Get Active in Our Amazing Community of Over 451,000 Peers!

Schedule mock interviews on the Meeting Board, join the latest community discussions in our Consulting Q&A and find like-minded Case Partners to connect and practice with!

How to improve "top down communication"?

communication
New answer on Jan 31, 2024
8 Answers
189 Views
Anonymous A asked on Jan 28, 2024

One useful skill that consulting teaches you is “speaking the CEO language”. To me, it means adopting the pyramid principle, and speaking clearly and concisely

While I have improved on the “structure” element, when I do cases there are still events where I over-illustrate and over-explain. Also, in some cases, my sentences are too long and not concise. 

Although I know the theories, I haven't found a way to effectively help me improve this issue. Could you try to share some tips/ improvement approaches?

Some ways I've tried:

1) Learn key vocabularies

2) Seek help from English teachers who have some consulting background

3) Practice cases

Any other thoughts? Thanks a ton!

Overview of answers

Upvotes
  • Upvotes
  • Date ascending
  • Date descending
Best answer
Yuval
Expert
replied on Jan 28, 2024
free 30 min consultation call | 1st try offer from BCG and McK | BCG Associate | 100+ hours of coaching sessions

Hey,

This is a great question, and actually shows you're really getting into breaking down the skills needed to pass the interviews, and really be a great consultant, so kudos on that.

Now to your question:

Language could be a barrier, but I see it as more of a habit gap, than a knowledge gap.
I also have to tendency to go into details explaining things, and what helped me with this tendency is building the habit of breaking my thoughts into different levels and separate those “artificially” into different section.

For example, I would start with the highest-level explanation I can find, go over it and then say something like “does this make sense?” or “This is my initial approach/thought, and I'd be happy to elaborate on this point if needed”. 
Specifically, when explaining your structure, you should work per level, i.e. finish the first level of your structure which is the initial buckets, then go to level 2, etc. usually you won't go deeper than level 2, depending on how large your structure is.

You could practice this in a few ways:

  1. Practice cases- of course it's not enough to just practice, you need to consciously work on things you know are holding you back, like the example you gave.
  2. Writing your thoughts down- you can practice this on your own, by writing down what you would say on your structure, or anything else you need to explain, with the same structure I provided earlier (high-level to low-level, broken down into sections with break sentences).
  3. Listening/watching great case interviews- YouTube, and consulting websites like PrepLounge are filled with examples of great case interviews being solved, I would suggest to just listen to those and note to yourself the way people present their answers, this could help you learn by listening to other and getting to know ‘what good looks like’ and aim for it.

Hope this helps, feel free to reach out for more tips, I'd be happy to practice this with you and help you improve specific skills needed to pass the interview.

Best,
Yuval

Was this answer helpful?
Madjid
Expert
replied on Jan 30, 2024
McKinsey engagement manager with experience coaching candidates

Hi there,

I really like this question and I think you have some great ideas already (along with some other great answers from others).

I would always tell the new joiners at McKinsey in my team a “formula” - very similar to writing an essay but verbal:

1. "Tell em what you're gonna tell em": What is the so what or conclusion of everything you're about to say (counterintuitive as normal speaking you set the stage first - in MBB firms you normally give the so what first). Also, try to make this as fact based as possible with numbers.

2. Lead in: Say what the problem/point is and why its important and elaborate.

3. Propose alternative: If possible suggest an alternative that may be the second best answer.

Lets look at an example where your client is a soda bottler and needs to improve profitability but had a machine breakdown meaning it cant produce goods to sell (thus impacting revenue). You need to communicate to this to leadership and ask for investments to fix the machine or ask for a new one. Your findings show investing in a new machine is better as it is quicker and leads to an overall higher NPV.

How you might communicate:

1. “Tell em what you're gonna tell em”: The bottling machine broke and is impacting our profit. We suggest investing $50M in purchasing a new machine.

2. Lead in: Everyday we don't bottle sodas we lose $20M in profit. Therefore, if we wait 3 days our opportunity cost of revenue loss supersedes the cost of investment.

3. Alternatives: We also looked at fixing the existing machine, although it cost $10M, it takes 10 days to fix ($200M revenue loss).

Let me know if this is helpful, or if you also want to practice it using real life case interviews :).

