The Situation Establishes the context stating something the audience can agree with and leaves them expecting more Situation  Establishes context  Audience can agree  Only information needed  Audience expects more Example: The IBM 2012 Tech Trends report from developerWorks and the IBM Center for Applied Insights is based on a survey of more than 1,200 IT and business decision makers who are determining when, where and how their organizations adopt mobile, analytics, cloud and social technologies. 18
    19. 19. The Complication Identifies the problem to be discussed in the context of the situation Complication  Identifies the problem  Sufficient to understand all elements Example: Only 1 out of 10 organizations believes it has all the mobile, analytics, cloud and social business skills needed to put those technologies to work. 19
    20. 20. The Key Question (and/or Answer) The Key Question and/or Answer should define the single idea the rest of the report will be about Key Question (and/or Answer)  Identifies question report will answer Example: Jim Corgel, General Manager IBM Software, challenges the business and IT communities to rally together to bridge the skill gaps threatening our collective ability to innovate – and shares the steps IBM is taking to help address this critical issue. See 20
    21. 21. Situation The world is demanding more and more energy. The projected growth of worldwide energy demand by 2030 is 36.8% according to the International Energy Outlook 2008. Question / Answer Complication Introduction Example This introduction follows the principles of Situation, Complication and Question/Answer The power generation industry faces major challenges in meeting this growing demand, not least because of inhibitors such as regulation and legislation; inadequate investment returns and unhelpful economic incentives; and of course the supply of natural resources. The report recommends investing in energy production for consumers : • Optimise: Apply smart solutions to extend existing capabilities. • Grow: Rapidly grow existing capability through smarter design and operation. • Accelerate: Nurture and accelerate new capabilities to commercial scale. 21
    22. 22. Changing Tone Changing the order of the introduction elements changes the tone of the report  Standard Order  Situation  Complication  Solution  Concerned Order  Complication  Situation  Solution  Direct Order  Solution  Situation  Complication  Aggressive Order  Question  Situation  Complication 22
    23. 23. Structure It Frame It Introduce It Present Using Logic Question It Reuse It Describe It 23
    24. 24. Question Complication Situation Example Introduction Using this example introduction we can develop the body of the report The data centre hosting the University systems is located in the centre of London and hosts all administration and central student IT facilities. All the systems the systems became unavailable on the 5th November for 36 hours due to a lack of power to the systems in the data centre. This report examines why the power failed in the data centre. 24
    25. 25. Question/Answer Dialogue Create a question/answer dialogue elaborating until reader has no further logical questions Power feed failed to the Data Centre Why? Generators were overloaded Fire at sub-station Why was there a fire? Someone deliberately set the fire How were they able to do this? Physical security was insufficient As new project added additional load Why is power limited? Why was generator overloaded? Why was additional power not identified? No check made for additional power Batteries had limited power As no resilience in generators Generator was designed to take over Therefore Data Centre had no power What was the technical impact? 3121 servers for 20 customers failed Why no resilience? Generator designed with no resilience 25
    26. 26. Horizontal Relationship Answering the questions below follows a logical sequence by either deductive or inductive grouping Deductive Grouping Inductive Grouping Generators were overloaded Power Failed to the Data Centre Why? Fire at sub-station Generators were overloaded Summarise Batteries had limited power Therefore Data Centre had no power Why was generator overloaded? As new project added additional load As no resilience in generators 26
    27. 27. Deductive Grouping Use of deductive grouping is used when you want to describe process steps, timeline or instructions  Deductive Grouping  Argument in successive steps  Implication from preceding steps  Indicated by     Process Steps Timeline Instructions Ordered Recommendations Paper Production Obtain Trees Debarking & Chipping Pulp Preparation Paper Formation Paper Finishing 27
    28. 28. Inductive Grouping Used for a set of related ideas that can be described by a plural noun  Inductive Grouping • A set of related ideas • Can be described by a plural noun • E.g. Reasons for, reasons against, steps, problems Paper Hazards General Noise Machine Guarding Lockout/ Tagout Pressure Vessels 28
