Being able to communicate your messages across in a clear way in a report or presentation is a critical skill for a management consultant. A useful technique that can help achieve this is the pyramid approach to writing.
Pyramid report writing features the most important information is conveyed briefly early on in the report, and less important information is detailed near the end of the report. Keep in mind the journalistic Five Ws approach to informative writing. For a report to be complete, it must answer six questions:
- Who? Who was involved in the event?
- What? What happened?
- When? When did it happen?
- Where? Where did it happen?
- Why? Why did it occur?
- How? How did it occur?
By answering these six questions, you can be sure that all client concerns have been answered.
Here's how to make pyramid report writing work for you:
- Answer the journalistic 5-W questions: "Who, what, where, when, how and why" in the first paragraph of your report:
Right: "Company X grossed over $4 billion dollars last year using a new method of marketing. This marketing method is effective because it combines social networking with careful quality management techniques. We should implement facets of this method in our own company."
Wrong: Company X is a company that is doing very well. Company X is located in Townie, State. I'm not sure I like Company X. Company X did better this year than last year..."
- The first sentence gives readers a summary of the entire article.
Right: "Six Sigma is a method for managing quality in a project."
Wrong: "There are many different methods for quality management." (In an article focusing on Six Sigma)
- The first paragraph builds on the first sentence. Keep in mind the aforementioned "Five-W's" of journalism (who, what, when where, how, and why).
Right: "Six Sigma is a method for managing quality in a project. This quality management method will be implemented in our company starting in January. We have found this method to be highly effective in improving the quality of products.
Wrong: "Six Sigma is a method for managing quality in a project. It is a good method. Some find it tedious. Some find it helpful..."
- The remainder of your report will contain information moving from the most essential to the least important details. In the Six Sigma example, you would flesh out the details of how Six Sigma is to be implemented, and maybe some information about Six Sigma basics would be included at the end. Nothing else would be included. Readers will stop reading when they have the information they need.
- Keep your reader in mind while writing. What will they need to know? The direct answer to this question should be near, if not in, your introductory paragraph. What vocabulary will she be familiar with? What would be nice to know, but not crucial to understanding the report?
- The first paragraph should be extremely well-written to hold the reader's attention.
- Another way to construct your report is with a brief summary, a slightly longer, background, informational details relating to the summary, and the outcome.
- Finally, your report would lose meaning if you cut out key information that belongs in your summary section. If the report would lose no meaning or understanding if a sentence were cut, it belongs near the end of your report, not in your summary paragraph.