 

Best,

Madjid

Was this answer helpful?
Ian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jan 29, 2024
#1 BCG coach | MBB | Tier 2 | Digital, Tech, Platinion | 100% personal success rate (8/8) | 95% candidate success rate

Hi there,

Another tip: Record yourself and watch the recording.

Did you say what you thought you said? Did you say it effectively?

Second tip: Case coaching

Third tip: Listen to great orators/thinkers. Ray Dalio. Jamie Dimon. Etc.

=====================More info================

Hi there,

  • Signposting
  • State the why
  • Use clear transitions
  • Be clear/concise

In terms of exhibit reading

  1. Summarize the chart/exhibit in 1-2 sentences
  2. Identify the key differences/#s
  3. For each, articulate the major insight/why it matters
  4. Explain next steps

In terms of math

  1. State the main # you are trying to calculate...and why
  2. Lay out the exact math steps you will take
  3. Calculate (silently) while popping up at key moments to update on major step numbers
  4. React to the final number and explain what it means/implications
  5. Explain next steps

BEst practice is by recording yourself and watching it back!

Here's a helpful prior Q&A: https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/mckinsey-top-down-communication-12001

 

Was this answer helpful?
Cristian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jan 29, 2024
#1 rated MBB & McKinsey Coach

I love your question. 

First of all, lower the pressure you're putting on yourself. Top-down communication is a lifelong journey. Consultants still receive feedback on this still at the engagement manager level, so you're not expected to master it at the candidate level. 

The best way to get better at it is to do it and get immediate feedback at it. That's what people do during coaching sessions or if they have a mentor. 

The next best thing is to practice on your own. 

A great resource for this is ‘The Pyramid Principle’ by Barbara Minto. I believe she even runs a course for young professionals on this. 

Best,

Cristian

Was this answer helpful?
Pedro
Expert
replied on Jan 29, 2024
30% off in April 2024 | Bain | EY-Parthenon | Roland Berger | Market Sizing | DARDEN MBA

The way you learn in Consulting is by writting everythin in bullet points as concise as possible.

So the suggestion would be to do exactly that. When you practice a case and are, for example, analyzing a graph, write a few bullet points on what you would comment. Then re-write them in order to say the same thing using 50% less words. Then after that cut 20% more.

The other “trick” is to always start with the conclusion. This means that your first sentence is always the point you want to make. Everything else is “filler” that you can cut accordingly to your needs.

Was this answer helpful?
Brad
Expert
replied on Jan 28, 2024
Expert coach | Head of recruiting for Bain | 8+ years interviewing | Free intro call

Hi there,

 

One good tip I encourage my students to use is to write what you want to say in bullets first, then read out the bullets (obviously during practice sessions only).

 

This gives you the opportunity to do the following:

  • Communicate succinctly – you can only write one sentence per bullet
  • Get good flow – you’ll find that the ordering of the bullets really matters
  • Pause – the act of writing slows you down for a half second which gives you time to think about what is important to say (and what isn’t)

 

Hope that helps.

 

B.

Was this answer helpful?
Alberto
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jan 31, 2024
Ex-McKinsey Associate Partner | +15 years in consulting | +200 McKinsey 1st & 2nd round interviews

Hi there,

There is another option. Work with an ex-MBB consultant who has presented in front of several CEOs.

Happy to keep talking about this in private, just send me a message.

Best,

Alberto

Check out my latest case based on a real MBB interview: Sierra Springs

Was this answer helpful?
Nikita
Expert
replied on Jan 31, 2024
MBB & Tier2 preparation | 85+ offers | 7 years coaching | 2000+ sessions | PDF reviews attached

Hey,

It looks like you can benefit from some coaching. Knowing kew vocabularies and English teachers won't help with this.

Top-down and concise communications is quite difficult to master for most candidates. Redoing cases at home and giving cases to your peers also helps develop structured communication since you are able to see how the other person communicates. I myself mastered this skill by dozens of repetitions while I was giving cases to my own students.

Good luck!
Nick

Was this answer helpful?
Yuval gave the best answer

Yuval

CoachingPlus Expert
Premium + Coaching Expert
free 30 min consultation call | 1st try offer from BCG and McK | BCG Associate | 100+ hours of coaching sessions
2
Meetings
340
Q&A Upvotes
0
Awards
5.0
1 Review