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How to sell your ideas?

Here are some ideas on how to sell your ideas to your organization decision makers or your client.

  1. Know Your Idea (Don’t just assume you knew it)

This may sound like common sense, but it’s often something people don’t give enough attention to. It’s one thing to have a jolt of inspiration and another to have an idea that you’ve fully thought through in details which typically include the pros, cons, feasibility, and implementation plans included. Thinking down to this level of detail is important to make it easy to communicate and support.

A good way to test this is to grab a friend and tell him or her your idea in a couple of sentences. Your friend should be able to easily understand, if he or she is staring back at you like a deer in headlights, that’s a good indicator that you need to put some more effort into clarifying and truly understanding your idea. Additionally, your friend might ask questions about your idea, and you should have a good sense on how to answer them. If not, you’ll have a good sense of what you need to think through a bit more.

  1. Know Your Audience Well

It’s not good enough just to come up with a generic pitch and then walk into the conference room. Instead, you need to have a really good sense of who your audience is and how they digest information, in the event of wide range of audience, then your target shall be on the widest audience or the ones with highers authority on decision making. Even if you know the people you are selling an idea to, it is important to get a deeper sense of their personality and tendencies: If they tend to be detailed and analytical, then you’ll need to do a lot of analysis to sell your idea (bring on the spreadsheets and datasheet). On the other hand, if they’re aggressive and direct, you should get right to the point and keep your arguments short and succinct. If your audience are top executive with high demand for their time, make sure your pitch is short and straight to the point, also it is recommended to prepare an executive summary of important details for them.

You should make sense of how your idea can help them achieve their organization goals and tailor your pitch as such. For instance, if your boss needs to approve your idea and is trying to get a promotion, you should find out how your idea can help to position him or her for that role; perhaps supporting your idea could show that he or she can identify strategic opportunities.

  1. Do The Necessary Analysis

I love some good analysis. The reason that analysis is important, though, is because it provides the ammunition needed to really get people to buy into your ideas. For example, if you are saying you want to expand into a new market and your argument is that there are “lots of potential customers,” this leaves a lot of room for people to challenge or question your idea: Do you mean 100 or 100,000 customers? How do we know they are potential customers of ours?

A better argument would be more specific, for example, by using data collected by the census, you were able to find out that there are approximately 1,000,000 potential customers in the United States that fall within the target income and education levels your company currently sells products to. By using credible sources, hard facts, and some filters, you’re able to move your arguments from opinion to something people will take as truth. In summary, make sure your argument is specific and well supported by credible references.

  1. Make it Easy to Understand

Even if others do believe in your idea, they may feel daunted by the steps ahead to make it happen (and the potential added work on their plates). To avoid this, do everything you can to keep the barrier to entry of your idea as low as possible. This means doing some pre-planning and anticipating their concerns or needs from you so that it’s a non-issue on moving forward. While doing this, make sure to highlight and put great emphasis on how the proposal shall benefit all parties involved.

For example, if you know that the party you are talking to would need to bring your idea to his boss, you might want to have a pre-written email that he could use explaining the idea so it’s less work on his part to move your idea forward. You could also come up with a plan for how the work could be allocated, giving people a sense of what the extra load would actually look like.

  1. Gain Support

Another really great way to sell your idea is to work your political magic and get support before the idea is even pitched. When going into a presentation, it’s ideal if your idea isn’t completely new to anyone; they should already generally know what it is and be supportive of it.

A good way to do this is to ask for people’s feedback on early versions of your idea (even if you don’t really need it). They’ll likely feel involved in its success and may even give you some great ideas to strengthen your case. By doing this, it would likely to be able to create a sense of ownership on the idea from your audience perspective.

  1. Figure Out Your “So What? Now What?”

A question I always ask myself whenever I am pitching an idea is, “So what? Now what?” I find this is a good question to ask yourself to make sure you have clearly explained why people should care about your idea (the “So what?”) and ensures that you have made a very clear ask about what needs to happen next (“Now what?”).

Without a clear reason for why someone should care about your idea, then you won’t be able to get support. Likewise, even if people do love your idea, they need to know what you need from them—whether it’s sending the idea to their boss, giving you money (which is always a good thing), or even just giving you some confirmation that your idea is a good one—in order to move forward.

Not every idea will get off the ground, of course. But if you’ve done your homework, come up with a good plan, and focused on how to sell it the right way to your audience, you’re definitely on the right track. Therefore, it is importance to be able to stress-test your idea before pitching it to others. Among the preferable way to do this is by presenting the idea first to your bosses, or / and colleague before pitching it to your intended audience.

