Presenting like a pro: Capturing your audience with The Pyramid Principle

March 30, 2016 10:34 am
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As consultants we are often tasked with presenting complex and in-depth analyses to our clients. Whilst we can create a pretty presentation using professional language and ensure inclusion of the compelling case, oftentimes we do ourselves the disservice of labouring intricate details or losing our audience while building the case.

A good example of this might be Engineering – considering the scientific approach by taking your audience through your case and building from the bottom up, reciting all the facts and analyses conducted, and then delivering the punchline compelling case. But what if the presentation is cut short, how can we captivate the attention of our audience in just a couple of minutes? How can we create a compelling case with a logical structure which is easy to understand and easy to remember? Think of the “elevator pitch” – convincing clients (often executives) who are time poor can be a challenge. But how can we do this?

The Minto Pyramid Principle ® is the answer. Developed by Barbara Minto whilst working at McKinseys, it is a powerful and compelling process for producing dynamic presentations.

What is the Pyramid Principle?

The pyramid structure is a top down hierarchically-structured thinking and communication technique with the use of both deductive and inductive reasoning at the core.

At the peak of the pyramid lies the Executive Summary. This is the response to the question our client needs answering. Generally, if people hear something they don’t know, it raises a question of How? Why? Or, is this true? The listener will be keen to get the answer to these questions, which is facilitated through the supporting arguments.

Inductive reasoning: a logical process in which multiple premises are combined to obtain a specific conclusion. This is represented horizontally in the pyramid.

Essentially, inductive reasoning will lead to the recommendations which underpin your executive summary. Each argument or recommendation will support the conclusion but not individually ensure it. Mathematically speaking, the Executive Summary is a function of the supporting arguments.

Deductive reasoning: a logical process in which a conclusion is based on the concordance of multiple premise. Represents vertical movement in the pyramid.

Principally, deductive reasoning is to follow the continuation of facts where a conclusion is necessitated by previously-known facts.

Whilst it is tempting to show the scale of work conducted by creating a presentation in a deductive style, it will not crisply capture our audience and deliver recommendations to a client.

Tailor to your audience

The skilled presenter’s role is to answer the client’s questions using the recommendations and supporting arguments until logically no questions remain. The logic must be mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive (MECE).

The interest of how deep to dive vertically will depend on your audience. A good method is to prepare a pack for an executive, whilst issuing a pre-read supporting pack which deep dives into the detail.

Build an executive summary or introduction

Once we have a logical structured argument, we need to capture the audience through the executive summary, remembering that only if it is of interest to the listener do people want to find out what they don’t know. A good structure for an introduction is to use:

  • Situation
  • Complication
  • Question
  • Answer

The situation, through understanding our client, will establish a certain time and place, obviously a time and place the listener can relate to. The complication is then a specific issue or problem which needs addressing. This creates a “burning platform” or sense of urgency, compelling the listener to want to listen, or better, act. Following the complication, a question is posed. Starting the question-answer dialogue will lead to our answer, and the peak of the pyramid.


Delivering a compelling presentation to our clients is not just about the topic. Tapping into the way our brains naturally group thoughts or ideas will be a major success factor. Unstructured or laborious presentations will lead to loss of attention or disinterest.

Key messages

  • Start with the answer
  • Group and summarise supporting arguments
  • Logically order supporting ideas
  • Only present the relevant information to satisfy a client’s questions
  • Send a pre-read of supporting evidence to show detailed logic in getting to recommendations


Written by ‘pro’senter Oliver North, Coriolis Consulting Pty Ltd

Think big: is it the key to success or just plain arrogance?

March 23, 2016 4:41 pm
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What was the best thing before sliced bread? Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Some of the questions which have stimulated intense debate over the years have been joined by perhaps an even more fiercely contested issue: Who is better, Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi?

When asked this final question in a recent BBC interview, Ronaldo’s reply was “In my mind, I’m always the best. I don’t care what people think, what they say. In my mind, not just this year but always, I’m always the best”. This caused quite a stir on social media, with calls of arrogance from the neutrals and nonsense from the fans of opposing camps. Granted there were supporters of Ronaldo leaping to his defence because “he scores more goals” or “he has the physical edge”. Arguments on who is the better all-rounder or who has the best goals:game ratio seem to dominate proceedings and it is something that cannot and will not be answered definitively.

On reading the BBC article I felt admiration and respect, and not for Ronaldo’s footballing ability, but rather his attitude. The 3-time Ballon D’Or winner is a big thinker, someone who demands the best of himself and then some, who is not content being second best and is not afraid to show it. Those calling out Ronaldo for arrogance are the small thinkers, the people who cannot see that without this attitude he would not have achieved the incredible success that has earned him a place in the two-man shortlist for the best footballer of all time. Ronaldo was also ranked as the 3rd highest paid sportsman in the world by Forbes in 2015 and becoming the fastest player in Europe to reach 350 goals for a club in a staggering 335 games. I’d challenge anyone who thinks he would have reached where he is today without this attitude and I’ll bet Messi’s attitude isn’t too far removed.

