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Dane Howard: I have watched incredible communicators captivate a room on the premise of only an idea. I have also seen incredible ideas and products fall flat because they were communicated poorly. The influence of any idea lies in the careful craft of communicating it effectively. An effective pitch must address and anticipate the concerns and questions of the audience, whether that's telling a story or putting something tangible into someone's hands. Charles Warren: The big mistake the younger product managers and engineers make is they spend a whole lot of time sort of setting up what it is that they are going to talk about, when, basically you just want to show it.
But they are so proud and nervous that they have to go through all these, like, "And then and this and this. Blah, blah, blah." So my thing is just put it out there as quickly as you can. Rob Girling: No surprises is actually a really good rule of thumb for basically not allowing time or distance to play a factor in the cadence of communication. So keep it constant, and there will be no big surprises at the end. Ryan Tandy: Get in a room, or get on a wall with a bunch of people with pen, and try to visualize what you are talking about. Take your words and just turn them in pictures, start showing how concepts fit together, and how they link together. Sometimes you can sort of step back and the end of a meeting and look at something, and it looks like total chaos.
It's like, I understand every element of that. Guthrie Dolin: I think another approach that I found is really successful is what I like to call the "planned epiphany," and that is kind of build a deck that anticipates sort of the next logical question along the process of sort of coming to a solution. If you're doing it just right, there is a point in the conversation where you'll show a slide, or you'll show a screen, and the client will stop you and say, "Hey Guthrie, wait! You know, I have got a question about that.
If that's true, then how do we handle X?" And you will say, "Funny you should ask that. Next slide!" Charles: I like to pick the person who is kind of most passionate about it, whoever the author is. I think it's actually--sort of anything that goes right on my team, is whoever is on my team's fault, and anything that goes wrong is my fault. So if the pitch is going to go right-- and I usually make sure it does--I am not going to deliver it.
Rob: I remember a story of trying to pitch a game to Sony, and there was a lot of skepticism in the company about the company's ability to do this grander vision of the game, and I was sort of brought in to try to muscle that through. One of the things that I did was immediately wrote up this rude Q and A. So, sort of like here's all the rude questions that I am going to get asked right out of the gate about what it is that we're doing, and what's the plan. And it sort of acted as a really good way for me to address all the concerns that were clearly there in the organization about like how much scope and how much vision was a part of this. And it just sort of got all of the kind of rude Q and A stuff out of the way really quickly.
Charles: So my team makes stuff that shows up on mobile screens, and that's ephemeral, right? It's so abstract. So I get all my designers to always put it on the screen, even if it's just a screenshot, and then put the device in the person's hand that we're trying to pitch, because then they are looking at it. It's close. So just that making it, even if it's UI, making it make a noise when you drop it. I think it's really important to make whatever it is, the idea that you have, tangible.
Build it a little ways, fake it somehow, make a drawing, make a use case, make a storyboard, act it out, have somebody come along, and have the person you're pitching, "You play the user. You are the person in the drive through, and I am the check-out clerk." Act it out with them. Anything you can do to make it tangible. Again, put something in somebody's hands, get them to use their body, have them stand up from the desk--whatever it is.
Just make it as real as you can. Make that future you want to create, real.
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