Presenting Your Ideas to Your Boss

Submitted by SharpMan Editorial Team on Sunday 10th October 2010
In this article
  • How to organize your thoughts.
  • How to communicate your ideas.
  • How to seal the deal with the boss.

You’ve worked hard and are ready to present your suggestions to the boss. Great. How’re you gonna do it? In the ideal world, management has been kept up to date on your findings and the thrust of your conclusions, so that you’re not coming in with some "new idea." Unfortunately, real-time business doesn’t always afford this luxury. Either way, your final pitch requires some polish. Check out SharpWork management consultant Kristin J. Arnold’s recommendations for getting results when approaching the boss with a new idea:

Step One: Identify Your Audience. Many times an idea must pass muster with more than one top-dweller. Most companies require entire management teams to sign off on any new direction. Don’t let your hard-won plans get shot down by one nay-sayer. Make a list of the names of each of the managers likely to review your pitch. If you’ve been working in a team, assign one team member to each of the managers and have that team member personally contact him/her to float the idea or gauge support. If you’re working alone, make calls to each person on this list. Where an objection is raised, make a note to answer this concern in your formal presentation or memorandum.

Step Two: Prepare Your Pitch. In putting together your presentation, take a moment to really think about what you or your team’s goals are. What are you trying to do during the presentation: inform (deliver facts), persuade (change behaviors, attitudes) or mobilize (encourage action)? Chances are you are trying to do all three within a limited amount of time. You may find that some of the information-sharing and persuasion can be done in a read-ahead memorandum or during the one-on-one calls outlined in Step One.

Step Three: Presentation. Recognize how much it takes to keep you awake during corporate presentation. Respond to this by making your pitch lively. After all, in this MTV, quick-edit, multimedia age, you’ve got to keep everything moving and dynamic to keep your audience from zoning out about their taxes. How? If you’re presenting with a team, have each team member take a segment of the presentation. If you’re alone, consider using various forms of media: flipcharts, overheads, video or activities. Consider having the presentation where the project is, rather than in the typical boardroom.

Step Four: Keep it Short and Simple. This is not the time to bore the boss(es) with all the details of your project. Give them the highlights and, if they ask for detail, have it ready. Many teams use the storyboard concept popularized by Walt Disney: have a simple chart for each major step of the project and conclusions the team made. Then quickly walk the managers through the charts – so they get the flow and feel of the project.

Step Five: Don’t Forget Your Point. I am amazed at how many teams don’t get to the main point by asking for what they want. Instead, many presenters assume that the audience will end the meeting by saying, "OK, so I guess with this plethora of information you expect us to conclude that you need X. Fine, you’ve got it." Don’t leave them guessing or let them determine what they think you need. Your job is to present your conclusion and clearly communicate what you need. Be bold. Be specific. Whether it’s approval, money, time, people, or their presence, make it clear.

Step Six: Tie It to the Business. Make sure there is a clear link between your recommendations and the business strategy or bottom line. List the benefits as well as the costs to the business, both directly and indirectly. Show how the benefits far outweigh the costs and within what time period management should start seeing the benefits from its investment.

Step Seven: Practice. Do a dry-run or walk-through of the presentation. If possible, have another person watch the walk-through and give feedback. Make adjustments as necessary.

Step Eight: Finally, Be Flexible. Despite the fact that you’ve put in a lot of time and practice into the presentation, you must be prepared to be flexible and adapt to your audience’s needs. Don’t get ruffled if they ask a lot of questions. It means they are interested and are evaluating your recommendations – which is precisely what you want them to do. Also, don’t be disappointed if they don’t give you an answer right then and there. Just make sure you get a firm date for when they will get back to you.

This article last updated on Sunday 10th October 2010
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