You have a bright idea for a new project, but you still need to get approval for funding. How do you present it to your boss or a potential sponsor like the German Research Foundation (DFG) or investors? How to not just convince your audience in a presentation, but even inspire them and win them over?
Projects with a clear Vision are eligible for Funding
A vital part of your presentation, in addition to the pure facts, is your vision of what you want to achieve with your project idea, what you are striving for. Focus on your research outcome by answering questions such as: Why is my project eligible for funding? What should be different after completion of my project? In other words: What is the concrete added value of my research?
Your vision reflects both your motivation and your values: What drives you and why is your project so important and valuable? The vision corresponds to the “Why” of author, management consultant and TED speaker Simon Sinek.
This is illustrated by the abstract of a research project to which I could contribute with my PhD thesis: “[The] ages [of marine terraces] shall be determined (…). This will make an important contribution to the spatio-temporal reconstruction of the shifting of coastlines during the Quaternary in areas of the Mediterranean characterized by tectonic uplift.”
In other words, the aim is to better understand changes in the Earth’s recent history, in this case specifically through observations of the Earth’s surface in coastal landscapes of southern Italy.
Another DFG project within the field of information systems illustrates the vision just as quickly: “Anonymous communication networks have a central weakness (…) We are developing (…) and identifying (…). We are investigating the potential of covert communication methods for hiding content. We will implement our methods as practical censorship defense plug-ins for Tor and I2P.”
At first the applicants describe the current problem and the approach to solving it. Beyond their vision, they even provide the potential for practical implementation. Bingo!
Visions focus on the Big Picture
Visions emphasize the difference between the current state and what could be. Author and presentation designer Nancy Duarte calls this “the new bliss”, so our world becomes a different, better place once our vision becomes reality.
Impactful visions do not just scratch the surface. Project applications therefore need to address open and relevant questions, providing valid answers. This way we will have a real chance of getting the project granted.
To persuade, we connect our presentation to an overarching theme. We inspire our audience to support a big, bold vision: How can everyone contribute to making our vision a reality? All the better, then, if we also take our audience’s perspective into account.
A vision can be a goal we strive for every day anew, a goal that is hardly attainable. It is always built on what we believe in, what we stand for, and what we distance ourselves from. Ultimately, our daily actions provide credibility that we can one day achieve our vision.
One of the most famous visions, which later became reality, was communicated by US President John F. Kennedy in 1961 with “the scientific exploration of the moon and planets”. Kennedy was able to motivate NASA employees to commit themselves to a unique project. For example, a janitor reportedly responded to Kennedy’s question “What are you doing here?” by answering “I’m helping put a man on the moon!”
The vision of Elon Musk’s company SpaceX is based directly on this: the vision of SpaceX is to colonize other planets. Musk represents humanity’s ongoing drive to explore like no second person. His mission to make space travel cheaper and more practical by developing reusable rockets pays off on this vision.
Whether John F. Kennedy or Elon Musk: By drawing particularly powerful images, they demonstrate the great potential of stories. Such visions are only substantiated afterwards with the equally important facts, figures, and data. Anyone familiar with U.S. culture will experience the speaker’s vision in virtually all presentations. For example, UN interpreter and author Susanne Kilian mentions that speeches without vision are considered painful for Americans.
A great vision with a strong foundation can help you engage your audience and win them over to your cause. By including your vision as a concise part of your presentation, you increase your chances of success in getting your project funded.
This post is also available in: German