It’s no secret that the news media begins broadcasts with the most attention-grabbing headlines possible and jumps straight into the meat of the content. The same style of communication is also highly effective in business – especially consulting – and is known as answer first communication.
What Is Answer First Communication?
Answer first communication, also referred to as the Pyramid Principle, is a communication style that prioritizes the conclusion first. This contradicts the traditional Hollywood story arc, but if your goal is to spend the most time on the most important part of the conversation, answer first communication may be the answer you’re looking for. See what we did there? Here are the three steps to answer first communication:
- Concisely present your assertion or singular main point up front
- Provide supporting arguments
- Dive into the granular detail of your supporting arguments (if necessary)
Why the Answer First Communication Style Works
Have you ever had a conversation with someone who rambles on and on and on, leading you to exhale out of frustration, “Okay, but what’s your point?!”
If you know that feeling, then you inherently know why the answer first communication style works.
People – especially key stakeholders you’re interacting with – are busy. When you’re a consultant and frequently interfacing with management teams, executives, and partners, time is always of the essence. Answer first communication allows you to get to your point immediately. If a meeting ends early and there isn’t enough time to get through an entire presentation, you won’t have to rush past the recommendation, which is always the most important part.
In addition, answer first communication frames the entire discussion from the get-go. There are times when the data and supporting arguments are so complex that a presentation can lose its audience before the conclusion even arrives.
Lastly, the answer first communication style puts some positive pressure on your recommendation. It makes you create a thoughtful and well-constructed conclusion that won’t lose your audience right away. If and when your answer is challenged, you know now the audience’s objections right up-front, and can work to address them head on. Ideally, you would have anticipated these objections and used your supporting arguments and data to disarm them.
When to Apply the Answer First Communication Style
There are several ways to apply answer first communication in both your personal and professional life. They include:
- Conversations (with colleagues and friends)
When the Answer First Communication Doesn’t Work
Admittedly, the answer first communication style is not a foolproof method that should be used 100% of the time. There are times when it’s better to provide the conclusion at the end. Such times include:
- When you want the audience to come to conclusions themselves – Providing the answer first is like giving away the answer key before the test. The audience won’t think as critically if you give the answer away first. If you want your audience to brainstorm and come to conclusions on their own, don’t use answer first communication.
- When there isn’t a level of trust already built up – People usually don’t like surprises from others they don’t trust, as it could elicit a fight or flight response. Answer first communication is most effective when the two parties know each other and trust that there will be a thoughtful set of supporting arguments and data that accompany any recommendation.
- When the background, context, and data are more important than the conclusion – When you’re telling a story, sometimes it makes sense to start with the conclusion and circle back to it. Other times, it’s important to build up the suspense and go into the details of the background to make the conclusion or punchline more effective.
The answer first communication method is an effective way to persuade, drive action, and become more efficient in your communication. It saves time and presents you as an action-oriented individual. If you haven’t heard of this communication style before, begin to implement it in both your personal and professional life, and let us know in the comments how your conversations change!