We have talked about developing a Business Case through practically all of its phases. We will now discuss the final phase of your effort – the actual presentation of your ideas which convey the benefits derived from the approval of your Business Case.
When we want to sell something (a product, an idea, or in this case the approval for a course of action) it is essential to create a Communication Strategy. Done effectively, this strategy should include several communication events, e.g one-on-one meetings, memos, a formal proposal and likely in a high-stakes business plan effort – a formal presentation. We often try to compress this strategy into one primary event, putting all of our persuasive communication eggs in one “basket”. That basket is usually a presentation. This may be a major mistake. To believe that the presentation will succeed, you must expect that the presenter can go in front of a decision making group and cause them to not only agree with the need and its organizational consequences but to accept our solution to that need. That is a lot to ask of a presentation and an approval group. It is our recommendation that contrary to conventional wisdom we should not use presentations for the purpose of selling but rather utilize presentations to confirm in a group those ideas which have already been sold to individual members of the group whenever possible. The reasoning behind this strategy is that it is initially far more effective selling one-on-one, and then have the buying decision confirmed by the formal approving group as a whole.
However, the pressures of our highly active business world rarely provide ideal conditions and we are, therefore, frequently forced to sell to approval groups or committees requiring highly persuasive presentations as a result. Recognizing the difficulty of these situations, we are required to use everything available to improve our probability of success which mandates thorough planning and implementation of pre-presentation and post-presentation activities.
Here are a few hints in preparing your Business Case presentation – (Research, Rehearse, Relax):
- Nervousness is very natural. You should be a little nervous. You should, therefore, transform that nervous energy into enthusiastic energy.
- Some of what makes people nervous is fear that something “will go wrong”. Try imagining ahead of time what would be the worst thing that could go wrong. Chances are it wouldn’t be the end of the world and you’d still be breathing when it is over. Having confronted the “worst” may help you become less fearful of trying, especially when you realize there is a long way between you and the “worst”.
- Know your material, both content and organization as we have discussed in the earlier three blogs. Rehearse to become comfortable with the flow and timing of your Business Case presentation, but do not over rehearse.
- Be yourself – do not imitate someone else’s speaking style. Just relax and say it the way you would say it.
- In starting, take your time, adjust to the surroundings, look over the approving committee members, arrange your notes and let things settle down.
- Slow down and relax.
Maintaining good eye contact with the approval group members is the very best tool for controlling nervousness in front of an audience – large or small. Look at each individual for the duration of a single thought, moving to another person at the next logical point.
Consistent eye contact benefits the presenter by:
- stabilizing your thoughts as you talk one-by-one to the members,
- helping gauge listeners’ buy-in and understanding of your message,
- establishing confidence in the presenter and the Business Case message while in turn building credibility,
- enhancing the presenter’s authentic sincerity and rapport with the audience,
- holding listeners’ attention – sending a clear, non-verbal message that what you have to say is worth their attention.
While we tend to emphasize eye contact and eye movement we must also be aware that our entire facial expressions send important messages. Often in our desire to appear “professional”, we forget to let our personality shine through. Your face needs to reflect the mood you want to create in your audience. Remember that “your listeners cannot be more enthusiastic about your subject than you are”. Showing your genuine enthusiasm shows that you are a strong, engaged proponent of your Business Case.
Define as precisely as you can the various roles of the members of your approval group in advance. Is a member a decision maker or an influencer? Look for probable levels of support by participant which you can categorize as advocate or neutral or adversarial. Delineate as best you can the way that each approval member likes to receive information ranging from:
- concise vs. detailed
- practical vs. imaginative
- informal vs. formal
- results oriented vs. process oriented
- just the facts vs. wants interpretations
- bottom line focus vs. background and theory focus
- influenced by enthusiasm vs. influenced by logic
- linked to long rage plans vs. linked to short range plans
Having looked at your decision makers influencers and their unique information preferences, also consider in advance their individual knowledge of the subject.
Developing Clear Objectives
It is essential that you ask the following questions regarding your Business Case presentations objective:
- You need for the group to give you something specific as a direct result of your presentation. What do you want from the group and how will you know with certainty that group gave you what you wanted?
- The objective must clearly define the evidence that will indicate that your goal has been achieved.
- The objective must be achievable now – at the presentation.
Affirmative Business Case Decision Strategy
The objective of your presentation should be thought of as a “Summary Decision” –a compilation of a variety of sub-decisions. There are three steps for developing an effective Business Decision Strategy:
- Break the Summary Decision into a series of sub-decisions – in approving an idea and endorsing your recommendation the committee will decide that:
- there is an urgent need
- your ideas and recommendations are understood
- your idea or recommendation will resolve the need
- your project team is capable of producing the solution
- the benefit is worth the cost.
- Always include in the list of sub-decisions:
- Agreement on the need
- Agreement on the benefits
- Include only that information that moves the group toward the desired Summary Decision. Eliminate all “nice to include” information keeping only the “must include”.
You probably would not consider making a presentation without using visual aids. You need to plan and use these visual aids to support your presentation’s objectives. Therefore visual aids should:
Some important considerations in using graphs and charts in your Visual Aid:
- Bar charts show comparative quantities or volumes
- Line graphs show activity over time
- Pie charts show parts in relation to the whole
- Tables and word charts show comparative features and descriptions
Another recommendation: Once you have revealed a visual, explain what it is to your audience. For example, “This is a time-cost matrix. The vertical line represents cost, the horizontal line represents time”. Remember, as long as a visual aid is visible, that is where the audience attention stays. (Special Note: Handouts should only be distributed as they are needed, not before otherwise the approval group will be leafing through them while you are speaking). Incidentally, people seldom read information you send out beforehand.
Having meticulously prepared your Business Case and its vital presentation using the tactics, techniques and strategies defined in this four-part series, acceptance and approval of your plan is greatly enhanced.
PACES, LLC has helped organizations and their executives in the development of impactful presentations hundreds of times and would recommend that we help formulate and participate in the development and presenting of high impact business solutions within your organization and for your clients. We have done this with major corporations, middle sized organizations and privately held firms serving a wide variety of industries here in the United States and overseas. We would like to be a vital component in your success as solutions providers both internally and externally. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.