You don’t have to get heavy with the science of an innovation to achieve buy-in from other business units. In fact, too many details can turn off or confuse the most important people you’re trying to pitch to. Being knowledgeable is enough. The important thing is to tell a story that covers all the technical and non-technical commercial aspects that ultimately answer every department’s question of: So what? Now what?
Ask yourself: What are the legal, regulatory, and safety hurdles? Can marketing sell it–what’s the claim on the box? Does it align with executive leadership’s top-line revenue goals? Supply chain, scale-up, packaging, cost/margin of the final product… any of these concerns can kill an innovation even with good technical results and consumer appeal. Make sure your presentation checks all those boxes, and then format the story with a beginning, middle and end.
Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains. — Steve Jobs
I once was presenting to a customer during a sales call. One minute into the introduction, they pulled someone high up the food chain in from another meeting to listen. It was somewhat by design on my part, because the introduction contained the high-level overview of that particular technology’s broad commercial value. Getting right to the So what? Now what? immediately clued the audience in on how this technology could be relevant and set the wheels in motion for top-level buy-in.
A simple, entrepreneur-style story is effective with a technical audience, too. Once, while working with a software retailer as a technical lead, I was pitching to a room full of 15 PhD level chemists and aerospace engineers at a big company. At the end of it, they were hopping around like caffeinated monkeys they were so excited. I showed the presentation to a co-worker who said, “This is like explaining quantum mechanics to my grandmother.”
Simplicity works even when you’re pitching something complex to smart people. They bought the product, largely because my presentation was so basic that they could understand the technology’s alignment with the larger business goals.
Staying simple on a story lets people get the whole picture. Translating it into their language–in terms of company goals and commercial applications and branding and market impact–gets them excited to pick the project up and move it forward.
Once you’re in front of an audience, stop being a scientist. Become an entrepreneur. Tell your innovation story like you’re pitching a startup to an investor. That’s the secret to pitching innovation internally.
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The Speaking Scientist, Nick Milanovich, PhD is a rare combination of scientist, speaker, and presentations coach, with a head for marketing and sales. In addition to being Director, Innovation Services Group at Xinova, he helps other scientists and engineers communicate in a way that is meaningful to their sponsors, investors, and customers. Nick holds a PhD in biophysical chemistry and has published and presented on diverse topics such as clinical dentistry, cancer diagnostics, and quantum mechanical modeling of aerospace materials. Nick has guided countless scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and organizations with developing impactful presentations, investor pitches, and marketing materials in ways that resonate with their audiences. Nick has developed a reputation for exceptional results with start-ups, national and internationally recognized companies, and universities.
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