    29. 29. Developing the Structure A pyramid of questions and answers can be developed that support the overall subject of the presentation. 1 6 New Q 7 3 Idea S=4 C=5 Q=2 Fill in the top box 1. What is the idea? 2. What is the question about the idea? 3. What is the answer about the idea? Match The Answer to the Introduction 4. What is the Situation? 5. What is the Complication? 2. Check Question and Answer? Find the story line 6. What new Question is raised by the answer? 7. Deductive or Inductive answer? 7. If inductive, what is your plural noun? 8 Structure supporting points 8. Repeat the question answer process at this level? Source: The Minto Pyramid Principle 29
    30. 30. Mind Mapping It can help to develop the structure of the presentation using mind mapping tools such as Freemind 30
    31. 31. Structure It Frame It Introduce It Present Using Logic Question It Reuse It Describe It 31
    32. 32. Why a Storyline on a Slide? Many more stakeholders than at the initial presentation need to understand a report through the story line  Key stakeholder availability  No verbal explanation  Story line enables understanding 32
    33. 33. Starting With A Report Start on paper writing a story line for the report and check the message can be understood without the main body of the slide Story Line Write the story line and check it flows by reading the titles of the report in sequence – this will be your executive summary. 33
    34. 34. One Thought Per Slide Use only one message per slide with only information relevant to the message otherwise the message will be diluted  Keep the slide simple  One message per slide  Only what is relevant to the message ... and no more 34
    35. 35. So What? Always ask of a slide or report section, so what am I trying to present and does it convey an important message? So What?  So what is this slide telling the audience?  So what is so important I need to have the slide?  So what role does the slide have in presenting the message? 35
    36. 36. Explain the Significance Ensure your slide describes the significance of the ideas being presented that keeps the audience interested to know more This provides facts without the significance of the population rise The title and supporting content states the impact of the rise in population 36
    37. 37. Parts of the Slide The slide can be split into three main parts – the Short Title, Story Line and Main Body Short Title Story Line Main Body 37
    38. 38. Story Line The story line should state the significance of the slide and should be sufficient without the main body State what the main message of the slide (which should be sufficient without the body of the slide) 38
    39. 39. Body of the Slide The main body should elaborate the storyline but not introduce any further ideas The main body should elaborate the detail of the story line but not introduce any more information than is in the story line 39
    40. 40. Example So What? Elaborate the So What message in the notes of the slide to ensure the message flows 40
    41. 41. Slide Transition To make a presentation flow begin the transition to the next slide before moving on and write into slide notes  Begin transition before moving on  Showing next slide will take attention away  Write into slide notes 41
    42. 42. Printing and Animation Ensure your slides convey the same message when printed and minimise the use of animation Situation Complication Solution Situation Complication Solution 42
    43. 43. Structure It Frame It Introduce It Present Using Logic Question It Reuse It Describe It 43
    44. 44. Reports When creating a formal report, create a presentation first to create story line and ensure a coherent story  Formal report  Create a story line  Elaborate each slide  Information to be gathered  Group Development  Ensure story line is coherent  Work can be distributed 44
    45. 45. Situation Benzene is a key building block for the production of other chemicals. It’s most widely produced derivative is ethylbenzene, a precursor to styrene, which is used to make polymers and plastics. Cumene is converted phenol for resins and adhesives. Cyclohexane is used in the manufacture of Nylon. Smaller amounts of benzene are used to make some types of rubbers, lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs, explosives, and pesticides. Complication After the recession of 2010, benzene, an aromatic chemical building block used primarily for the production of other chemicals, including styrene and cumene, experienced growing demand in 2011, with world demand forecast increasing from 41 to 42 million metric tons by the IHS Chemical global market study from IHS (NYSE: IHS). Question Report Introduction The same structure of Situation, Complication and Question can be used in a formal report Blue Chemical Engineering plc think the growth in demand for benzene may be an opportunity for investment and have engaged Jarratt Consulting to investigate whether to invest in a new plant in South Wales able to produce 100,000 kg/h of benzene. 45
