Learn what to avoid from this true pitch story of wasting time
One of your direct reports is presenting to a boardroom of senior, business stakeholders, with the aim of getting the stakeholders to sign-off on a $2.5 million dollar investment for a critical piece of software.
The report starts the presentation detailing the history of his team’s process in developing the software – for five minutes.
For the next three minutes, the report presents detailed slides about the technical aspects of the software.
At the eight minute mark one of the business stakeholders interrupts the report and asks, ‘What do you want?’
This interruption stuns the report, and the report – misunderstanding the question – starts defending the software.
The presentation ends poorly, with the report vaguely alluding to a sign-off. The people from the business – still unsure of what the report wanted – thanks the report for the presentation and gives the person a cue to leave the meeting,
Is this scenario over-stated?
My field research indicates that it’s not.
I’m sure you’ve seen junior (and perhaps senior) IT people deliver rambling, verbose, unclear presentations to business stakeholders –
resulting in no decision being made, and the business people lamenting the wasted time, and the mediocre communication skills of IT.
Delivering important presentations to senior, non-technical executives, is not welcomed by many IT people.
Many, are more comfortable being given projects to work on and being left alone to work on them, by themselves, and/or with other technical people.
Still, there are methods IT people can learn and implement, to gain confidence from the business.
Here is an over-arching philosophy and two strategies that will help your people improve their communication when delivering presentations to business audiences.
Most people with power (ie. Senior business stakeholders) want to use it wisely, if someone believable would tell them how, simply – and then be able to answer questions about their messages.
Before your presentation, plan for, and clearly know what you want (ie. are pitching for), and the value of why the stakeholders should sign-off on that want.
Chisel what you want, stripped of technical jargon:
- into one or two simple sentences or three bullet points, that clearly explain what you want – along with two to three compelling reasons for why, what you want, should be approved.
After you have stated what you want and the reasons, ask for approval and/or offer to answer questions – be silent. (even if no one responds for a few moments).
Project energy and certainty
- Start speaking with a strong voice. This voice should sound louder than how you normally speak and may, to you, sound too loud. Ignore this and maintain the loudness.
Allow one second pause gaps between your sentences. Though you will sense the pauses are too long (due to the ‘presenter’s misperception of time’) the pauses will give the audience time to process your ideas.
Look people in the eye when speaking. Refer to your presenter notes, as needed, but always look at people when speaking.
Sit tall, ‘own’ and occupy space, with your arms on the table, uncrossed.
Here is a (Message/Flesh out the Message/Repeat the Message/Ask for approval) structure, and the words and syntax, of a pitch that was made by an IT person to senior business people at a major bank.
OPEN and Message:
‘Thanks for your time. My message is this. That you sign-off on $2.5 million dollars for the Karl software.
FLESH-OUT the message:
These are reasons why.
Number one: You’ll remember the system crash and $30 million dollar reputational damage that PQR had three months ago. This software will prevent this from happening to us.
Number two: The software will push $10 million dollars to the bottom line over the next five years – and I can document that.
Number three: The software can be installed with minimal operation downtime.
REPEAT the message:
So, My message is, that you sign-off on $2.5 million dollars for the Karl software.
ASK for approval:
Do I have your approval?’ (silence).
Of course at this point you have to be ready to answer any questions about the pitch.
Your CALL to action/HOW to apply for this post: Over the next seven days, seek out and/or manufacture an opportunity to trial the Message/Flesh-out the message/Repeat the message/Ask for approval, structure – in safe situations. Consider how you could inject more simplicity, energy, certainty and structure in your speaking and presenting.