Delivering your Business Case

Posted by michaelk on Sep 9th, 2008
Sep 9

There are many steps in putting together a solid, quality business case for IT projects like scope, criteria, align, etc. but the single most important one in "selling" the case is story-telling.


I have presented more than my fair share of business cases and I can attest that this is by far the most important.  This step exists because of incorrect communication of the business case findings and rationale account for almost 20 percent of all the reasons why business cases fail.  If you can’t communicate your plan it will cover up the quality and relevance of the all the research and analysis that you and your team put into it.


I want to take a minute to share the tasks that are related to this last and final step in building a solid, quality business case for your IT projects.




#1:  Build graphics and narratives

At the core of a business case, the worth is not in the mass of numbers.  Your business case’s value always springs from the quality of the guided conversation it stimulates about the shape of the future.  I can tell you from first hand experience, conversations move people to action.  The data in your business case is merely the backdrop, albeit an important one.


The words, diagrams, and drawings that you present in the report must spark conversations that reflect an accurate understanding of the findings and rationale.  Here are some tips that I have used to do this:

  • Confirm who the audience is.  I always make, and so should you, to know the name, rank and serial numbers of my audience members.  My final reports are always written to known individuals, not to "To Whom it May Concern" types.
  •  Speak the audience’s language.  Speak the language of business or that of the decision makers you are presenting to.  Forget the all the technical jargon, it won’t do you any good at this level.
  • Help the data to talk.  What I’m talking about here is using charts to show proportions, trends, etc.  I use text to draw attention to important findings within the data and charts.  One additional thing to do is use what I call concept visuals.  This is where I take a page from Dan Roam and use drawings to illustrate key points.
  • Use succinct, vivid text.  Nothing drives me more crazy than watching a presenter write a long sentence when just a few words would suffice.  Take this to heart folks.  People that are going to be in your presentation are very busy people and probably have a very short attention span.  Use small potent words to help drive your point home.


#2:  Tell the ROI story


Graphs and charts are great, but not really enough and will still under-communicate unless you tell the story.  ROI storytelling is about relating people-oriented tales that illustrate a key theme, finding, or message of your business case.  Don’t go crazy here, but use this carefully.  The best times that I have found to apply the ROI story is;

  • When a key, somewhat complex, point needs to be clearly understood
  • When a key point needs to be believed and,
  • When a key point needs to be easily remembered


I have learned the hard way folks, don’t use a story when describing technically-oriented features or functions.  The best ROI story is the one which resonates with the decision makers.  It usually is the kind of story that deals with the enterprise as well as its customers, suppliers, and investors.  I have used customer stories that I have found in client marketing material along with some tidbits of information I pick up during assessment interviews with employees.


I’m going to close with some helpful hints. 

  1. Be clear on the purpose and duration of the presentation.  The purpose and duration drive everything else in the preparation and delivery of the presentation.
  2. Use charts and diagrams liberallyI would say that 90% of the key data communicated should be via graphics and drawings and backed up by the numbers.
  3. Allow plenty of time for questions. 
  4. Be ready for challenges and animosity from the audience.  Your conclusions, findings, rationale, data validity, and sources are all fair game to your audience.  Prepare your self and anticipate this.  Your meeting will be more successful if you do.  On the topic of animosity let me say this.  Business cases are bound to stir up controversy.  Be professional and speak to the antagonist with respect.  Respond directly to them and then try to move on.  If they persist offer to take the discussion offline.
  5. Get feedback.  This is my favorite thing especially if you can have this presentation before presenting your final report.  This should give you time to sharpen the final written report.


As I stated in my first post here.  Preparation is the key to success.  In every expedition I’ve been on, we spend months preparing.  The same goes for important presentations as well, it could save your professional credibility.


[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

Seven Questions from ethos3

Posted by Barry Flanagan on Aug 6th, 2008
Aug 6


Ethos3, the winner of last year World’s best Presentation Contest on and the driving force behind the recent Presentation Design Tennis, asked me last week to do a blog interview with them.

Here are the Seven Questions -


1.  What was the inspiration behind Public Speaking for Geeks?

2.  You obviously have done a lot of public speaking in your 15 years  in the technology field.  What is the greatest public speaking lesson  you have learned thus far?

3.  How important is story as it relates to the world of presentations?

4.  What is your definition of Presentation 2.0?

5.  Who is your favorite presenter?

6.  If you could offer one tip to a person who is opening PowerPoint  for the first time, what would it be?

7.  How important is right-brain thinking in your left-brain industry?



Follow this link to read "Seven Questions with Barry Flanagan".



[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

Five Tips to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking

Posted by Barry Flanagan on Aug 2nd, 2008
Aug 2


Fear of public speaking is extremely common. Even the most experienced speakers get nervous. Many beginning speakers are completely overcome with panic and anxiety. This one issue prevents more people from reaching their goal to be an effective speaker than any other in my opinion.


