The presentation of an innovation project before an audience that must decide on its continuity, or its approval, or on a contribution of resources, is a crucial moment in which it must be summarized in time, which can be short, everything important that this project implies and entails. It is a synthesis effort in which there must be a balance between all the parts, but above all, it requires highlighting those ideas and elements that allow directing the decision to the positive side.
However, on numerous occasions, teams make mistakes that are almost always recurrent, that is, they stumble over the same stone that another team has previously tripped. The worrying thing is that they are mistakes that should not be made because if those teams were put on the other side of the table, that is if they were evaluating they would detect them and they would not be approved. But however they consider the project as theirs, they do not see the errors it has, or the deficiencies it presents. And it is not usual for someone on the team to run as a “devil’s advocate” to question what he or the rest of his teammates have done; If one questions the rest, the team’s confidence is likely to be undermined.
That is why this list of some of the mistakes that I have observed being made in a project presentation may be useful:
- Spending too much time explaining the environment of the problem, the cause of the problem, the collateral aspects that relate to the problem. While it is true that you need to contextualize the problem or opportunity, this presentation should not last more than a third of the total time available.
- Use language that is not understood, or known, by those who are not evaluating. When we are experts on a subject or have been working on something for a long time, we usually make the mistake of explaining ourselves, thinking that others know what we know. And it is a very serious mistake. We have to know who is going to listen to us, and if we do not know, it is better to think that they do not know anything about it. And then use a language that they can understand and, above all, explain those technical concepts that are relevant.
- Explain in-depth the technical or technological solution that we are going to develop, or that we have developed. The truth is that in most cases how something has been done has little importance concerning what is obtained. However, when in the development of a technical or technological solution a series of knowledge has been obtained that is differential or new and can be protected by any of the industrial property instruments such as patents or industrial secrets. So we should highlight it in our presentation.
- Not explaining what are the differential elements concerning the existing solutions, and if these do not exist then not exposing it. It is, without a doubt, very important to state what makes a solution different, but especially because it is better than the existing one. Because that added value is what should make customers buy that solution. But if the solution is new and responds to a problem for which there was no solution until now, then this should be highlighted in a relevant way.
- Name a series of strategic allies with whom you have not had any contact yet. Singularly when that strategic contact belongs to the Public Administrations. It is very nice and it is good to say that the strategic ally of the project is the “government of the country”, it only remains to say that it is a project “endorsed by the State”. But many times this is a desideratum that has not yet been formalized or even the first contact has not been made.
- Do not indicate in the income figures which are the hypotheses on which we have based to give these forecasts. As is often said, “Excel can handle everything.” It is very easy in a spreadsheet to put values and calculate an income result. But that is not enough, it is necessary to explain where or why the starting values have been set. When the evaluator asks about the starting hypotheses, it is necessary to have it well prepared, but it is better to have mentioned it before. These starting hypotheses are those that allow the evaluator to understand whether the economic foundations of the project are well-founded or what has been done is a “toast to the sun”.
- Not taking into account legal, fiscal, or environmental aspects. Any innovation that is introduced to the market from the moment it is marketed has both legal and fiscal implications. A product or service will have to comply in each country with the regulations that apply to it. Thus, in the case of the European Union, most consumer products will have to comply with the CE marking requirements, or in the case of digital services, they will have to comply with the RGPD. But if there are economic transactions, there will be tax implications in which the different taxes must be considered, and if there are international transactions, what implications could there be. Especially in digital solutions in recent times many countries are considering modifying taxation to avoid tax avoidance carried out by certain international companies.
These are the main errors that I have observed that are repeated (all or only some) in the presentations of innovation projects.