Making the Pitch

Last week, I was asked to present an idea about moving a beloved face-to-face (f2f) program to an online format. I was actually quite nervous about it, but my boss assured me that it was a casual situation and I only needed to talk for five minutes. Here’s what I learned:

  1. It is a fantastic opportunity to be able to present my idea to decision makers before spending a lot of time on a written proposal. That isn’t to say I didn’t do a lot of homework beforehand but since it was verbal, I didn’t worry about typos!
  2. Five minutes is not enough time! It is important NOT to rush through your pitch. If people are going to be green or red lighting your project, you need to present them with all the relevant information for them to make that decision. For me – taking an existing program and radically changing it – it was important to give them some history, an idea of my level of involvement and expertise, and an understanding that I’d thought through the majority of angles and considerations. While this took more time upfront, it allowed them to focus on the whole picture rather than the details that can make things sticky moving forward.
  3. No matter how well you know the subject matter, smart people can add value. Even not-so-smart people have their contributions to make! By talking through an idea out loud and with the necessity of answering questions right then and there, you can be assured (or not) of the soundness of what you’re trying to do, and make it even better.
  4. The small stuff does matter…at least in an implementation phase. Being aware of what other stakeholders are concerned about (How will this affect me?) up front, leads to more diplomatic approaches when sharing information. Indeed, they can be presented as opportunities and can get people excited about change, even if it encroaches upon their comfort zone.
  5. Be open-minded. It’s hard to distance yourself from a project that you’ve worked long and hard on, and when people offer criticism or question the value, it can be hurtful – if you let it. But if you approach it from the viewpoint of thinking through all the angles before investing time and money, you are less likely to personalize it and more likely to be successful. Assume people want to help you, not impede you!

I am not a fan of process when it comes to innovation (too many rules!), but having an arrangement where open, honest and constructive questions and feedback can be shared at a very early stage, can lead to much sounder outcomes. If you make the pitch the right way, you may find yourself with a lot more support than you ever thought possible.

What will you pitch today?

– Libby Bingham

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