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Assessing the team decision-making methods

Teams often make better decisions than individuals hence the saying 2 heads are better than one. When people from diverse perspectives come together to choose a course of action, they bring a breadth of knowledge that can improve outcomes. But to make the most of a team’s collective wisdom, you need to follow a disciplined decision-making process.

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Determine if your team’s current decision-making methods are working. Are sound decisions being made? Assess whether your team is following their agreed-upon processes and rules for making decisions. If not, then, remind members of the decision-making methods they agreed to follow and help them get back on track by reminding on the importance of following the preset decision-making methods.

Decision-making processes that include these five characteristics improved odds of being successful but also it is important to remember than like a machine, the decision-making method can always be improved. Among the five characteristics are:

  • Multiple alternatives solutions. Generally, successful decisions result from a review of many alternative solutions. Be sure your team considers several alternatives before making a decision. This “point-counterpoint” approach helps to ensure that at least two alternatives are considered. Remember, a “go/no go” choice involves only one alternative. Consider all possible possibilities relative to the probability of success and general / specific risks involved.
  • Open and constructive debate. To generate creative alternatives, you need to facilitate open, constructive debate. Debate should be task-related, not emotional or personal and this is very important, remember that the said debate shall not be on finding who’s right but rather what’s right. Silence or suppressed arguments are signs that the debate is not sufficiently robust. Give everyone a space to express their views and opinions.
  • Stress-test your assumptions. It’s unlikely that your team will have complete information at the time a decision needs to be made. The team will have to make assumptions as it proceeds. Make sure members recognize when they are relying on facts and when they are making assumptions. They may still choose to use untested assumptions in the decision-making process, but should reevaluate the plausibility of these assumptions throughout the process.
  • Well-defined objectives. The team should continually review the objectives during the decision-making process to ensure that the discussion stays on target. If conditions change, the team should refine the objectives or even the definition of the problem to meet the new conditions. This shall be the responsibilty of the meeting chairman.
  • Perceived fairness. Engagement throughout the process is critical to the success of a decision. Team members should feel that their ideas are being considered in order to feel ownership of the final decision. If team members stop participating in conversations or are doing so reluctantly, they may be dissatisfied with the process. The general rule-of-thumb is everyone is given 2-minutes to express their views and opinions.

Examine whether or not the team is using the best method for the decision at hand. Determine if the decision-making method your team selects is appropriate for the types of decisions your team needs to make.

Know the consequences of unproductive decision-making processes. These include lost time, poor choices, and decisions that team members won’t support. Additional costs are erosion of morale, wasted energy, and the diversion of the team’s attention from its goals.

Be flexible. Sometimes the decision-making method a team selects originally no longer supports the team’s work and needs to be changed.

Like a machine, this decision-making methods shall be subjected to regular assessment and be improved according as and when necessary, it is supposed to experience evolution in regular basis.

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Tips for a better Web conference

Most organization prefer web conference more than physical meeting in an effort to reduce operational cost while maintaining and achieving the desired result. In addition, current technology would offer such solution at remarkably affordable price.

  • Provide multiple ways for people to connect to a meeting, such as office phone, computer, and various mobile devices. But make sure to handle the echo well.

  • Make sure team members know how to contact a technical support person for prompt assistance in case they experience technical difficulties.
  • Take charge. Make your agenda specific and stay on schedule. Keep participants engaged with frequent questions.
  • Establish meeting etiquette. For instance, ask people to say who they are each time they talk or say “I’m finished” when they’ve completed speaking, so participants don’t talk over one another.
  • Increase participation by using remote conference technologies that provide virtual meeting rooms for small group discussions.

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Following up post-meeting

Following up effectively after a meeting can ensure that the decisions made and ideas generated during the meeting get put into action. To follow up, identify next steps, communicate them to meeting participants and stakeholders, and evaluate the meeting’s effectiveness.

Identify next steps

Identifying next steps provides closure and a sense of accomplishment and progress. It also alerts all stakeholders about key decisions, ensures that everyone has heard the same information, and helps you prepare the follow-up you’ll send out after the meeting.

To identify next steps, consider the following:

  • What ? What decisions and outcomes came from the meeting? What tasks need to be done as a result of the meeting? To answer these questions, refer to the points recorded on the flip chart or whiteboard, and the notes you or the scribe took during the meeting.
  • Who? Who has responsibility for these tasks that must be done after the meeting? Meeting participants who volunteered to undertake specific actions during the meeting, in front of other participants, will be more likely to complete those tasks.
  • When? When must the tasks be completed? Be realistic about the dates. That will help ensure that tasks actually get carried out.

