Take your idea up the ladder


You’ve spent hours upon hours before, during, and after “regular business hours” preparing your project pitch. You’ve reviewed your slides more times than you’d like to remember and the typos have all been corrected. It seems like nothing should stand in the way of moving forward with a project you’re certain will save precious time and money. On the day of the meeting, you read the slides one more time and tweak a few small things to make it all look exactly how you want it to. You are ready.

The pitch goes how you wanted it to and you’re feeling confident. Then, a million questions and concerns later, you’re sent back to the drawing board. You’re about to spend even more time on the proposal, time that you’d rather be spending on the project. 

It doesn’t have to be this way and, believe it or not, you may have more control than you think. There are things you can do to improve your chances of a green light rather than reiterations and obstacles. That’s the goal – to spend less time pitching your projects to senior leaders and more time executing your projects. 

If you do a search, you’ll find several articles from resources like the Harvard Business Reviewand Entrepreneur magazine. To help you spend less time researching, these are our top six tips to help you streamline your next pitch.

  1. Make sure you really have the best solution:In the Lean manufacturing world, we’re always looking for the best solutions, right? Right. Gather feedback and other ideas to further evaluate your idea, make any necessary changes, and go with the best idea. This will also show that you have support from other people who might end up working on your project or being affected by it. Consider using that tried and true tool we all know so well – the 5 Whys.
  2. Meet them where they are:To up your chances of approval, be able to explain your project to anyone why you are recommending this particular solution, including someone who isn’t intimately aware of all the finer details of your work. Keep in mind that “best” is a somewhat subjective term. Understanding their perspective and clearly articulating your perspective will help you more easily come to an agreement.
  3. Tie your project to key business outcomes:What else is your company working on and how might your project help? Draw connections between the two and look for ways to improve your idea’s fit with other things that are happening. (This will also help you define what “best” might mean in the current business situation.) Be able to show how you’d pay for the project and who else would need to be involved. The rest of the business must continue to run, no matter how great your project might turn out to be.
  4. Know how your audience thinks:There are many ways to present your project. The key here is to understand how your audience likes to receive information. For example, some people want a bulleted list. Others want lots of visuals like charts and graphs. To both improve your chances of approval and speed up the process (i.e. reduce the number of questions you get and presentations you give), tailor your presentation to the decision-maker’s preferred style.
  5. Anticipate potential questions:You know the material well, but your audience may be new to it or less familiar. Think of it from their perspective and brainstorm questions they may have. What do they focus on in their daily work? Have they worked on a similar project? Are they new to the company? Step into their shoes and think of the other information they might need or like to have before they make a decision about whether or not to move forward with your project.
  6. Choose the right time:If you have any input on when you’ll present the project, look for a time when your audience will be less busy or overwhelmed with other things. Don’t try to wedge it into a conversation about something else or get into too much detail when they have only a few minutes to talk. Catching someone at the right or wrong time can mean the difference between your project being approved or tossed.

One last bonus tip:Learn from past experiences. There are always lessons you can apply next time, regardless of your pitch’s success. You’ll see how people respond to your slides, presentation style, explanation, and everything else you’ll do in the course of pitching your project. The lessons could also include asking your audience for their direct feedback. Then take note of those reactions, look for patterns, and figure out how to apply the feedback to your next pitch. It’s just another way to improve your results and reduce the amount of time everyone spends on project proposals.

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