Do you share ideas for products, projects, changes, or solutions at work? Maybe you do this every day, or perhaps it is a once a year situation. Either way, you can significantly increase the chances of getting a positive outcome with these eight ways to improve your idea pitches.
The eight tips are:
- Have a clear point.
- Know your audience.
- State the outcome you want from the meeting.
- State the outcome your idea delivers.
- Talk about what your idea does, not how it does it.
- Talk about the benefits and outcomes. Don’t talk about features.
- Always include the effort, the cost and the timeframes.
- Say how long is it going to be before the results are achieved.
So if you want to increase the chances of your idea being approved, check out the eight ways to improve your idea pitches below.
1. Have a clear point
Description: When you’re pitching an idea, you need to make it clear what the point of the pitch is. Are you trying to convince someone that your idea is the best? Are you trying to convince the company that they should change direction? Do you want to convince the audience to take action on your idea?
Whatever it is that you are pitching, make sure you have a clear point and purpose for that presentation.
If you don’t do this: If your main point isn’t clear the audience won’t know what the purpose what you’re saying. They may know the topic but they won’t know what point you are trying to make. Without a clear point the audience will draw their own conclusions from your pitch.
How to do it: Joel Schwartzberg described a great method in his book Get to the Point. It’s called the “I believe that…” test.
- Take the point that you want to make.
- Put “I believe that…” before it.
- And if it makes a complete sentence, you have a clear point.
There’s more you can do to make it a compelling point. But if you use the “I believe that…” test, you can be confident you have a clear point.
- An unclear point: Here is a new product idea
- A clearer point: We should invest in this new product idea to help achieve our market expansion goal
2. Know your audience
Description: Before you start talking to a group of people, you need to try and understand their perspective. Who are they? What is their view on the thing that you are about to pitch and present on?
If you don’t do this: If you don’t take time to know who your audience is, you’re not going to be accurate on what you try and convince them to do. You might try and convince them to do something they’re already doing or that they will never do.
Or you may pitch your idea from a perspective that doesn’t match their own.
How to do it: One simple thing you can do is understand which of the following three categories the audience fits into:
- Are they users of your idea?
- Will they be building or implementing whatever you describe in your idea?
- Are they business decision makers that approve, support and fund the idea?
Pitching to each of these perspectives requires a different approach. Identify your audience type and you can tailor the information in your pitch to their perspective.
- When you need funding, authorisation, or resources from the audience, their perspective is business decision maker
- If the audience will use your idea, product, process, etc, they will have a user perspective
- If the audience will help create, build, or implement your idea they have an expert perspective
Tip: People can have more than one perspective. If your audience has multiple perspectives you need to address all of then in your pitch.
3. State the outcome you want from the meeting
Description: When starting the pitch say what you want to happen at the end of the presentation. Are you looking for authorization to begin work? Do you want them to approve funding? Do you want their input into the idea? Whatever you want to achieve make it clear at the start of your pitch.
If you don’t do this: When people don’t know what’s expected of them, they don’t know how to assess the information they hear. You don’t want to get to the end of your pitch and have the audience ask “Why did you tell us that? What do you want from us?”
How to do it: First, make sure you know what you want the audience to do. Then tell them in the first few lines of your pitch. Make it clear what you need, want, or expect from the audience at the end of the pitch.
Examples: Include a line similar to these in your introduction:
- I’m looking for your input to make this idea better
- I’d like approval to start work
- I’d like to identify the resources to work on this
The three of the eight ways to improve your idea pitches listed above all focus on preparation BEFORE the pitch. If you spend a few minutes preparing using those tips you will improve the chances of people supporting your idea. The next five of the eight ways to improve your idea pitches focus on the content of the pitch. Find out more about them in the section below.
4. State the outcome your idea delivers
Description: When you start your pitch early in your pitch, make it clear what the outcome of your idea delivers. Don’t talk about the history of the idea, what led up to it, or give details about how the idea works. Instead, talk about what the idea will deliver. What is the outcome the business will see as a result of whatever you are pitching?
Whatever you are pitching when you pitch, make sure you make the outcome of your idea clear.
If you don’t do this: It isn’t possible to understand or evaluate an idea when the outcome isn’t clear. If you don’t say what the outcome is the audience has to guess, and they may not guess correctly.
