Most organisations have risk-averse cultures, and selling ideas to your boss or coworkers can be difficult, since no one wants to get blamed if it fails.
In fact, meetings, with their committee mentality and tendency to perpetually defer decisions, were invented in large part to thwart new ideas, says Al Pittampalli, author of “Read This Before Our Next Meeting.” “That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to sell your ideas. But you will need some courage and the right strategy.”
Here are 12 tips for wowing everyone in a meeting with your ideas:
1. Warm them up before the meeting.
Most people need a little time to embrace a new idea, Pittampalli says. “Consider sending a thoughtful memo, or better yet, meeting with key people one-on-one the week before the meeting. They will appreciate the personal attention and will allow you to tailor your pitch to their specific needs.” By the time the meeting rolls around they may be ready to move in your direction. Even better, they may act as your advocate at the meeting helping you convince others.
2. Be passionate.
Nothing sells an idea like passion and enthusiasm. “It’s infectious,” says Amy Hoover, president of TalentZoo. “If you’re not buying into an idea, then it’s likely that neither will those around you.”
3. Offer a strong case.
What evidence do you have that your idea is a good one? Point to facts or data that support the validity of your idea. “Imagine you’re a lawyer making a case to the jury. What is exhibit A, and what is exhibit B?” Pittampalli says.
4. Appeal to their emotions.
Pittampalli suggests that you find ways to engage participants’ emotions. “Paint a vivid picture of the probable future if your idea is accepted. Now paint a dismal scene of the future if the idea doesn’t happen. Use stories. Nothing moves people emotionally more than a good story.”
5. Be flexible.
If you hear something that makes sense, be ready to adjust your pitch or presentation, Hoover says.
6. Sell the test.
Many ideas are too big and scary to sell up front. “Is there a way you can test your idea on a smaller scale first? A pilot? An experiment? Sell that,” Pittampalli says. The team will be more likely to go for it if there’s a way to test drive the idea without putting too much on the line.
Asking questions and listening to the answers is a great way to interact with your audience and show that they’re important to the presentation, Hoover says. “They will be more receptive to being ‘sold.'”
8. Be confident, but not overconfident.
A confident delivery will demonstrate how strongly you believe in your idea. But don’t make the mistake of being cocky. “No idea has a 100% chance of success and pretending like yours does might damage your credibility. Honesty and humility are your friends,” Pittampalli says.
9. Accept responsibility for your idea.
Make it clear to your boss and coworkers that if the idea fails, you’re prepared to accept the blame, Pittampalli says. (But remember: You should always be confident in your ideas before presenting them to your audience.)
10. Don’t give up too soon.
The rejection of a great idea at a meeting is not the exception; it’s the norm. Hoover says most people give up too easily. “Don’t take no for an answer — but don’t be too pushy, either. You have to know your audience and when to back off. It’s a fine line to walk.”
11. Choose an idea that doesn’t require permission.
“Some people subconsciously choose big, bombastic ideas they know will never get approved, so that they never have to act on them,” Pittampalli explains. Instead, try to think of ideas you can pursue without an OK from your boss. If it’s good and you’re successful, it will help you build the reputation of someone that has good ideas. That will make it easier to sell your next big idea.
12. Follow up after the presentation with emails.
Continue the conversation by reminding those in the meeting that you’re happy to answer any questions and that you’re open to any suggestions related to the ideas you just presented.
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