Technical experts complain that the people in charge don’t listen to them.
The people in charge complain that technical experts go into too much detail and take too long to get to the point, if they even have one.
Because the people in charge have the final say — that’s what being in charge means — it’s up to the technical experts to change.
If you’re a technical expert and you want your ideas to get a hearing or, better yet, to be understood, accepted, and implemented, you have to change the way you make presentations.
The best way to win support for your idea is to think long and slow (which you’re good at) and to speak fast (which isn’t your typical style).
When I say “speak fast,” I don’t mean that you have to pick up the pace of your delivery, although that may be helpful.
You don’t have to talk like a New York taxi driver who has had one too many cups of coffee.
To speak fast means to get to your point as quickly as possible and to take as little time as necessary to make your case.
The higher leaders rise in an organization, the less time they have. The more impatient they become. The less willing they are to wade through long and overly detailed presentations.
So do your research, analysis, thinking, planning, and preparation — your long and slow thinking — before your presentation.
Then develop one idea that you can present quickly.
Depending on the leaders involved, on their needs, and on their schedule, I recommend preparing and practicing three fast versions of the same presentation:
- The Micro-Pitch — 30 Seconds or Less
The micro-pitch is your presentation in a nutshell: the summary of your main idea. It may sound something like, “I propose adopting a new technology, which is faster and more accurate than what we currently have and will save us money.”
- The Mini-Pitch — 3 to 5 Minutes
If you’re given the time, flesh out the information or ideas you presented in the micro-pitch. So you may explain (briefly) what the new technology is, and what makes it faster, more accurate, and cheaper.
- The Pitch-in-Full — Up to 15 minutes
When speaking to upper management, you rarely have more than 15 minutes. (They’re busy, remember, and their time is limited.) If they give you 15 minutes on the agenda, plan on speaking for 8 to ten minutes. Leave the rest of time free for discussion.
The idea behind speaking fast is to address the most important matters first. And present the least amount of information — not the most — required to gain acceptance for your idea.
Give leaders what they want — information and ideas they can use to help the organization achieve its business objectives. Give it to them fast.
Think long and slow. Speak fast.