Intrapreneurs in product engineering roles sometimes get to meet high ranking execs, to pitch and discuss innovation ideas. How do you engage the complete attention of a CEO, especially one who is an engineer at heart? Here are ten things to use and prepare for in your interaction. These are picked to increase the chances that she walks away with the right impression and remembers your work several months later.
1. SIMPLE AND COMPACT
She’s an engineer, so she’s on your side already. Keep the language and narration straightforward and easy to comprehend (but not simplistic). Eliminate as much jargon and BS as possible.
2. THE BACKSTORY
Every attempt to innovate or change the world starts with a trigger. Talk about what got you here. And if you have a story ending that neatly brings you back to the trigger, you’ll have closed the loop.
3. SEEK A SURPRISE
Narrations that reveal something unexpected or unusual are significantly more memorable. Admittedly, your CEO knows everything. So if you can surprise him, you’ll have done well. Seek that surprise and call it out. For instance,
Solving something that everyone thought challenging or impossible
Overturning an assumption
Being the first to do something
Learnt something unusual that most people didn’t realise
Found a latent problem that no one else realises exists
4. SUMMARISE, THEN EXPAND
You won’t have much time. So deliver the gist (what you do, why, how, and where you reached) early and then get into the details. That way if you run out of time, you’ll have got the key points out. One way to do this is to assume you will be cut off at 5 mins. Will you have mentioned everything important by then?
5. PREPARE TO BE INTERRUPTED
Chances are that you’ll be peppered with questions early (usually a good sign). Know which of your slides and material is expendable and move things into an appendix.
6. INVITE HER VIEWS
Treat them as a peer (albeit a senior one). So don’t let them go without seeking their opinion about your work. Often, people are so anxious to say what they’ve prepared is that they miss an opportunity to truly engage. So ask questions and feel comfortable in having a chat.
7. HOW CAN HE HELP?
Do you have a specific ‘ask’? Ideas, resources, next steps? Don’t hesitate to ask. You might advance your idea by 10x just be making the right kind of request.
8. TIE IT INTO THE BIG PICTURE
Don’t forget to appeal to the Exec’s hat. If your work ties in directly with their vision, strategic objectives, and things that are likely to be keeping them up at night, then hook into that. You’ll have their full attention.
9. IT’S NOT PERFECT. (NOT YET.)
No, your work can’t do everything. Engineers know that. Build trust by briefly talking about what doesn’t work. But point out what you’ve learned that will be useful to others, and what happens next. What can he learn from your experience so far?
10. REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT
Studies show that listeners forget as much as 90% of information presented to them. Is there something you want your audience to remember about your work? Ensure you repeat the key part of your message in various ways through the presentation. Don’t rely on their memory to do it!