Communicate to Win: 013 – Big Rule #2: The Pyramid Rule

In the previous Communicate to Win post, we looked at the Big Rule #1: the Magic Seven Rule. We walked through an exercise where you tried to remember a list of 10 countries, but were likely successful in remembering only seven, give or take. In this post, I’ll address Big Rule # 2: the Pyramid Rule, its use with your audience and how its application will most certainly help you remember more countries on list continuing with the same example.

Big Rule #2: the Pyramid Rule is, “The structure of clear writing is always a pyramid of grouped ideas presented top down.” ALWAYS!

Our mental processes use grouping and summarizing in order to retain information. You increase critical reasoning when you…

  • first group information in a logical manner,
  • then show the logic of the relationship and
  • present everything in a logical order.

Through this, you decrease the amount of mental brain power the audience must use and minimize opportunity for misunderstandings.

This Pyramid Rule is a fundamental foundational building block to the Communicate to Win series going forward. Let’s illustrate the Pyramid Rule by looking again at the memory exercise where you tried to retain the names of the 10 countries.

You will probably agree that grouping and summarizing the information makes it much easier for the mind to process and retain the information. The image presents the group as a whole—the 10 largest countries by area in the world. They are grouped by continent: Asia, North America, South America and other. Each country is placed as a supporting point under the name of the continent. If this were the first time you had looked at this list of countries, you would have retained a much greater number of items now that they are organized in a pyramid!

Now, let’s take the concept of the pyramid and look again at your SCQ. Beginning at the top of the diagram, your SCQ is the introductory narrative establishing the relevance of the question.

The first line below the question is the answer.

As you move vertically down the pyramid, each point is a summary of the points below it.

Again, our human brains group and summarize information in order to retain it. The brain wants to…

  • hear the question,
  • get the answer and
  • receive the supporting points.

Sounds simple, but this will take practice to get right. A common mistake people make is to state the question, provide all the details of the research supporting the answer and then finish with the answer. For example, sales people in particular like to keep the answer for the end of a conversation because they like building anticipation before delivering the solution. Unfortunately, that is just not how our minds work.

To be an effective communicator, you certainly don’t want to go against this “Big Rule.”

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