How To Be Convincing When Pitching a New Idea


“He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.” – Edmund Burke (Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790)

When pitching a project, you’ll increase your chances of success if you draw a simple and compelling picture of the benefits it will bring. Of the benefits you mention, those that go to those who will approve the project are the most important.

So that’s the first thing: Make a clear and vivid promise. Next, you should do your best to make your project seem both reasonable and feasible. You can do that by showing your arithmetic — proving that the numbers you are promising are more than likely to come true.

But even that is not enough. You should also provide at least two alternative scenarios — if things don’t work “quite as well” and if things don’t work “at all.”

By showing that “worst-case scenarios” aren’t so bad, you reduce the fear that might thwart your project and show yourself to be more prudent.

What do you do if, despite your best “sales” efforts, your good idea is rejected?

Don’t automatically assume that the people opposing it are truculent ninnies. Keep in mind that change-resistant people have an important role in progress: They are there to challenge assumptions and provide time for testing.

After the meeting, don’t spend a minute sulking.

* Jot down — in bullet form, if possible — the primary objections to your idea.

* Go over the objections with a trusted colleague (someone who will tell you the truth) and evaluate which ones have merit.

* Restructure your idea accordingly.

* Write a memo thanking your critics for their helpful input and scheduling another time to present a new idea that “incorporates” their “good advice.”

Do this and three good things will happen.

1. You will dramatically increase the likelihood that your project will be approved.

2. You will probably increase the chance that your project will succeed.

3. You will feel better about yourself immediately after writing the memo.