Do you ever daydream about having a new learning platform? Your wish can come true if you know how to make a persuasive case for a new learning management system (LMS) to the decision-makers at your association.
Last week, we explained how to prepare your business case for a new LMS—from collecting evidence to gathering allies. Now, it’s time to learn how to present a business case for a new LMS to your board, CEO, or other decision-makers.
Learn about decision-makers and their expectations.
First, you have to learn about your audience: the decision-maker(s).
- Who’s going to hear or read your presentation?
- Who makes the decision?
- Who influences those who make the decision—people at your association and people at other associations, i.e., respected peers or friends of decision-makers?
Most importantly: what do decision-makers value or prioritize? You must figure out how to connect a new LMS to those values. For example, the COO and CFO may focus on ROI, while the CEO and other executives care more about member engagement or industry standing. Others may pay more attention to a new technology’s ability to deliver value, provide exclusive benefits, or help develop a new audience.
Know what expectations decision-makers have for a proposal or business case.
- Do you have to comply with a business case or proposal template or procedure?
- Will you have a chance to make a presentation in front of decision-makers? Who will be there?
- Should you provide written materials that go into more detail? What will they expect in those materials?
Talk to colleagues who have made successful proposals to the same people and find out what they did to win their case. If you’re not sure who’s been down the same path, ask around to find out who’s in the midst of or who’s just finished a project or initiative that required a budget. Colleagues in the IT department may know who can give you the inside scoop.
Master your presentation.
Your business case presentation is both a performance and a briefing. During the presentation, you want to keep listeners interested and informed. You have to appeal to their emotions and logic.
Speak your audience’s language. Don’t use technical jargon unless you’ve heard them use that same phrases themselves. You don’t want to dumb things down to a condescending point but you must be confident they will completely grasp what you’re sharing.
Rehearse your presentation several times and at least once in front of other people, including someone who’s not familiar with your department and with e-learning technology. Encourage your practice audience to raise objections and ask questions—and make note of their objections and questions. Did everyone understand the main points of your argument? Were they convinced by your argument?
Find out how much time you’re allotted. Rehearse for that amount of time, and then rehearse again for half as much time. Know what you can cut from your presentation yet still make a convincing case.
Slides are meant to emphasize your talking points. Don’t overload them with information or people will read them instead of listening to you. Use short sentences and never more than five bullets. Don’t read your slides—keep your eyes on the audience.
Align your case with organizational strategy and goals.
Start the presentation by describing the business need or challenge you’re trying to solve. This need must align with your association’s strategies and goals.
- How is the status quo preventing your association from achieving its goals and fulfilling its mission?
- How will a new LMS help your association better support your learning strategy and your organizational strategy?
- How will it improve your association’s ability to deliver value to members and customers? If specific market segments are top of mind, use them as an example—for example, young professionals, members who don’t attend in-person events, or chapters.
- How will it help you respond to and get ahead of market needs and to take advantage of emerging opportunities?
Talk more about strategy than about technology. The eyes of your CEO may glaze over if you start talking about AMS integration. Instead, talk about the positive impact of integration. What does it make possible for members and for staff?
Focus on the impact of new technology, not the features of that technology. Talk about the impact a new LMS will make on:
- Members’/customers’ ability to increase knowledge, improve skills, retrain, or stay employable.
- Companies that employ those learners.
- Staff productivity.
- Marketing strategy and other organizational strategies.
- The association’s bottom line.
Ask your project partners for their support.
Ask your marketing colleagues to review your presentation and written materials so they can suggest how to make them more persuasive.
If allowed, bring some project team members to the presentation, most importantly, your colleague from IT. Also invite representatives from departments that will benefit from the productivity and revenue benefits of a new LMS, such as accounting, conferences/meetings, and/or human resources.
Having these colleagues in attendance demonstrates support for the project from other departments. It’s a sign of cross-departmental cooperation and due diligence on your part—plus they can address concerns and answer questions too.
Share success stories.
Be ready to share some of the success stories you heard from associations who were once in your situation—we talked about these LMS success story conversations in last week’s post. Stories are more interesting than a list of talking points. They put the future in context and help to alleviate the fear of the unknown.
If, during your research, you learned that your CEO (or other decision-maker) is friends with someone at an association that’s benefited from a new LMS, see if you can talk to some of your peers over there about their experience. Your CEO’s ears will perk up when they hear a story about a respected colleague’s association.
Gather several of these case studies or success stories. Include them in the appendix of your presentation, but also learn them by heart so you can bring them up if the timing’s right.
Anticipate and prepare for objections.
Decision-makers won’t just hand over money, even if they agree with the need for a new LMS. They must do their due diligence too, including asking tough questions. Anticipate any objections decision-makers are likely to bring up and be ready to overcome them. Here are some to get you started:
- It’s not in the budget: You’ve done your cost-benefit analysis and can counter this objection with the expected revenue from live and on-demand online learning programs, sponsorships, and the audience development potential for other products and programs.
- Our members aren’t ready for online education: Make sure you’ve done your market research so you have the data on workforce educational needs and competitor programs.
- Members are used to the old platform: They’ll quickly get used to a better user experience that’s easier to navigate. Besides, people are used to learning new technology all the time these days so that’s really not a problem.
- We don’t have the bandwidth: Because you’ve been discussing the project with your friends in IT, you know your association does in fact have the bandwidth to take on this project. If not now, you can tell them when everyone will be ready to take it on.
- What we have is good enough for now: Just “good enough?” That’s the kind of association we are? Compare your existing learning experience to what members and others in the industry are experiencing elsewhere.
- Online learning programs will cannibalize our in-person programs: What percentage of your membership attends in-person events? What market share do these programs have? Besides, PCMA has studied this issue and found that virtual events do not cannibalize live meetings. In fact, PCMA said, “Online education drives offline results.”
Throughout your presentation, remember to contrast a continuation of the status quo—and all its negative implications for staff and learners, lack of industry standing, and lost opportunities—with a brighter future. Lifelong learning has become an imperative for all adults—plenty of headlines back up this point. Paint a picture for decision-makers on how a new LMS can help your association better meet the educational needs of your industry or profession.