The Pyramid Principle is a hierarchical structure to create a logic and data-supported storyline. It’s a perfect example of how to communicate effectively with an analytical audience. In the introduction, you prime [1] your audience with the solution. To make your presentation effective, introduce both the issue and your answer. The rest of the presentation should support your answer.

The Pyramid Principle requires the writer to start with a tightly constructed introduction in story form. This needs to hook the audience in so that they will pay attention to the rest of the document or presentation. The structure [2] for this introduction is referred to by the acronym SCQA — Situation, Complication, Question and answer.

The Situation is simply the state of affairs in your particular area. Describe who or what we are talking about.

For example, e.g. the client is a leading car manufacturer whose current growth rate is shrinking

The Complication is what is changing in the field that created the challenges. As a consultant, you wouldn’t be here if everything was good, so what’s wrong? The complication is the proverbial thorn in your side that you have to remove in order to make things run smoothly.

For example, the client is losing money due to price wars launched by new competitors, changing customer attitudes or lack of fresh prospects.

The Question should formulate what you are trying to solve. It needs to be a single and simple question and should state what the situation and complication are asking.

For instance, how can the client be profitable again, despite the increased competition? Another question might be, how should the client reach out to new customer segments they have targeted and get them to buy their products?

The Answer is the brilliant solution you have found out or worked on to solve the question, your particularly inspired way of solving the problem you are presenting.

For example, the client needs to focus his effort on the light vehicles segment of the market.

What follows this introduction is all of the arguments and sub-arguments that reinforce that answer. Support your recommendations with facts to make your point stronger. Solid research in the form of arguments and evidence that support the top of the pyramid are key to convincing an audience. Facts and examples culled from reliable sources, statistics, competitor analysis and recent business news are often very convincing.

You could also perform sensitivity analyses to test your hypotheses before drawing recommendations. You could also make future-state projections based on market trends and dynamics to make recommendations. You will discover that your audience will easily buy into your ideas [3] and recommendations when you portray the endgame as both, attractive and practical. Use solid visualizations wherever possible to paint the future state. To cite Alexander von Humboldt:

Statistical projections which speak to the senses without fatiguing the mind possess the advantage of fixing the attention on a great number of important facts.

This is also what David McCandless refers to as the bandwidth of the senses. All arguments, recommendations and corroborating evidence must support the top of the pyramid; if not, remove them!

When you’ve reached the bottom of the pyramid and bolstered each argument with evidence, pause and summarize. Re-state the answer and go for the kill—the action you want your audience to take. After all, the best way to a successful call to action is to tell a simple, evidence-supported story and remind them of your solution.


1 Automaticity of Social Behavior: Direct Effects of Trait Construct and Stereotype Activation on Action
2 Thinking hats and good men: Structured techniques in a problem construction task
3 A Bridge Too Far: Conceptual Distance and Creative Ideation