How to Pitch an Unconventional Idea…

Challenging the status quo can lead to innovation and process improvements at work. But it can feel risky to speak up and share unconventional ideas. Here are some steps to help you start the conversation—and increase your chances of success.

Be prepared for the right opportunity. Odds are that it will be an informal or chance encounter that allows you to introduce your idea. You never know when you might have the ear of the right stakeholder, so if you have a great pitch, keep it in your back pocket.

Ask for permission. When the opportunity presents itself, explicitly ask for permission to raise your idea. For example, “May I have your permission to push back on this?” or “Do you mind if I offer a different perspective?” or “May I suggest another way to look at this?” This allows you to position your interaction as a contribution, not a confrontation.

Frame your idea as a question. Packaging your pitch as an inquiry will invite a conversation rather than a defensive response. Your tone should be curious, not contradictory.

Be poised, humble, and sincere. Remember that respect diffuses defensiveness, and humor de-escalates tension. If the topic is sensitive, raise it privately. Show your stakeholders that you’re acting in good faith and that you’re open to their concerns and objections. 

Don’t Be Too Rehearsed Before a Critical Talk…

Before a critical presentation, the best thing you can do is rehearse – a lot. That doesn’t mean you need to memorize every line (which will make you sound too rehearsed). Your goal should be to feel confident in what you’re saying while leaving room for spontaneity. 

The trick is to spend extra time practicing the beginning and the end of your talk, including your first and last slides. The introduction sets the stage for your message and gives your audience a reason to care. Your conclusion determines which ideas people will walk away with. If you nail these two sections of the talk, you’ll probably do well no matter what happens. 

You should also repeatedly practice any sections that have complex or technical content. While you rehearse, consider recording yourself on your phone; play it back to watch for distracting habits (fidgeting, avoiding eye contact) and areas where you seem unsure of yourself. Rehearse those sections a few more times.