One day, Mike Figliuolo and his team went to his boss to make a recommendation for action. Another team was present with its own recommendation and went first. The leader of the other team handed the boss the team’s 25-page presentation in support of the recommendation. The boss threw the 25 pages across the room and said, “Talk to me! What do you want? I’m busy. I don’t have time for all this paper.” As Figliuolo recounts in his book, The Elegant Pitch, “They were surprised. We weren’t. We knew better, and our presentation was three pages.” The Elegant Pitch is a tutorial on how to get recommendations accepted by making presentations that tell decision-makers everything they need to know — not everything you know. This may seem obvious, and yet most people never make the distinction, Figliuolo writes. Instead of carefully parsing down their presentations to the most salient and compelling points, they try to include every single supporting point, hoping that the cumulative weight of the argument will carry the day. The typical process for developing a recommendation, writes Figliuolo, follows four steps: 1) gather large amounts of data and do excessive amounts of analysis; 2) identify insights from this excessive analysis; 3) assemble all of the analysis into a comprehensive 30- to 60-page document to show the rigor of the analysis; 4) present this tome in a two-hour meeting, impressing decision-makers with the depth of the insights. Does it work? Not usually, writes Figliuolo.
The Structured Thought Process
To make presentations that lead to accepted ideas and recommendations, Figliuolo argues that the data-heavy and analysis-heavy tomes should be replaced by what he calls the “structured thought process.”
This process follows nine carefully defined steps that, he writes, must be followed in order:
1. Define the Question. What is the problem and why does it need to be solved? Absolute clarity is essential.