Storyboarding in PowerPoint: A Comprehensive Guide

Adam Smith


What is a storyline?

A storyline is the logical flow of a presentation, memo, or other message which communicates findings, implications, methodology, process, and other relevant information

Why is a storyline important?

A storyline enables case team members to communicate findings effectively to Managers, Partners and, most importantly, the client

Helps communicate findings to the clientNatural flow to a conclusion for action Clients want to know the logic and the answers, not to be taken on a confusing ride of data It is much easier to remember a story than a collection of charts Half of effective communication is how, not what, things are said
Enables efficient case team processHighly efficient for Partners if they are told a story rather than a set of unrelated, micro conclusions Highly efficient for Managers if Consultants do the same Better if Consultants attempt to provide potential implications and conclusions, rather than just data

What’s covered in this article?

  1. What does good story structuring involve (i.e., Theory)?
  2. How do you storyboard (i.e., Practice)?
    • Exercise
    • Examples

Storyline Structuring – Theory

Developing a Compelling Story

There are four quintessential steps to writing a good slide loop

Step 1: Forget
Forget what slides you have already created. Don’t be bound by what you have done, this will only limit your ability to create a good story.

Step 2: The Purpose
Establish the definition of victory coming out of the presentation. This should be driven by the expectations of the client and what you want to achieve through the client intervention.

Step 3: The Story
Write out the story almost as if you were telling it without the use of slides. Fire up Microsoft Word and develop a logical story flow and sequence.

Step 4: The Slides
Now look at the story and decide which slides are required to support your story. If you have written a good story, your taglines will almost flow naturally.

There are Two Broad Approaches for Writing a Storyline

Approach 1: Answer First

  • Sets up context but quickly gives the answer or conclusions followed by data to support the conclusions
  • Follows inductive reasoning
  • Example: We are losing customers to our competitor because they have lower prices. This is because price is the dominant purchase criterion for customers and our competitor is offering lower prices. They can do this because of their lower cost position.
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Approach 2: Answer Last

  • Sets up context but the answer is revealed in stages
  • Follows deductive reasoning
  • Example: Price is the dominant purchase criterion for customers. Our competitor has a lower cost position and is therefore able to offer lower prices. The result is that we are losing customers to our competitor. We are losing customers because they have lower prices.

Which approach should you use?

Each approach has its advantages and the choice of which one to use would depend on the particular situation

Answer FirstAnswer Last
AdvantagesMessage conveyed in a direct straight-forward way Satisfies impatient decision-makerWith data up front conclusions viewed as objective and inevitable Secures agreement one step at a time Satisfies detail-oriented audience
Use WhenAudience is impatient Agreement with conclusions is likely Audience clearly understands situation and approach E.g. presentation to BoardConclusions are controversial Audience is unfamiliar with the facts Audience is sceptical or detail-oriented Step-by-step buy-in is required E.g. presentation to client working team

How do we get to the answer?

Formulating a hypothesis

“Concepts without data are empty…data without concepts are blind”

– Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1781)

Focus using Hypotheses

Hypotheses focus the scope of research early and leads to better results… but you need a solid foundation on which to build your hypothesis:

Hypothesis evaluation checklist

Embedded in Both Structures are Pyramids of Information

Pyramids Offer a Logical Way to Structure Information

A Document Based on the Pyramid Principle Comprises Three Key Elements

1. The Introduction

An introduction that features Situation and Complication ensures the readers’ engagement from the beginning

SituationEstablishes the context, e.g. time, place, characters Makes the reader expectant for further information by being self-sufficient (i.e. no previous statement is needed to make the meaning clear) being non-controversial (i.e. you can expect the reader to easily understand and agree)
Complication (Question)Describes an alteration to a stable situation, e.g. Something went wrong (or changed) Something could go wrong (or change) Here’s what you might expect to find Here’s someone with a different point of view In this situation we have three alternatives Raises an intriguing question in the reader’s mind
Creating an S – C – Q

2. Vertical Relationships between Main Points and Sub-Points

  • In the Pyramid Principle statements are placed at the top of the pyramid
  • Each statements tells the reader something new and hence prompts a set of questions
  • The onus is on the writer to answer those questions
  • The document then follows a question and answer dialogue between the writer and the reader

3. Horizontal Relationships between Sub-Points

There are only two possible horizontal logic flows
Deductive and Inductive Reasoning

How to Storyboard – Practice

Potential Approach to Storyboarding

Logical Order of Ideas


Creating the Pyramid

Potential Approach to Storyboarding