Once upon a time there was a business analyst named Joe who had worked for days and weeks on a project. He knew the project inside out and backwards, had interviewed stakeholders, collected data, and had a few solutions in mind. After analyzing all the choices, he decided on the best option and went in to see his boss Anna.
After telling Anna what he planned to do, Joe was floored when she looked at him in astonishment and said, “You want me to approve this? I don’t even know what you’re talking about!”
This story did not end happily ever after. What did Joe do wrong?
Sometimes It’s OK to Assume
Joe has lived and breathed this project since the beginning; since Chapter 1, if you will. He’s now well into the second half of the book, approaching the denouement, and has dropped Anna right into the middle of the book, expecting her to be up to speed and to mirror his enthusiasm.
Anna, on the other hand, hasn’t even cracked the cover of this story, and quite frankly isn’t sure she wants to read it.
It’s really important that you assume ignorance when making a pitch or selling an idea. This doesn’t mean that you condescend to your audience or go into too much detail. Rather, it means that you take care to explain the critical elements of the plot before getting into the details of the ending.
If it turns out the listener is aware of the background then you’ll know from verbal or visual cues, and you can then safely cut to the chase.
Be a Great Storyteller
There are a few things that you can do to tell the story and improve your chances in any business pitch, whether it’s to a bank, your boss, or a committee.
- Summarize the backstory. Take a few minutes to talk about the bones of the story. How long have you been working on this idea? What are some alternative solutions? Who have you spoken with? What has been the general reaction to your ideas?
- Be factual. Don’t interject your bias or opinions when sharing the backstory. Be clear about what has happened, when, and how.
- Use data! Data, data, data. (We’ve talked about data’s importance before. Click here to read more.) Data is the key to your pitch, and if you can present it visually, all the better. Remember, the brain processes pictures much more quickly than words. There’s a reason that Infographics have become so popular!
- Watch the body language. You’re probably aware of your own body language (at least we hope so), but did you know that your audience’s body language is critical to your success too? Watch for signs that your pace is off (flipping ahead in the materials), that they already know what you’re saying (nodding and looking at their watch), or that they might be looking for more detail (furrowed brows).
- Be succinct. The story is important, but if you go on too long, you’ll lose your audience. The trick is in the balance between detail and brevity.
Remember: when making a pitch, don’t drop the audience in the middle of the story. Take them on your journey to help them see that your work is solid and your idea is a winner. Click to Tweet
Until next week!