How to do it: State the result your idea will deliver. Make simple statements about what will be different if the business implements whatever you are pitching. Many outcomes fit into the following common categories:
- Revenues will increase by X% next year
- Customer satisfaction will improve by X amount
- We will be in compliance with the new regulations
- Production capacity will improve by 2%
5. Talk about what your idea does, not how it does it
Description: Most of your pitch should focus on what the idea does for the audience. And what it does for the things the audience cares about. If the audience cares about customer experience, talk about how your idea helps customer experience. If the audience cares about lowering costs, talk about how your idea lowers costs. Don’t talk about how your idea works. Don’t explain what is it built from, and what technology it uses.
When hearing an idea for the first time, people care about what it will do for them. Or for the things they care about. They don’t care as much about how an idea works.
If you don’t do this: Audiences don’t pay attention to things they don’t care about. If you don’t focus on the topics your audience cares about, they will tune out. The chances of you getting a successful outcome for your pitch are much lower.
How to do it: When you pitch an idea, you need to focus on what your idea does. Very early in the presentation, make a statement about whatever it is that your idea delivers. Talk about that first. Then you can explain how the idea works.
- “I’ve got an idea to build a new product and it’s going to generate new revenues in a market we’re not already in.”
- “I have an idea to fix bugs in our current system. It will take away some of the pain that you’re experiencing in our reporting system.”
Talk about what your idea does and not about how it does it.
6. Talk about the benefits and outcomes. Don’t talk about features
Description: Audiences don’t get excited about features on a product. It’s very tempting to talk about the list of great things that are in our idea. Don’t do that. When talking about an idea, focus on the benefits and the outcomes. Don’t focus on the features. People are more interested and more likely to support an idea that clearly states how it helps them or helps something they care about.
If you don’t do this: Psychology and sales research shows people buy into ideas emotionally first, and logically second. If you don’t give the benefits first you will be trying to persuade people using logic. That is a much harder way to persuade people.
How to do it:
Use your feature list to create a list of benefits. The benefits should focus on outcomes and results the audience cares about. Focus your pitch on the benefits, and then mention a few of the features than enable the benefits.
This software upgrade idea will save our teams time, improve the timeliness of the reporting, and help us stay compliant with the new data laws. This is possible because the new software has faster databases and easy to customise reporting.
When you pitch your idea, people will support benefits and outcomes. Nobody buys into features.
7. Always include the effort, the cost and the timeframes
Description: It takes money, time, and effort to turn an idea into something real. When pitching an idea you need to make it clear what the effort, cost, and time are.
If you don’t do this: If your pitch only focuses on the benefits, the features, the outcomes, you’ll get to the end of your pitch and someone will ask, “how much does it cost? What will it take for us to do this? And how long is it going to take?”
If these questions aren’t answered early in your pitch the audience will be distracted. They will be wondering about the answers. Don’t leave them to ask you the question. Tell them as part of your pitch.
How to do it: After describing the benefits and outcomes of your idea, say how much time, effort, and money it will take to deliver. This doesn’t have to be complex. You can name and list these things in a few sentences.
- To achieve these outcomes we need $100,000, and a team of five people working full time for six months.
- We don’t need any budget for these changes. Each team can implement the process changes themselves. It will take two hours per person to complete and we can have the whole company done within two months of starting.
8. Say how long is it going to be before the results are achieved
Description: Don’t assume people know when the results of your idea will happen. You also don’t want them to guess. Make sure you tell people how long it will be before the results appear.
If you don’t do this: You could fail to get support or approval for your idea because people’s assumptions of the result timeframe is incorrect. Another bad outcome is that you get support for your idea and then have angry stakeholders because they expected results sooner.
How to do it: After telling the audience what the results are, say when the results will happen.
- The extra revenue will start three months after we finish the work.
- The efficiency improvements will start on January 17.
- Sales conversion rates should improve the same day we start working.
You might have come up with the best idea in the world. It’s going to generate a million pounds a day. But if that million pounds a day doesn’t start for another three years, there’s going to be some disappointed people.
There are many ways to create a compelling idea pitch. In this post you’ve seen eight ways to improve your idea pitches that don’t take much time or effort. Making small changes to what you say can have a huge impact on the success of your pitch.