Do you have a great idea? Then you probably need to get approval or support from at least one senior leader.

That means creating a pitch presentation. But before you start sweating bullets, you need to plan your attack.

Start with the premise that presenting to a group of executives is similar to talking with your team members. In both situations, the first step is gaining a clear understanding of your audience's needs and values, which will help you plan your message for maximum impact. 

Here are some common needs and values that leaders share:

  •  Results oriented
  •  Interested in the big picture, not specific details
  • Limited time/attention span

The best approach is to link your ideas to leaders' needs by providing:

  • Strong reasoning to support your point-of-view
  • Compelling facts to back up your key points
  • Clear objectives and strategies
  • A broad based, company-wide perspective

Here is a five-step process for blending together the essential elements needed to persuade leaders:

Step 1: Grab leaders' attention
Leaders are bombarded with a constant flow of information. As a result, they have short attention spans and little tolerance for details. Therefore, the first step in persuading leaders is cutting through the clutter and engaging them in your topic. Here's how:

  • Establish credibility. Demonstrate to leaders that you understand their challenges and concerns.
  • Make your message meaningful and personal. Engage leaders by relating your topic to their current interests and needs.
  • Manage expectations. Preview the key points of your presentation to orient leaders to your topic.
  • Reveal the outcome up front. Cut to the chase and tell leaders the overall goal of your plan/program. For example, "My plan will save the company three million dollars over the next five years."

Step 2: Establish a common need
After you've captured leaders' attention, introduce a common need or problem to be resolved. Effective strategies include:

  • Predict the future. Discuss the ramifications if the need isn't resolved.
  • Personalize the impact. Describe how the need impacts leaders on a personal level. 
  • Make the need vivid and believable by telling a story, providing compelling facts, showing a visual and/or sharing testimonials.

Step 3: Propose a solution that satisfies the need
Now it's time to unveil your master plan to resolve the need. Be sure to include a clear description of how your plan will benefit the company. Here are some suggestions:

  • Arrange your ideas logically. Organize your plan so it's quick and easy to understand. 
  • Draw from past experiencesDescribe past situations when a similar approach was successful.
  • Prepare for objections. Anticipate leader's questions and address them accordingly within your presentation.

Step 4: Describe the future state
At this stage of your presentation, you need to help leaders visualize how your plan will impact the company's future. Tips include:

  • Leverage the pain/pleasure principle. Paint a mental picture of how the company will function better with your plan in place and review the consequences of not implementing it.
  • Highlight the pros and cons. Describe how the positive aspects of your plan outweigh any drawbacks.

Step 5: Issue a call to action
The last part of your presentation is the most critical. Key components include:

  • Summarizing your messageHighlight the main points of your presentation.
  • Gaining leaders' buy-in. Ask leaders for their support.
  • Demonstrating your personal commitment. Outline the steps you'll take to implement your plan/program.