For some types of meetings, you’ll need to identify additional items to go in your follow-up communication. For example, for a problem-solving meeting, you may also want to identify:

  • How the problem was defined
  • How it was analyzed
  • Which alternatives were discussed
  • What the criteria were for deciding on a solution
  • What the final decision was
  • Who will follow up and by when
  • What the expected outcome is once the solution is implemented

Communicate

If at all possible, make your follow-up communication, what happened at the meeting, who’s doing what and by when and as concise as possible. Craft it in clear, accessible terms, so someone who wasn’t there can understand what happened.

Make sure your follow-up covers:

  • Who attended (Attendees list)
  • What the meeting objectives were (Objective)
  • Key topics discussed and decisions made (Key summaries)
  • Next steps (Way forward)
  • Date of any needed subsequent meeting or follow-up (Timeline)
  • A thank-you to those who participated (Note of appreciation)

Send the follow-up to all meeting participants and any stakeholders who couldn’t be at the meeting but need to be informed.

Evaluate

Determine whether your meeting was effective by judging its results. Ask yourself:

  • Were the appropriate people there?
  • Did most people participate?
  • Did the group work well together?
  • Did the meeting accomplish its objective(s)?
  • Were participants’ evaluations of the meeting positive?

If you can answer “Yes” to these questions, congratulate yourself because getting a meeting to go right is hard work.

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The proper way to end a meeting

Use these steps to end the meeting in a way that provides a sense of closure:

  1. Summarize. Briefly summarize what’s been accomplished.
  2. Clarify the action party. Clarify what comes next including action items and who’s responsible for each.
  3. Plan the way forward. Schedule another meeting, if necessary, to follow up on something that the group didn’t get to in this meeting.
  4. Share on the Minutes of Meetings (MoM) and ask for feedback. If there’s time, ask the group for an evaluation of the meeting. If there isn’t, tell them you’ll canvass them later for their opinions.
  5. Show appreciation to the attendees. Thank everyone for participating.

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How to address common issues with meeting

Murphy’s law is an adage or epigram that is typically stated as: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”. Therefore, it is a good idea to be prepared for the worst.

With meetings, you may not be able to predict all the bad things that could happen in a meeting. But there are some general patterns of meeting flow and participant behavior you can prepare for which we will discuss below.

Arriving late, leaving early

If some people habitually arrive late or leave before the meeting is over. They might be busy with other engagement which lead to on/off presence in the meeting. With these type of issue, you should

  • Give them jobs to do during future meetings, which will secure their time.
  • As the meeting begins, ask if everyone can stay until the designated end time. If not, consider adjusting the length of the meeting. Or propose to the personnel to sent a representative to attend the meeting on their behalf.
  • After the meeting, privately ask latecomers or early leavers why they missed part of the meeting. Develop solutions, such as giving them earlier notice of a meeting if they tend to be double-booked. Periodic reminder on the meeting could also be sent to remind required attendees with regards to the meeting.

Dominating the conversation

This is usually me, I tend to dominate the conversation and most of the time, I am unaware that I am behaving in such a way. If one person keeps dominating the discussion:

  • Move closer to the dominator. That draws the group’s attention away from that person and toward you.
  • Thank the person for the input. Then call on someone else.
  • If the person finishes other people’s sentences, encourage the individual to let others speak for themselves.
  • Ask the person to jot down any thoughts and wait for a pause to contribute them, instead of shouting them out.

Repetition

This one irritates me greatly. If people keep repeating points already made, you should

  • Keep track of agreed-upon points on a flip chart or whiteboard.
  • Point to the chart or board and say, “It looks like we’ve already covered that. Is there something new people want to add?”
  • If people continue repeating a point, say, “This is obviously important to the group. So let’s deal with it now.”

Disruption

If some participants disrupt the meeting:

  • Explain the ground rules for behavior, such as “No interrupting” or “No taking phone calls during the meeting.”
  • Remind everyone of the meeting’s focus: “We need to shape our innovation strategy for the year. Let’s concentrate on that?”
  • If the problem continues, call for a break. During the break, ask people individually what’s going on.

Stuck or confused group

If your group gets stuck on a discussion item or seems confused:

  • Ask the group what’s going on. If they’re stuck because they lack information or clarity about the item, provide what’s needed.
  • Suggest a short break. Then return to the topic at hand. Or move the item to a later position on the agenda or to another meeting.

