How to make your proposal bulletproof
Who are the key stakeholders and what are their needs?
Behind any prominent Business Plan there is a great amount of work to prepare for its successful delivery. Furthermore, it seems that the success of the ideas acceptance is embedded in this exact preparation. So where does the business plan writing start?
First, you should identify the main stakeholders of this plan. Second, rank or map them in terms of their power and influence. And last, identify the key needs of the stakeholders who rank the highest – these are the very foundations of the Business Plan.
Now, you need to remember throughout the whole process what these needs are. Then, concentrate on how the plan you are working on solves them. Moreover, during your proposal presentation, this is exactly what you should be highlighting. Not why your proposal is the best, but how it resolves the issues of the key parties involved.
The need for a high level summary
To present a business plan in the most effective way, you should create a high level summary enriched with visuals, metaphors and stripped out of any jargon. What is important to understand is that your audience will not be able to comprehend your pitch if it becomes too detailed. Remember, the details of implementation is not exactly what they are interested in. Results and solutions are.
Good way to make your presentation impactful is to use visuals (more on this in the following part). However, if you decide to include text – try to make it as short as possible. Reading what your audience can read makes delivery boring and creates an impression of wasted time. Highlight the ideas requiring attention and provide an explanation with the minimum level of detail.
Maybe you happen to have a friend or family member who would help you by playing the role of a listener. Rehearsing in front of somebody, who doesn’t have the same knowledge of the issue as you do, may prompt some relevant questions. It can emphasise gaps that need addressing and highlight points which you need to research more. Feedback is the most valuable source for improvement.
You may want to check our article on Communication with your Boss .
Dataviz – let the data tell the story
Dataviz, or data visualisation, is a powerful tool to attract attention of your audience and make your pitch memorable. Additionally, it helps them to understand the data better when they see familiar comparisons. The principle here is the same – the less the better. Most of all, use the visualisation to enrich your story instead of telling it for you.
Traditional ways of presenting data (i.e. charts and tables) make the recipient feel lost in the details. On the other hand, contemporary methods, such as workflows, infographics, matrix charts etc., facilitate data comparison, depict inefficiencies better and help your target group to comprehend the big picture.
Another idea to elevate your presentation is to use a voiceless video complemented by a life storytelling in your persona. It is an impactful way to incept the ideas into your listeners’ brains. There’re plenty of tools out there that you can use for this purpose – animated or explainer videos, royalty-free videos available online or even screen recording. While this way of visualisation is beneficial, creating a video, most of the times, is resource consuming.
If you are interested in learning more on data visualisation, we recommend a reading Good Charts by Scott Berinato.
Prepare for questions
Here again a listening ear can provide another platform to work on your delivery.
While you should shorten your presentation to deliver only high-level details, it doesn’t mean that no one in your audience will be interested in more detailed answers. “It shouldn’t be a problem” you may be tempted to think, as you know your business plan right down to the very detail. The thing though is that some people from your audience may indeed possess deeper understanding, and the questions they will want to ask may easily embarrass you.
To avoid this kind of situation, analyse your proposal from every perspective possible. Try to disconnect from what you know and think of what objections may arise from your stakeholders. So you’ve done the Power-Influence mapping of the Stakeholders previously, now you may want to classify them based on their level of knowledge and area of expertise. This will help you to predict the nature of questions that they can throw at you.
Make a list of all the possible questions and sequence them starting from the ones you have least knowledge to answer. Do a research on as many of them as possible, given the amount of time that you have on your hands. Rather than memorising too much technical information or complex numbers – make notes. Don’t put all of these in your presentation, treat it as a hedging technique requiring investment of additional time in research, which will help you to secure against unforeseen questions. This level of preparation will only impress your audience more.
Sharing the materials
While it is good practice to send the materials to the audience prior to presentation, or provide print-outs during the session, it needs to be done carefully. The effect of this may be quite the opposite from the one that you desire..
First scenario: if you send it well in advance, some people may not attend since they think they have all the materials possible. This may prevent you from highlighting important facts or exposing your most valuable points to key stakeholders.
Second scenario: distributing print-outs before you start your pitch may cause your audience to dive into reading instead of listening to you. The effect of this could be worse than the one made in the previous paragraph.
Third scenario: sending the proposal instead of its physical presentation may lead to different consequences, depending on your audience. Since most of the times it may leave your e-mail unopened, hence you risk not getting the due attention. However busy your target listener may claim to be, never make yourself undifferentiated by resigning from physical delivery of the idea.
Take the feedback gracefully
Even the most flawless delivery may leave some of the listeners unsatisfied. And you should prepare for this. The worst mistake is to try to defend your ideas at any price. Be flexible and show your readiness to adjust your ideas to accommodate requests of your superiors. While you may think it signals submissive attitude, in fact, by demonstrating readiness to listen to the idea, you build better relations with stakeholders and enhance your credibility.
Most noteworthy is the fact that the solution you worked on is not for you to benefit. Demonstrating receptiveness and care will only play in favour of beneficial reception of the proposal.