Article published in American City Business Journals on March 6, 2023.
One of the key skills for professional success is the ability to effectively communicate to decision makers when asking for approval of a capital project above your authority level. As I rose to the position of CEO and as I served as a director on numerous boards, I have read through and listened to capital project requests that were not clear on what was being asked for at the beginning of the proposal.
Boards of directors should establish capital approval authority for various organization levels. For example, the CEO may have the authority to spend up to $1 million on a capital project, above which the project would need to go to a board committee or the board itself for approval.
For a project being presented to the board to expand capacity to serve a new market, the first two sentences of your verbal presentation and written proposal might be:
I request approval to invest in ABC project to expand our ability to serve XYZ market. The investment is $X million, yielding a net present value of $Y million and an internal rate of return of Z%.
Present the above key information up front in an executive summary. If appropriate for the justification of the project, present all backup information in a document behind the executive summary. This could include strategic considerations, possible competitive response, a risk/sensitivity analysis of the parameters driving the net present value/internal rate of return and source of funding (internal cash flow or borrowed funds). Depending on the nature of the project, the detailed report should also address alternatives to the project and the consequences if the project is not undertaken.
A good practice is to anticipate the approvers’ questions and address them before they are asked during the presentation.
Give crisp responses to questions
Some presenters respond to questions with long answers that provide more detail than necessary. Responses should be crisp and to the point so as not to detract from what you are trying to achieve—approval of your project. Responses longer than necessary take focus away from what you are presenting and invite an interruption.
Improve your PowerPoint presentations
How many times have you sat through a presentation by an expert in the field where you could not read the PowerPoint slides that were being presented because the slides were packed with too much information, the fonts were too small or there was insufficient contrast between the fonts and the slides’ background? How many times was a graph presented that was too small to be readable, even by audience members not far from the front of the room?
Whenever a PowerPoint presentation is ineffective, not only is the presentation weakened, but the inability to clearly communicate casts doubts on the expertise of the presenter.
The best way to communicate verbally or in writing is to put yourself in the place of the intended audience and ask yourself how you would like to receive the information. Too many people don’t consider this and it hurts their ability to effectively communicate what they are trying to say.
Follow the above guidance, not only when requesting approval of a capital project, but in all of your professional communications.
Stan Silverman is founder of Silverman Leadership and author of “Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success.” He is also a speaker, advisor and widely read nationally syndicated columnist on leadership. He can be reached at Stan@SilvermanLeadership.com.