Estimated Lesson Time: 5 minutes
Imagine that you have a great idea. You anxiously set up a meeting with a person who can help you to implement this idea. While setting up the meeting, you briefly explain the basis of the idea and while this person seems interested, you are asked to submit a formal proposal at the meeting, as well as deliver a brief presentation. Now you start to sweat. A formal what?
A proposal, although very formal sounding, is nothing more than prepared persuasion. Throughout this course, we have covered many persuasive techniques that can be used to help others see your point of view. In a proposal, we can use one or many of these techniques to convince another person or group of people to take action. A well-written proposal can be even more persuasive than an extemporaneous, persuasive conversation—it solidifies and organizes ideas and thoughts into a document or presentation that can leave a powerful impression on those to whom it is delivered.
Entrepreneurs and small businesses have the luxury of acting quickly on ideas alone. To some, this is a key to the “entrepreneurial spirit” and the major part of success. To others, this kind of “hasty” action can lead to the demise of a venture or business. Many people rely on proposals to help them make more informed decisions. Some people use proposals to help justify their decisions with others. And some people may just not be convinced enough by an idea alone—“Sounds good, but I will need to see something in writing.” Whatever the reason may be, writing and/or delivering an effective proposal can play a large part in your success.
Here is a guideline for an effective proposal that can be used for both written and oral proposals. The length of your proposal should be dictated by the person requesting the proposal, the complexity of the objective, and/or your personal judgment. A proposal should be long enough to contain the information needed to convince the audience to take action, yet not too long as to cause the audience to lose interest.
The introduction. The introduction should be short and sweet. It should include the overall objective of the proposal (summarized in one or two sentences) summarized course of action, and benefit. For example, if this lesson were a proposal my intro may be
A well-written proposal can play an important part in your success. By following a proven format for writing a proposal and using one or more persuasion techniques, you will have significantly greater success in getting others to accept your ideas.
You may want to write the introduction last since most of the information in the introduction comes from the body.
- Define the audience. Who is your audience? What is in it for them? What is the benefit to the audience? Remember that it is not important how YOU benefit, at least not to the audience. To keep their interest and be as persuasive as possible, make sure you address the needs and wants of the audience. Keep this major point in mind while writing and delivering your proposal.
- Establish a need. Your proposal should solve a problem or meet a need. Explain this need. Remind the audience that the need exists with as much detail as possible.
- Outline course of action. What is your recommended course of action? The level of detail may vary depending on the same factors that determine the overall length of the proposal. If possible, break the course of action into steps or bullet points.
- Identify the cost of taking action. What is the cost of taking this action? There are always costs associated with action, but they are not always financial costs. It is best to list these costs and address any concerns the costs may raise in the proposal, rather than these issues being raised when you are not present to address them.
- Identify the cost of NOT taking action. Fear can be a powerful motivator. In fact, the majority of those who live a healthy lifestyle do so knowing that neglecting health can lead to an early grave. When appropriate, use fear to vividly illustrate the costs associated with not taking action. Make some future predictions if it will help strengthen your case.
- Identify the benefit of taking action. End the body on a powerful and positive note by illustrating the benefits to the audience by taking action. Draw upon both emotion and reason. Listing benefits in a bullet format can work very well.
- The Conclusion. Finally, wrap up your proposal with a summary and clearly request that some kind of action be taken. Throw in a startling fact, statistic, or a powerful quote—anything that will leave an impression on the audience, as well as further support your point.
There is no one way to write a formal proposal so do not fear “doing it wrong.” Remember that the goal is to persuade. Having the opportunity to write and/or deliver a proposal is a great thing that can certainly help others to embrace your ideas. A well-written proposal, or formalized persuasion, is a powerful tool that can be used to help you succeed.
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Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):
- Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
- Do you have any interesting stories related to this lesson? Do tell!
- What do you admire most about this person? (success biography days)