How to Propose New Ideas

by Michelle Barry; Updated September 26, 2017
Happy Business People In Meeting

Pitching an idea to your superiors or during a business meeting can be intimidating. But speaking up with new ideas and suggestions can show management you are looking to take initiative, which can be a positive for you, even if your ideas aren't ultimately used. The manner in which you suggest your idea and how you follow up on that can determine the success of the pitch and the level of regard your employers have for you.

Build a Relationship

If you are planning to pitch an idea to management, work to make your relationships with higher-ups as positive as possible beforehand. Entrepreneur.com recommends fostering a trustworthy relationship with your boss before pitching. Proving yourself to be reliable, professional and responsible can give your idea more attention and your suggestions more merit. This can entail everything from consistently showing up to work on time and meeting deadlines to maintaining professional and collaborative relationships with your colleagues.

Identify a Target Stakeholder

To identify which stakeholder to target in your pitch, consider which department the idea would impact most and address the leader of that department. Research the projects the stakeholders have championed in the past, campaigns and projects they were passionate about, or even any charitable causes they support to see if any could relate to your idea. This can provide you an angle to pitch to convince the target stakeholder.

Research and Anticipating Questions

Before pitching an idea, research all aspects of it. Look into what departments or policies the idea might impact, the markets it could affect, and the pros and cons. If there are any studies or statistics related to it, have those on hand during your pitch. Put yourself in your boss's seat and think about what would matter to you. Prepare answers to any questions that arise from that exercise in case you are asked during the meeting.

Keep it Short

Entrepreneur.com recommends keeping the initial pitch short. Propose the idea and win interest first, then provide the finer details in later meetings. This helps you maintain interest that could wane in a longer presentation. According to Inc.com, the elevator pitch has three clear elements: the benefit, the differentiator and the ask. Define how your idea helps the company during the "benefit" portion, why the idea is more effective than the current process in the "differentiator" and whether you can set a time to discuss the idea in more detail during the "ask" portion. As the name suggests, elevator pitches should be about as long as an elevator ride -- a minute or two at the most.

Follow Up

It could be difficult to gather momentum for your idea initially. Even if your boss appears interested in your initial pitch, the interest could fade once the meeting adjourns. After the meeting, send an email to ask for your boss's availability to discuss the idea further. Set a time on his calendar to meet. If it is difficult to get him to set a time, send a reminder email after a couple of weeks. For example, you could write: "You seemed interested in my idea to change software programs during the meeting on October 5. I'd like to set a time to discuss it further, as you suggested. Do you have any availability this week?" This provides a clear reminder to why he was interested and provides actionable next steps, without being too imposing.

About the Author

Michelle Barry graduated from Salve Regina University with a Bachelor of Arts in English. Since then, she has worked as a reporter for the Wilbraham-Hampden Times, an editor for Month9Books and Evolved Publishing, editor and has spent the past seven years in marketing and graphic design. She also has an extensive background in dance.

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