Why is it so nerve-wrecking to present my ideas to my bosses? Do you get that many butterflies in your tummy before a meeting with the big bosses too? Especially if it is you who will be presenting an idea to them?
I recently had an opportunity to propose a project vision to my superiors. Oh boy was that an emotional roller coaster!
At least a week before the pitch, I started bullet-pointing my ideas into slides. This week was when the jitters began as well. When an idea includes change in mindset, beliefs, behaviours of individuals and even systems, and you are only allocated an hour (and another half at a push), how do you visualise that in the least amount of slides possible? (You know what?! Perhaps I shouldn't have used slides! Oh well, that's a realisation for another day) So, with help from a slide template, to friends who gave me valuable feedback on liking my ideas and toning down my language (too research-thesis-like, apparently), to a fiancé who assisted me in rewriting my thoughts and reframing its flow, I managed to put 3 months thoughts into about 10 slides or so.
How do you word out or visualise a mindset and practice-changing idea in the least amount of slides?
At least 2 months before the slides creation, I tried my hand on crafting the mid-long term goal(s) I want to anchor our work to. From then on, began the gathering of intels and data, drafting of sketches, documenting of user stories, scaffolding of the strategy, designing of testing plans, and hosting of show and tells. This allowed me time to iterate on the idea I had, validate assumptions I made, and enabled me to grow my confidence in my proposal.
Feedback is crucial for iteration of ideas and design. Feedback is a gift!
And at least a month before the "vision-crafting", I read up on papers and articles related to our project as a flair-before-focus activity to begin my search for the scope for the project. Of course, one should have some ideas in mind to start with, and I had keywords to start my search with from previous discussions with my superiors on something a little more short term we had in mind. With this, I was able to follow a rabbit-hole deep enough to have a more solid view of what's been tried and discussed out there, and how they align with the project I'm on. Yet shallow enough for me not to go spiraling down uncontrollably into zones outside my locus of control and get depressed about wicked problems I may not be able to solve.
TL;DR: So, in 3 months, I went from blue sky ideation, to grounded theorising, to reaching for potentials, then back to feasible solutionising. My feelings went from "I am going to change the world" to "Am I sure this will work on the ground?" to "Let's try to be the change!" to "What am I backing this up with?" to "How do I chunk this huge plan out so it is more doable?". But most importantly, my belief that "collaboration is key on the journey to bring change" stands true, and that's a reassurance of my life philosophy.
Collaboration is key on the journey to bring change.
Finally, I called into the meeting (yea, we work from home these days), and with butterflies in my guts, re-introduced the project and began my pitch. Unconsciously, after what felt like 5 minutes of talking on my end, the butterflies disappeared! Sticking to an advice given: "Ensure your superiors take away the feeling of excitement and investment in the same goal you have", I boldly shared my thoughts on the project. Once I started sharing my own vision of this project, the feeling of ownership then translated into the passion and animatedness I (think I) brought to the presentation. Another essential agenda of the meeting was also to kickstart conversations and collaborations towards fulfilling the company vision, so I was very okay to receive any questions, comments, or even rebuttals. So, to be assured after my pitch, that the end goal aligns with the recent talks my superiors were having, was a huge relief! Anyhow,
Then, 2 days after the pitch, I began to realise how much of my Masters studies came into application in the past few months. I felt sorry for belittling the concept of post-graduate education and even sorrier for myself for expecting everything I learned in a year to be immediately applicable in a new role I was given.
My takeaways for a smoother idea pitching experience:
- Prep! Do the relevant research, intel gathering, talk to people if you need information. Then, connect the dots, find connection in different information you have collected. Use all these information to develop your ideas, from what to do/achieve, to how-to-do-it, to how to assess it. Prepare in a few perspective, but for the pitch, design it to fit your stakeholders' needs. Find out what they will want to know to be able to support you in your plans, then answer those questions.
- Believe in your prep, truly believe. Once you believe you have the answers, confidence comes naturally. If you have imposter syndrome like me, and constantly doubt yourself, look for reassurance from others. Bounce your thoughts with people you trust to solidify your ideas. Let them poke holes in your plan, then patch those holes properly, or rebuild if necessary.
- Gain the calm by being humble. Be open and ready for feedback, comments, questions. It is okay to not have all the answers. I think accepting that fact helps me steady myself during the presentation. Even if they give you harsh criticism (shame on them), it is an opportunity to learn and iterate your ideas, and that's a good thing! If they ask questions, they're engaged! You may not have answers for their questions, but that is a chance for further collaboration to figure the answer out!
- Treat your superiors like a class of young learners. Your listeners are there to learn about your ideas. Engage them emotionally to trigger their thinking and leave a lasting impression. Speak from the heart, but be cautious of rambling (I do that a lot too). Do cold-calling to ask for their thoughts (keep them on their toes. LOL). If you can read visual cues from their facial or bodily expressions, narrate that out loud to let them know their micro-expressions speaks to you too.