Yes, you have all the data to back up your recommendation. You are confident that management will agree once they understand your proposal. After all, aren’t you the one with the most experience and knowledge?
Then why do you feel anxious?
And why are you having a hard time pulling together a concise, compelling proposal?
Here’s where the Triple A Strategy can get you moving toward success.
Triple A stands for Analysis, Abstract, and Agenda.
When you encounter a block in preparing something you are familiar with, step back to examine your ideas from a different view.
The Triple A Strategy helps identify what you need to do to communicate your proposal with authority.
Communicate with Authority
Follow these three strategies to strengthen your proposal:
Do an Analysis of your proposal objectives, desired outcomes, and benefits to your audience
Start with an Abstract to get your audience to a common understanding immediately
Provide an Agenda to maintain audience attention on your salient points.
Instead of going over your data yet again, take a step back and analyze what you want to achieve with your proposal. Name all your objectives and list the outcomes you desire. Equally important, after you have identified these, now answer the question: Why would your audience care?
Your answers will empower you to identify ways to presenting your proposal more forcefully.
You already know you want approval. And what else? More money? More time? More authority? More bodies? New equipment? New location? Specify all of these to help you determine the best strategy for your proposal.
When a biochemist, for example, analyzed her objectives, she realized a key outcome she desired was a new methodology. And she realized almost immediately that pushing for the new methodology in the same proposal was not a strategic move. While compelling, her data would not overcome objections to a new methodology.
Consequently, she decided to set aside her proposal. Instead, she addressed the need for a new methodology first. Despite strong objections initially, she received agreement. After getting approval for her new methodology, she then successfully pursued approval of her proposal.
Similarly, after analyzing what would make his audience care about his proposal, an engineer made a surprising discovery. He realized that his management would want to see to see his data presented in a different way – monthly savings as opposed to per use efficiencies that he, as a technical expert, favored.
Finding this out beforehand through analysis of his audience helped to ensure a successful proposal.
In summary, Analysis of your objectives, desired outcomes, and benefits to your audience empowers you to consider key elements essential for success.
All technical professionals are familiar with the value of an abstract. An abstract provides succinct key findings and their significance at a high level that is understandable to everyone. An abstract serves as a map through the often complex terrain of the full article.
Doesn’t it make sense then to provide a really good guide, so your audience knows immediately what you are proposing, why, and the benefits to them?
Unfortunately, in the world of work, many technical professionals often rely on a chronological unfolding of their data gathering and analysis, with background first and then concluding with the proposal.
However, it is at the beginning of any communication – whether in writing or in a presentation – that you have most of your target audience’s attention.
The beginning is the best place to provide a concise summary of your information. In persuasive communication, you can be strategic in what you include in your Abstract.
As in the Analysis step where you make strategic decisions about your content, here’s another instance where knowing what makes your audience care is critical.
For example, depending on your audience’s attitude, your Abstract might open with:
Benefits of your recommendation, if your audience is negative or resistant.
Or Alternative solutions and why they won't work, if your audience is knowledgeable about availabile options.
Or your recommendation, if you have a friendly audience.
A high tech manager learned how compelling a concise summary can be when he prepared a report recommending that five of his company’s products be discontinued because of shelf life issues.
He was overwhelmed by the prospect of presenting the volumes of data he had gathered.
We advised him to create a simple table listing all the company products along one axis and the shelf life issues listed across the other axis. Then he put a large, bold X where the problem products and the most serious shelf life issues intersected.
This unique abstract told the entire story in one compelling chart.
If you feel overwhelmed by your information, realize the strong possibility of the same impact on your audience. Then reach for an Abstract as the antidote.
After the Abstract, whether in a presentation or writing, follow up with an Agenda.
Here are three techniques to make the agenda a powerful tool for communicating with authority:
Use message statements, not just labels, for each item of your Agenda. For example, state "Three Advantages of the Proposed Design,"instead of simply "Proposed Design."
Use the Agenda to set the scope. Anything outside the agenda is beyond the scope of your communication. This helps to eliminate extraneous comments and off-topic challenges.
Use Agenda items as transitions throughout to maintain audience attention on your salient points.
Keep your agenda brief – no more than seven items. You want to project an air of authoritative brevity and focus. Outlines are a definite no-no.
So there you have it, the Triple A Strategy for communicating with authority – whether in writing or in a presentation. Next time, you experience difficulty in preparing a proposal, remember to use Analysis, Abstract, and Agenda.