What are the most common problems that occur within introductions?

People often miss and misuse elements

Introductions are critical in scoping your story and should include three key elements:

  • Context: The starting point for this story that you and your audience will both agree is true
  • Trigger: The reason why you are communicating about the context to this audience at this point in time
  • Question: The high level question that your whole piece of communication will address

However, they can be difficult to create and often take a disproportionate amount of time to get right. Typically once we ‘nail' the introduction the rest of the story will flow naturally and quickly.

Here are some thoughts on how not to miss or misuse critical introductory elements.

Missing elements

No introduction at all: Given the importance of the introduction it is surprisingly common to see how often people forget to include an introduction in their communication. Whenever you prepare any communication that is longer than two sentences, you should provide an introductory remark to help your audience understand it now, and in the future should they return to it.

Missing context: Although this is difficult to craft it forms an important part of the journey you want to take your reader on when leading them toward your primary unifying question and answer.

Misused elements

The wrong starting point: The context is often the hardest part of an introduction to ‘get right': it must accurately describe the ‘thing' that sets the right scene for your story, and which you and your audience will both know and agree is true. When crafting your introduction, you may find it easier to think of the trigger and the question before you realise what the context should be. This is common, as is the need to revisit the context after you have prepared your whole story.

The wrong question: Think carefully about the highest order question that your audience will ask you about your topic, and craft the overarching question from their perspective: not from yours. You are, after all, wanting to engage them not yourself.

Including information that is new to the reader: The introduction should only include material that the audience knows and agrees is true. New information should be included in the body of the story, below the answer (governing idea).

Multiple questions: One of the most powerful benefits of preparing a CTQ flow for an introduction is that it will encourage – even force – you to identify the high level purpose of the communication. By including multiple questions that must be answered, you are missing an opportunity to refine your thinking and communicate powerfully.