During last few days I have been fortunate enough to participate in few meetings with our top management and these meetings have been a huge learning experiences for me. One such learning, was using storyline technique for writing effective presentation, email or blogging.

The technique is called The Minto Pyramid Principle, or the SCQA technique. The SCQA technique provides you with a flow, that you could use to write your storyline. It helps you write introductions that engages the audience attention before they are told the answers.

Ohh, by now you must be wondering what does SCQA mean? So before you get any impatient, let me describe them,

  • Situation – describe what is the current situation
  • Complexity – describe the tension / issue in the situation
  • Question – describe the question in response to the issue / tension
  • Answer – suggest answer to ease out or mitigate the issue / tension

Now lets take few minutes to describe what each of above point means.

Situation

As I mentioned earlier, the Situation describes what is the current situation with regards to the subject. This could be something that the audience may already know. This establishes the context of the discussion.

As soon as the audience might think I know this, what different are you telling me?  you know you have hooked them in the discussion and you may want to start telling them about the complexity.

Example

For last 6 months our availability has been very good and above the threshold.

 

Complexity

Ok, you set up the context and you have explained the situation. However, now is the time when you actually mention the actual problem or an issue that you want your audience to know.

The answer to the question What happens now that we understand the situation or  What happens next? might help you create a tension un the minds of audience with regards to the story you are telling. Also, once you trigger the tension or curiosity about the possible question, its time you tell the question.

Example

However, this month the situation has changed and we had an unwanted dip in the availability statistics.

 

Question

The question will arise logically after the context you have set and problem complexity you have mentioned in earlier two points. In most of the cases it might automatically come in the minds of the audience, but you may just want to logically put the question forward.

Example

So what do we need to do to recover from the availability loss and resolve the situation?

 

Answer

The answer to the question is the main substance of the whole story and you have to make your point emphatically here.  Try to summarise your answer first – completing your introduction to the answer and later break it down into details and write the main body of your presentations or story.

Example

We need to complete find the root cause of the problem. Ensure the problem is fixed and put a plan for prevention of reoccurrence.

 

I am convinced that using this technique for providing updates would be really effective in day to day work, however I am sure it would take a bit more time for me to actually understand practice the SCQA technique.

After all, this has been explained to us by our Vice president and he seems very convinced of the benefits of using this techniques 🙂

The method is explained in greater detail in Barbara Minto’s book "The Minto Pyramid Principle".