Giving a product roadmap presentation isn’t easy. To achieve their goals, product managers must diplomatically convince an entire room of opinionated stakeholders to listen to them and support their vision. Oftentimes, it is not a flaw in the product strategy itself that leads to dismissals or pushbacks, but how that strategy is communicated to the audience. This is why PMs pay just as much attention to the way they deliver the roadmap presentation as to the actual information shared with the stakeholders.
Here are a few tips to help beginner product managers ace their presentations:
1. Consider Your Audience
Understanding the audience and what approach would work best for them is one of the key steps to successful product roadmap presentations. For instance, when communicating the product strategy to executives, the main goal is to secure buy-in and maintain support throughout the development cycle. In this case, the presentation doesn’t need to include every single planned feature, but rather focus on high-level strategic concepts – such as new market penetration, driving growth, or customer satisfaction.
On the other hand, the professionals working on product development will probably not be terribly interested in market penetration or the organization’s revenue potential. When presenting to such teams, product managers usually create more granular roadmaps and focus on features, milestones, sprints and releases. In addition, it may be a good choice to include relevant tasks and requirements of other departments, so that the developers understand the importance of certain deadlines or requests.
2. Keep it simple
It can be tempting to add as many details as possible to a roadmap, in an attempt to be thorough and cover all aspects that seem important. However, details such as UI designs or user stories, for instance, do not belong on a roadmap, but in the product backlog, and they can make the presentation too busy and difficult to follow. Excessive or irrelevant information is not likely to secure executive buy-in, and it will not be helpful in inspiring teams either.
3. Tell a story and explain the “Why”
Persuasive presentations aren’t just statistics, Gantt charts and graphs. They are stories that connect the audience to the key data points and make the information communicated more accessible.
When presenting product roadmaps, adopting a casual, conversational style will allow PMs to draw the audience in while also conveying essential facts. Also, showing executives what the strategy proposed will mean for the organization or explaining how the product can solve a vital problem for the end users will have more impact than just listing features and numbers. When everyone in the room understands the larger strategic vision and reasons behind the product manager’s decisions, they will be much more likely to see the merits of the plan and get behind the project.
4. Remember that appearance matters
The main purpose of a product roadmap is to visualize the strategy and make it crystal-clear to the audience, whether the presenter is aiming for stakeholder buy-in or communicating plans to the team. If the roadmap is dull, unclear, or, worse, it is just a long list of features displayed on a spreadsheet, it will not take long for the audience to lose interest.
Presenting the plan through a straightforward visual will draw attention and make it easy for everyone to quickly understand what the product manager is proposing. Also, visuals force PMs to be ruthless about which details to include in the roadmap and which to cut out, distilling the plan down to only the most essential points that serve the product’s strategic goals. Last but not least, a colorful, well-designed visual can help highlight key information and add meaning without overcrowding the roadmap.
5. Know when to show dates
Some product managers never include dates when presenting a roadmap, while others recommend to always display them. The safest approach could lie somewhere in the middle:
- When it comes to internal product roadmaps that coordinate the work carried out by various teams (development, support, marketing, etc.), showing dates or timeframes is necessary, indeed. It will let everyone know how to organize their time so as not to impede others’ work or miss key deadlines. Also, including dates can be of particular importance when it comes to seasonal or date-driven products, such as a travel app that needs to be released before summer, or smartphones that must be rolled out just in time for Christmas sales.
- In the case of external-facing roadmaps – presented to customers or users, for example – it may be best to not show any specific timeframes unless the product’s availability date is absolutely certain. This will reduce the risks of over-commitment, rushed work, and disappointed stakeholders.
6. Show confidence and enthusiasm
No matter how good a product strategy is and how compelling the facts, simply reciting the information presented on the roadmap will most likely not get the desired reaction from audiences. Speaking enthusiastically and showing confidence in their plan will help product managers be much more persuasive and transmit that enthusiasm to the everyone in the room, giving the product the best shot at success.
7. Be prepared to handle objections
- “How can we scope this down?”
- “Can’t we move faster?”
- “The costs are too high.”
- “Why can’t we do this another way?”
- “Why don’t we add X or Y to the product?”
These are just a few of the many questions and objections the audience might have, and PMs need to be prepared to answer them. To reduce the chances of being caught off guard, experienced product managers brainstorm all possible issues the audience may raise and look for the best way to handle them before meeting the stakeholders.
Some common objections can be worked directly into the presentation and addressed even before they occur. For others, PMs can prepare responses that address not only the questions raised, but also deeper, underlying ones. Finally, to reduce the possible objections to a minimum, it is recommended to back up all statements and information presented with hard facts – for instance, user analytics, market statistics, direct customer requests, etc. Evidence is always more compelling than opinion.
Preparing a product roadmap presentation requires thorough planning, a good understanding of the audience, and great attention to detail. However, once mastered, it can be one of the most powerful communication tools for product managers to present their vision - and make it happen.
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