How to Build Your Annual Roadmap Presentation
November 6, 2017

How to Build Your Annual Roadmap Presentation

by Brian de Haaff

Public speaking. I have learned to really enjoy it and consider it an honor. I have done a lot of it over the last ten years. Although I do understand the anxiety some people feel looking at all those expectant faces. The nervous jitters or pressure to put on a show. But the audience is not that scary. They are just people like us. No, there is something else you should be afraid of that is related to presentations — it might surprise you at first.

Your only fear should be whether or not your audience is truly listening to what you have to say.

Product managers need to speak to large groups quite often. So most are comfortable in front of groups. But are our messages really being heard? Often not.

We lose our audience in the details. We fail to connect the dots. We do not stress the most important points. These are particularly perilous risks when we are presenting key strategies and plans. After all, you worked hard on your product plan.

So you need to help people understand what it means. And you will probably have a chance as you finish up your annual roadmap planning and ensure the team is aligned with your thinking.

The common mistake I see is that product managers think the technical details will do the heavy lifting. They will “speak for themselves.”

It is easy to fall into this type of thinking when you are presenting something you worked very hard on. You know every little detail. But the details are not enough. You have to nail every aspect of your presentation if you want the audience to truly hear your message.

The keys to driving those messages home are careful planning and flawless execution. Why did you prioritize what you did? What did you leave out and why? Which ideas are critical to your customers and the future of the business?

The good news is that your content is highly important and most people will want to listen to what you have to say.

Here are five suggestions for building and delivering a great annual roadmap presentation:

Go ask

Building your product roadmap is not a solo show — the same goes for building your presentation. Make sure you speak with leaders in the organization to understand what they think the audience needs to hear and to road-test your thinking before you present. Consider everyone who has a stake, from executives to engineering to marketing and even potential customers.

Start with strategy

Approach your presentation the same way you did your product roadmap — start with the “why” before you share the “when” and “what.” Set the stage by clearly articulating the business strategy behind the plan, the product goals and initiatives, and key facts about customers and the market. Once folks have that context, it will be easier for them to grasp the content and understand why you prioritized what you did.

Test it out

You want to be very smooth and comfortable when it is time to stand up in front of your live audience. Run through it out loud by yourself. Did you miss anything crucial? Are you referencing the most recent data? Do a practice run in front of a colleague, then solicit honest feedback. What questions will you most likely be asked?

Have fun

Okay, so maybe you do not want to have a smug grin. But do try to have fun. This is important work and you are leading the way. Show that you are enjoying the ride and your audience will enjoy it too. And this has a bonus benefit — research shows that we remember things better when we have an emotional reaction.

Follow up

One way to get your audience invested in the content you present is to really encourage comments and questions. Listen deeply to the feedback and answer what you can. If there are meaningful comments that you need time to think about, explain that you will do so and how or when you will follow up with the person or group.

Forget your fear of the audience — you cannot risk your product message falling on bored ears.

You have put too much into your product planning for the key ideas not to be clearly shared. You just need to match that effort when it comes to building and delivering your product roadmap presentation. Do that with thought, care, and diligence and get ready to have a great year.

What tips do you have for a great roadmap presentation?

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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