I attended a project review meeting today – one of those where a project team presents a problem, how they’re going to solve it, and ends with some asks for support (either in buy-off, resource commitment, or both). In this particular case, it was for a people improvement-ish project, but the format was pretty much the same as I see when reviewing software projects.

The team presenting / pitching their idea were smart, had done their research, and were confident. But they blew it because their pitch was weak. One comment from another reviewer that sums it up well was “I know your project well, and I think it’s in a lot better shape than this meeting would lead us to believe”. If you want to get people to support you, whether it’s a VC, or your manager, or anyone else you want to get on board with your ideas, you need to get your story straight.

Some tips include:

  • Start with the problem. What is the problem that you’re addressing. Find a way to get the audience to identify with the problem space you are addressing.
  • Don’t solve everything. You are not going to solve everything for everyone. Focus on solving one problem, and explain why that’s the problem you’re solving.
  • Describe how you’re going to solve the problem. Describe how you’re getting from A to B, but explain your choices as well. If people are going to give you support, they need to understand your strategy.
  • Make your “asks”** clear. Be clear about what you’re asking for and what it means. If you ask for 10 full time employees, what do you get done if you only get 5. You know that’s an option, so anticipate the question and have quick answer. Don’t just ask for a bunch of random stuff and cross your fingers.

**“Asks” is one of those goofy MS words that means “requests”. I don’t get it, don’t ask.

At the meeting today, I felt like I was looking at a destination on a map that kept on moving. Every time I thought I understood, something else was changed or added. Your audience wants to know where they’re going, how they’re going to get there, and how they can help you. If those aren’t clear, you’re going to have a hard time getting support.