Stuck or confused group

If your group gets stuck on a discussion item or seems confused:

  • Ask the group what’s going on. If they’re stuck because they lack information or clarity about the item, provide what’s needed.
  • Suggest a short break. Then return to the topic at hand. Or move the item to a later position on the agenda or to another meeting.

Conflict

If an angry conflict breaks out during your meeting:

  • Call an immediate halt to any bickering. If necessary, take a break and speak to the contenders individually.
  • Let all team members know it’s fine to be passionate, but encourage them to keep comments constructive and to try to see all sides of a contentious issue.
  • Reaffirm agreed-upon rules for behavior, such as “No insults.”
  • Use probing questions to uncover concerns underlying entrenched positions.
  • As a last resort, ask the contenders to leave the meeting.

Avoidance

If people are avoiding mentioning a big, obvious problem during the meeting:

  • Raise the issue to get the group moving.
  • Ask participants to describe the problem precisely.
  • Find out how long the problem has existed, who’s involved, and what’s at stake.
  • Thank participants who bring up a controversial viewpoint.
  • Let the group know it’s critical to bring up difficult issues.

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How to participate in a meeting

When You’ve Got an Idea

When you think you might have a good idea but aren’t overly confident about it, start with a caveat, such as:

  • Have we thought about…getting Steve involved in the PR campaign directly?
  • Did anyone mention…the report? I seem to recall it covered some of the same topics Ahmad has raised here.
  • Another option we may want to consider…is pushing back the timeline until early October.
  • Is it worth revisiting…last week’s meeting minutes to review the agreed-upon product specifications?

When You Disagree

When the conversation is heading in a direction you don’t agree with, finesse your comments so you come across as respectful:

  • I respectfully disagree with that assessment, Jon.
  • My experience has actually been quite different…I found the team to be highly engaging.
  • I just want to consider another perspective for a moment; what if we were to…go with the opposite approach?
  • I want to challenge our assumption. . . that we have to take this deal.

When You’re Confused

Here are some good phrases to use the next time you find yourself lost in a meeting:

  • Forgive me if I’m lost, but I’m a little confused about…which marketing program you’re suggesting we table.
  • I’m not entirely sure I’m following you; could you please recap what you just mentioned regarding…the August delivery?
  • I’m sure I’m supposed to know this already, but…how many attendees are we expecting at the conference next week?
  • I apologize if this is totally obvious to everyone here, but…what does CATS stand for?

However, make sure you did your research first before the meeting to minimize your confusion and to be in sync with the other participants.

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Tips for leading a meeting

Remember your responsibilities as leader of the meeting.

As you conduct a meeting:

  • Monitor your own level of participation to make sure you’re not dominating the discussion.
  • Control interrupters and dominators, so everyone can contribute.
  • Be positive and encouraging about the things people say.
  • Intervene if a participant criticizes or attacks another person’s contributions.
  • Highlight areas of agreement on a flip chart or whiteboard. This can help reinforce what the group has in common. It can also prevent people from reverting to issues that have already been settled.
  • If you sense intense interest in a particular issue, watch and listen for everyone who wants to contribute. Acknowledge these people with eye contact or a nod or by saying, “Let’s go around the table”.

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Basic ground rules for productive meeting

These basic ground rules can help you run a productive meeting:

  • Commit to ending the meeting on time.
  • Agree about how decisions will be made and identify the final decision maker for each agenda item.
  • Set a time limit on solving each problem or making each decision. Get approval from the group before going beyond the time allotted to a particular topic.
  • Clarify any relevant constraints, such as budget constraints that may limit the group’s range of options.
  • Agree to listen to each other and limit interruptions.

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How to start your meeting

Take the lead

By taking charge immediately, you start off on an authoritative note. And you boost the chances that your meeting will move along smoothly and without unnecessary diversion.

Therefore in order to open your meeting with authority:

  • Make sure to start on time. Even if a few participants are missing, start the meeting as if they were there. When they arrive and discover they’ve missed some important points, they’ll know not to be late next time. Avoid backing up and starting again when the latecomers arrive. Doing so will only reward them for being late. This is also to make sure that you respect the time and effort of those who did come on time.
  • Introduce the matters to be discussed. Briefly introduce the agenda, objectives, and desired outcomes of the meeting. Make sure to remind the participant that any other business (AOB) which are not part of the meeting agenda shall be noted but shall not be discussed during the current meeting.
  • Establish or review ground rules. Ground rules are the behaviors and principles group members agree on to ensure a constructive meeting, such as how decisions will be made and how much time will be spent on each agenda item.