Why is this relevant?

Thinking big applies to everyone, not just elite football players; whether you are a shopfloor operator in a food manufacturing facility, or a board level executive in a blue chip organisation. Every once in a while, you hear an inspirational story of an operator who has worked his/her way up the ladder to become site manager or in some cases even CEO. For example; Don Meij started his career as a pizza delivery guy in Queensland in 1987 and by 2002 he was the CEO of Domino’s Pizza Enterprises Ltd – a position he still holds to this day. This did not happen by chance, it took a combination of hard work, passion and determination, underpinned by the ability to think big.

Consider this; an employee has operated the same machine for five years is fed up and thinks she can offer more. If she said to her fellow operators that she planned to become the General Manager in the next 5 years, what do you think their reaction would be? To a small thinker this would seem like a silly comment. Now imagine she was discussing her aspirations with the current GM who has already achieved what she aspires to, the reaction would be a very different one – why? Well the GM knows what it takes to earn that particular success and behind it is thinking big – thinking big generates the attitude and work ethic to achieve big. A promotion at work may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but whether it be to start your own business, learn a new language or to spend more time with your family, start by thinking big. Believing you can achieve big things it is the first step to making it happen.

So how do you become a big thinker?

Below are some pointers on how to become a big thinker and create a springboard to achieve more of what you want and less of what you don’t:

  • Blue sky thinking
    • What do you really want to achieve? What is the end goal?
    • Don’t cap your ideas, just break them down into achievable chunks.
  • Talk to other big thinkers about what you want to achieve
    • Increases accountability
  • Forget the nay-sayers, surround yourself with other big thinkers
  • Don’t think in half measures, the “ok ill give it a try, but I don’t think it will work” attitude is bound for failure
  • Think of successful people in your life, how do they deal with challenges? Do they think up excuses or implement action?
  • Don’t make excuses, take a look at the fantastic achievements of Stephen Hawking, who could easily have stopped big thinking when faced with adversity
  • Don’t rely on others to do it or luck to help you through.

Reference and Further Reading

The magic of thinking big by David J Schwartz
Leadership by Sir Alex Ferguson

Written by entirely unbiased lifelong Manchester United fan Ashley Darley, Coriolis Consulting Pty Ltd

Big beer and the crafty brew go head-to-head

March 17, 2016 2:23 pm
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As you sit in the sunshine at your local pub having just queued 3-deep to get your tipple of choice, you may not realise that beer consumption is at a 65-year low in the Australian beer market. Australia’s favourite alcoholic beverage, wine, has knocked beer off the top spot and it’s also losing more and more fans to its fruitier cousin cider. This isn’t just a change in Australia’s drinking habits – the trend is being seen all over the Western world.

Traditionally the Australian beer market has been highly concentrated and largely produced for Australian tastes and consumption, with brand giants such as Tooheys and VB being the nation’s favourites. The Australian market is largely a duopoly between Lion (Tooheys, XXXX, Hahn Super Dry, Little Creatures, James Squire) and Carlton and United Breweries (VB, Carlton, Crown) which together command almost 90% of the market and traditionally produce full strength beer, representing 88% of the beer consumed in 2013. All you need to do is look at the tap beers in your local. Commonly, a pub aligns with one of the big breweries which then own rights to 80% of their beer taps, allowing the pubs to choose the remaining 20%. Pub managers wouldn’t run the risk of stocking anything but the competitors “big beer” for fear of ostracising punters who have dedicated a lifetime of drinking to the other brand.

However, the market is seeing a shift in consumer trends towards lesser-known craft beer brands. While the craft segment still has a seemingly small market position (<5%) Australian researchers at IBIS World have forecast craft brew revenues to grow 5% per annum for the next 5 years. Recent announcements that two giant brewing groups are merging (Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller) suggests that big things are stirring and the traditional mind set of economy of scale – bigger, more efficient distribution and operations – Is not being hampered by the rise of craft beer.

Craft beer

Craft beers (also known as Artisan, Micro or Nano) have seen a resurgence in the past 5 years. Historically, the word conjured purposefully forgotten memories of tasting an “enthusiasts” home brew, or a decision to save some money at the supermarket, only to get home and instantly regret your frugality. Nowadays, craft represents the consumer’s choice of quality over quantity – it allows one to show their individuality, his or her diversity and maturity of their pallet, and makes a beverage-laden statement to those who care to notice.

Realistically, craft beer has been around for centuries and is showcased nowhere better than in Belgium. In fact, little known to most “casual” drinkers, is that a very specific sub-type of beer is lauded the world’s best – Trappist. Trappist beer is made by Trappist monks who trace their roots to a monastery in 17th century France and have since spread globally, sharing one main concept behind their lifestyle – that the abbey should be self-sufficient. This has led to a variety of innovations but none as famous as their beer, and no beer as famous as Westvleteren 12 which has been rated the best beer in the world for several years. But before you start googling local stockists, I’m afraid to say you can only purchase Westvleteren 12 from the Trappist Abbey of Saint Sixtus in Vleteren, Belgium, in person by appointment at a maximum of one crate per person.

