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Pitching your development ideas - Part 2

Jorge Sanchez, Sr. Director, Product Strategy, Appian
April 6, 2015

Hello again!

In my previous post, we discussed how a brilliant idea can come from anywhere, but can also die prematurely if not properly delivered. Today we will take a deeper dive into the 7 steps you can take in order to successfully pitch an idea.

1. Define and Refine your ideas

Our friend Joe from our last post made a terrible mistake. He forgot the #1 rule for pitching an idea. You see, it is not enough just to have a great idea that makes perfect sense in your head. You need to make sure you can put it into words clearly and succinctly. What's more, you need to let your ego by the door and make sure the idea you have is actually a good one to implement. It must be creative and provide improvements in a meaningful, measurable way. It should focus on what, why and how. Saying that we need to use business rules instead of hardcoding values is not enough. Saying that building an Apple Watch app is a good idea is not good enough. However, saying that an apple watch app that allows users to receive real-time notifications of their tasks and complete some of them will benefit the customers, improve your overall product positioning, and increase sales by at least 20% is a good start.

The point is, you need to work on your concept, and flesh out the details in a way that matches specific benefits, so people won't discard it and actually be interested in it. Consider building a prototype and be sure to answer the What, Why, and How.

2. Define the scope of your idea

It may be obvious once you think about it, but the bigger the idea, the bigger the pitch needs to be. This is because big ideas require more change and therefore more work to be done, which mean more potential resistance. Implementing a tweak to an existing functionality is far easier to pitch than starting a completely new feature set or even a new product.

Once you've identified where the size of your scope is, a little research can go a long way. How have others pitched this kind of idea in the organization? Were they successful? What worked? What didn't? Try having a dry run and get feedback.

3. Identify the stakeholders

All ideas that are implemented in an organization are typically given the green-light by a person or a group of people. Make a list of who needs to listen to your pitch, and who needs to get onboard. Sometimes we may not have access to the key stakeholder, which is fine. All this means is that we need to network and perhaps work collaboratively on the pitch.

4. Consider the audience's perspective

We've all heard the saying: "How you say something is more important than what you say". And how you say it should be greatly influenced by who you say it to. Once you have identified the key stakeholders, think about how you can present the pitch to them. In particular, consider the following:

    • What are their interests?

    • Why should they care about your idea?

    • What do you need from them?

    • What are the benefits they get if they support you?

Once you understand these, you can identify which of the stakeholders are more likely to accept your pitch and help you in getting the support from the others.

5. Structure and create the pitch

Mark Twain is famous for saying "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead." When creating an awesome pitch, however, you'll probably need a short and a long version of it. The short version, also called the "elevator pitch," should be short and concise enough to be delivered in under 30 seconds. This is usually much harder to do than a long pitch. But you need to have it. You'll use it in an email trying to explain what the long pitch meeting is about, or in an actual elevator ride, and yes, you need to be done with it before you get to the target floor.

The longer version is where you not only captured their attention, but get into the details, the how and the why.

6 & 7. Practice and Deliver the Pitch

Practice makes perfect. In order to successfully deliver the pitch you need to practice, practice, practice. Start by yourself, then consider practicing with friends, incorporate their feedback, and practice again!

Although being nervous is normal, the more you prepare and practice, the more confidence you'll have and the easier it will be to tame your nerves and deliver a killer pitch.

Follow these steps and you'll have a much better chance at successfully delivering your development and other kinds of ideas in any scenario.

Jorge Sanchez, Director, Product