Overcoming this fear and panic is key to successfully communicating from in front of the room. If you do not appear confident to your audience, your audience will not likely feel confident in what you have to say. Recent research on mirror neurons suggests that we "we subconsciously put ourselves in the shoes of the person we’re observing and, accounting for relevant differences, imagine what we would desire and believe in that scenario".  If the audience senses your lack of confidence, many may infer the cause is that you do not believe in your own message. This can seriously undermine your message and chances for success.


Here are five ways to overcome your fear of public speaking -


  1. Be a Boy Scout – The Boy Scouts motto  is "Be Prepared". This is the most obvious method to overcome your fear. As I wrote in the Six Rs of Communication, it is essential to have a well defined result for both you and your audience. Answer the question "What’s in it for me?" for both you and the audience. Use this answer to guide you in your preparation of your visuals and remarks.  After you have created a crystal clear RESULT for your presentation, it is much easier to create your opening and closing, choose your main points, and build your content. Your result is what you want your audience to conclude (and act upon) when you are done. When you start at the conclusion, it is a much simpler task to create your opening, main points, and then tie everything back into that conclusion. 


You (and your audience) are much more likely to reach your destination if you know exactly where you are going. With a clear picture in your mind of both your destination and the route to reach that destination, you are much more likely to feel confident. If you do not know exactly where you are going or how to get there, fear of getting lost (and looking foolish or unprepared) is much more likely.



     2. Own the Room – Prior to your scheduled time to speak, make sure to find time to survey the room where your session will take place. Verify where you can stand and walk, and where you cannot. If you plan to use a flip chart or white board, make sure you know where the markers (and erasers) are. If there is a projector and your are showing Powerpoint slides, test the projector with your laptop. Ensure your your screen resolution works with the projector. Verify you can power on the projector and project your slides on the screen. If you will be using a microphone, ensure it works and that you know how to power it on and off. Do a sound check (especially if there is an AV crew present). The goal here is to eliminate as many surprises as possible. Ensure that you feel comfortable in the space where you have to speak so that you are not distracted by the environment.


    3. Work the Room - Whenever possible you should try to meet as many members of the audience as possible. Meet and greet people who will be in the audience and dig down into why there are attending the session. Make sure you really understand their answer to the all important question "What’s in It for Me?". The primary goal here is to have as many friendly faces as possible in the audience. Remove the fear of speaking in front of strangers by minimizing the number of strangers.

    As you become more experienced, this technique can help you take your presentations to the next level. Probe for back ground stories that you can use a part of your session. One or two well told stories that are specifically relevant to the audience will increase both your credibility and rapport with the audience.


    4. Breathe like a baby – If you follow the first three tips, your anxiety and fear of public speaking should be greatly reduced. You may still get last minute jitters. I have given well over 700 presentations and I still get jitters. This next technique helps me eliminate those last minute butterflies in my stomach. Diaphragmatic breathing is a great way to release tension and quickly relive stress and anxiety. "To breathe diagrammatically, or with the diaphragm, one must draw air into the lungs in a way which will expand the stomach and not the chest. It is best to perform these breaths as long, slow intakes of air – allowing the body to absorb all of the inhaled oxygen while simultaneously relaxing the breather."




    I combine this technique with a simple mediation technique I learned many years ago. I place my left hand on my stomach just below my rib cage and breathe in deeply. I push my stomach against my hand to ensure I am using the diaphragm. As I breathe in, I silently count to myself "Ten". As I breathe out, I push my stomach in, expand my chest and count "nine. I breathe in again as I push against my hand with my stomach and count "eight". Then breathe out and count "seven". I  continue this down to one. If I still need to relax further, I slide my hand an inch or two lower on my stomach and start counting down again from ten. I have shared this technique with many others and it has never failed to relax anyone who follows the steps.


    5. Use a Royal Entrance – I learned this final technique from a class mate in a presentation class in Dallas many years ago. This technique not only relaxes me, but it invariably puts a smile on my face and pumps me up.

    Just before you get up to speak, imagine a trio of trumpets is playing a royal fanfare for you as if you were a king or queen entering the room. Just play this quickly inside your head. Here is an example -








With these five techniques you can overcomes that fear of public speaking and transform into a much more confident, capable and successful speaker.


[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

The “Last Lecture” Lives on

Posted by Barry Flanagan on Jul 25th, 2008
Jul 25


Randy Pausch, well known for his "Last Lecture" he gave at Carnegie Mellon University after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, has died at age 47. My condolences to his family.


You can find the site for his new book "The Last Lecture" here.


"The Lact Lecture" presentation by Randy is one of the most moving, motivational, inspirational and powerful presentations I have ever seen.

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

What are your Speaking Strengths and Weaknesses?

Posted by Barry Flanagan on Jul 24th, 2008
Jul 24


Which speaking skill is you greatest strength? Which is your biggest weakness? Vote below -





You can add you own suggestion in the "Other" box.


[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

Next »