    46. 46. Idea 1 • Whilst there has been increasing demand at 3% per year there is oversupply in the marketplace and refineries that produce Benzene as a by-product are being shut down. Idea 2 After examining the market and financial implications, Jarratt Consulting do not recommend investment in a new Benzene plant in South Wales for the following reasons: • Exposure to Benzene is hazardous and as a result some products are looking to replace it as a component of manufacture which is holding back growth. Idea 3 Main Idea Report Main Ideas The main recommendation is up front with each key idea summarised to form the basis of each major section • The cost of Benzene production in South Wales would not be competitive against global producers in Asia and the Middle East. 46
    47. 47. Report Structure A report will follow the same structure with an Executive Summary providing senior management communication  Same structure as a Executive Summary  presentation Introduction (Summary)     Sections will form chapters  Main Point     Executive Summary to understand the implications Situation Complication Question and/or Answer Point 1 Point 2 Point 2 Introduction    Situation Complication Question and/or Answer    Key message 1 Key message 2 Key message 3 Chapter – Key Message 1 Chapter – Key Message 2 Chapter – Key Message 3 Summary
    48. 48. Email Structure The same pyramid approach can be used to structure emails and clearly communicate the message From: Fred Bloggs To: Joe Smith Subject: Application Hardware Upgrade Required Hi Joe, Situation Performance has always been something we monitor for the application to ensure we do not reach the limits of the systems. Complication Over the past month there has been a 20% growth in traffic in the application. Question & Answer We needed to know when we might read the limits of the underlying system and found that we have a further six months of capacity. Main Point We looked at the options and recommend a full replacement of the current system with new computer systems. The options we looked at were: 1. Increasing memory and disk for a cost of $200k would only give us another six months of capacity and the underlying hardware would be at it’s natural end of life. 2. Full replacement of the hardware at a cost of $500k which would give us two years of additional capacity with the option to add an additional two years of capacity. Point 1 Point 2 Please could you review the attached report and confirm our recommendation. 48
    49. 49. Summary Use the proven approach for structuring presentations will take effort but will result in improved productivity  Clearly communicate using a logic  The Pyramid Principle is proven  It will take practice and extra effort  But it will improve productivity Structure It Frame It Introduce It Present Using Logic Question It Reuse It Describe It 49
    50. 50. References and Tools References  Chevallier, Arnaud (2012) Use logic to think and communicate effectively [online]. Published by: Available from [Accessed 6 January 2013]  Chevallier, Arnaud (2012) Powerful problem solving: Ideas to become outstanding problem solvers [online]. Published by: Powerful Problem Solving. [Accessed 6 January 2013]  IBM (2012). Fast track to the future: The 2012 IBM Tech Trends Report [online]. Published by: IBM Corporation. Available from [Accessed 6 January 2013]  Minto, Barbara (2002) The Pyramid Principle: Logic in Writing and Thinking 3rd ed. ISBN: 0273-65903-0. Essex: Pearson Education Limited  Minto, Barbara (2012) The Minto Pyramid Principle: Logic in Writing, Thinking and Problem Solving ISBN: 0-09601910-3-8  Zelazny, Gene (2006) Say It with Presentations: How to Design and Deliver Successful Business Presentations ISBN: 0-07-147289-4 Tools  Freemind –  Free Xmind - 50
    51. 51. The Minto Pyramid Principle Logic in Writing, Thinking and Problem Solving Barbara Minto ISBN 0-9601910-3-8   Part One: Logic in Writing  Why a Pyramid Structure?  The Substructures with the Pyramid  How to Build a Pyramid Structure  Fine Points of Introductions  Deduction and Induction: The Difference Part Two: Logic in Thinking  Imposing Logical Order  Summarising Grouped Ideas      Logic in Problem Solving  Defining the Problem  Structuring the Analysis of the Problem Logic in Presentation  Reflecting the Pyramid on the Page  Reflecting the Pyramid on a Screen  Reflecting the Pyramid in Prose Appendix A: Problem Solving in Structureless Situations Appendix B: Examples of Introductory Structures Appendix C: Summary of Key Points Mentioned in the Text 51