So whilst “big beer” sales seems to have taken a hit recently, the past few years have seen a huge upsurge of excitement around creative brewing and radical new beer styles. Australia, Britain and the US are now firmly in the grip of a craft beer revolution, and supplying the revolution are small breweries. Although they are small, craft brewers are portrayed confidently in the media. They love the taste of their beers, they relish the story behind them, and many of them have a very non-business-like feel. While they know they need to turn a profit, they prefer to be proud of what they make than chase a larger share in an ever competitive market.

This being said, there have been some real success stories of start-up craft brands being sold to the big groups, or aligning with them to increase opportunity to scale. Examples include Little Creatures, owned by Lion, and Mountain Goat which was purchased by Asahi in 2015. In the UK, Meantime Brewing Company sold itself in 2015 to SABMiller to expand production due to increased demand. However, recent speculation reveals the brewing giant may sell the brand in order to meet European regulations over their merger, a typical concern for a small brand being bought by a big one?

So what does the craft beer revolution mean to big breweries?

Strategically it can be seen that large beer manufacturers are already implementing strategies to retain their market share. Examples of this from the US include:

  1. Create your own “craft” brand
    • Shock Top beer is a US award-winning Belgian white beer, but not well known is that it is Anheuser-Busch InBev’s best-known faux craft beer
  2. Absorb craft brews that require help to meet demand
    • Generally speaking, craft beer diehards call this ‘selling out’, but these brands vigorously proclaim that their quality and dedication to customers won’t diminish as the result of a change in ownership
  3. Defend macro brews and bash the craft snobs
    • Interestingly, Anheuser-Busch InBev ran an ad campaign during the 2015 Super Bowl mocking craft beer. The slogan ran, Bud “Proudly a Macro Beer,” while stating “it’s not brewed to be fussed over”, “it’s brewed for drinking, not dissecting” and a last piece of advice to “let them sip their pumpkin peach ale”.
  4. Control distribution
    • In October 2015, Reuters reported that the U.S. Justice Department is currently conducting an investigation into allegations claiming that Anheuser-Busch InBev is violating antitrust regulations by purchasing distributors and only distributing its own products.

Perhaps most interesting to those of us operating as Consultants in the industry is what effect this will have on brewing operations. Declining sales in “big brands” and growth predicted in smaller craft beers may offer opportunities to support larger breweries delivering value to their shareholders. Some considerations may be:

  • Smaller production runs of larger variety will need world class changeover performance
  • Reducing volumes will drive the need for leaner operations to retain profitability ($/carton)
  • Optimisation of end-to-end logistics will be required to deal with smaller volume runs of a larger variety of beers
  • Generation of a network-wide, long term strategy that will evolve with the changing environment will be necessary
  • Ensuring the asset strategy meets the certain need for increased flexibility
  • Best-in-class planning rules will be required to meet changing forecasts
  • Accurate sales forecasts will be necessary to facilitate best-in-class planning


Written by beer enthusiast Oliver North, Coriolis Consulting Pty Ltd

Unleash a Millennial in your Business… it may just be the best thing you ever do

March 11, 2016 1:06 pm
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Millennials are set to clash with baby boomers in a big way and it’s something you should encourage. Here’s why:

  • Millennials favour project work. They are willing to work long hours when necessary but won’t stay until 5pm if they don’t need to. The emphasis on output is driven by their passion to protect their work/life balance (which ranks higher than financial reward).
  • Millennials are deft with technology, with an understanding of The Internet of Things and the ability to apply this to your workplace, streamlining Operations and reducing the need for manual workarounds where technology can provide the answer.
  • Millennials really want to succeed, rating career progression as their top priority, even above financial incentives. This indicates that they understand the need to gain experiences and challenge themselves, having faith that salary will follow later thus employers are delivered great ambition and drive without the hefty price tag.

Millennials do expect certain commitments in return for the above. Millennials are so focused on their personal growth that this could manifest in a lack of loyalty or ‘sticking it’ for the long run. To ensure retention you need to continue to put opportunities for growth on the table. This doesn’t have to come in the form of formal positions, titles or promotions but continued forward movement is key. Consider extra responsibilities which still provide genuine development and experiences.

As well as a lack of loyalty, millennials often interpret being managed negatively. They need a coach or mentor to guide them along their path and satisfy their need to feel as though they are progressing. Many companies fail to understand this as it fits outside of their traditional hierarchical way of working, possibly explaining why millennials will change jobs on average every 2 years compared to an average 5 years for Baby Boomers.

Overall, prepare your company for a millennial as best as possible, unleash them and watch them fly.


Written by Chris Allen, Coriolis Ltd