How to convince your boss to approve your Persuasive Presentation Skills Masterclass

You’re career motivated and going places!

Anyone who is proactive in managing the trajectory of their career understands the importance of learning, skill development and personal growth. It’s often said, ‘If you’re not learning, you’re probably not earning!’  You know that some of the skills you need to really excel in your current role have to be learned in a formal corporate training-style course, not everything can be provided by a book or online program. Persuasive Presentation Skills is one such subject matter. In my opinion, there are some elements of presentation skills that should be taught face-to-face in a small group or it’s a waste of your time and money.

Not everyone has an ‘evolved’ L&D department

I get a lot of inquiries from people who are in sales or leadership positions and who are required to present in important meetings on a frequent basis without any training whatsoever. I believe the term to describe this is ‘sink or swim’!

Sadly, when you realise you need help to excel in your role, not all companies are equally as proactive in supporting you to find the right training provider to help you. Some companies don’t have allocated budget for training, and others take more of a hit and miss approach to allowing you to attend external courses. It can be difficult to convince your manager to fund your attendance at formal external training.

So how can you convince your manager to approve your attendance at an external training program? 

  • Understand the research.

If you are stressed because there’s a part of the job that you feel you just can’t do, it can be demotivating and demoralising. Most research into success, young achievers and learning and development culture has found that people are more likely to both stay in a role and perform at their best if they feel they can do the job and that they are valued. Providing training and development opportunities for motivated staff is one way for a company to ensure you have the requisite skills to complete your tasks and it’s also a great way to show you that they value you. 

  • Know your Company Rules.

Make sure you know what the training policy is for all staff.  You might find there is no policy at all. You might find there’s a mention of a per head budget.  Many of my clients have a $2000 per head budget per annum. That means if you’ve attended external training to that value, you may have spent your allocated budget for the year and should  wait for 12 months before pitching your case.

  • Prepare your pitch.

Once you know there’s even a slight chance someone will in fact approve your attendance, it’s time to work out what you want to say! Collect the following information:

I. Why you and why now?

It’s important to be able to articulate the value you provide to your company. How have you added value in the past? Make a comprehensive list and don’t be shy about boasting. Make sure that you have achieved something impressive recently or wait for a better time to pitch your case to your boss. Be sure you are clear about how investing in you is a way of recognising your valuable contribution to the business. Next, be clear about why NOW is the time to attend this training. Managers notoriously want to agree to training but then they put it off, then put it off, then put it off!  Explain the value of doing the training right now for you, your team and your business. If you can find a time to attend training that coincides with your quieter time at work you’ll be more likely to achieve success.

II. Be clear about how you’ll cover your role while on training.

It’s a big deal being out of the office for one or two days. How will you get your work done? What if there’s an emergency at work and you’re not there? Your manager will want to know how your work will get done when you’re away. Do you need to organise someone to cover for you? Clients are not impressed by out of office messages that say you’re unavailable because you’re in training. How will you ensure that anyone who needs you while you’re in training can speak to someone else who can help them? Do you need a handover with a colleague to prevent your clients noticing your absence.  Will you allocate time at the end of the training day to catch up on emails and other urgent work? 

III. Collect info on the course you wish to attend.

You need to know the trainer’s name and credentials (have they run their masterclass over 800 times? Do they have the CSP? Have they been nominated or won any awards like Educactor of the Year?). Collect a list of program dates, venue, costs, learning objectives, outcomes, minimum and maximum participants per program, style of the other attendees (industry, experience) registration specifics (is there a deadline, is their an early bird for early registration?). Is there a cancellation policy? And what does the trainer offer as pre and post-learning support? Training is only as good as the pre and post learning support. If your trainer does ot offer these things, look elsewhwere.

Also I recommend you do a Google search where you type the trainer’s name and the word testimonials to see what comes up. Collect testimonials from past delegates who clearly state who they are, where they work, what their job title is and how the training impacted them and their ability to better execute their job responsibilities. ‘No-name’ testimonials, or testimonials that have a first name with no job titles, just company names are often made up. Don’t trust a testimonial unless it gives you all the details you need and you can locate the person in LinkedIn to ask them if what they said is true!

IV. List the ROI for your business.

ROI stands for return on investment. For example, will you be more confident, more productive, more effective, less stressed, take on more responsibilities. And when you’re doing this be clear on the risks for your boss like:

Waste of money. No one wants to spend money of training that’s ineffective. How can the training provider prove they will indeed achieve the ROI that they promise? 

Precedent. What about the precedent that you’re setting if you go to training, will everyone else also think they are entitled to training and will this expose the team unduly or will it be a great uplift across the members of your team? 

Will you quit? Often managers are concerned that if they pay for the training you might quit, or transfer areas. How can you confirm that the reason you need this training is so you can achieve more for this employer.

Reputational risk. Often your manager will have to go into bat for you with their own superiors to get approval for the time away and the budget. This is a potential risk to their reputation if you then do the wrong thing. How can you confirm you will respect their efforts and use the training to help them look good?

Internal options. Many companies have internal training courses that are run by the staff in your business. This is a cheaper way to experience some skill development.  This means that your L&D team may believe they have the skills to train you in presentation skills. Or your manager might even counter offer with an opportunity to attend a company-wide/internal presentation skills course. 

If you are very prepared and you know what your external provider can offer, you’ll be able to show in no time that an internal training course can’t and won’t deliver anywhere near what the external provider (who is a subject matter expert) can offer. You need to be prepared for this conversation so you can articulate the benefits of the external provider over the internal one. Your external provider will help you to prepare your argument if you ask for their help.

In general it’s important to do what you can to manage any concerns or objections your manager may have about sending you to training whilst also showing them the outstanding benefits (for you, your team and your business) that will be derived by attending. 

V. Competitor information.

I always suggest my clients collect data from 3 different providers. It helps me win a pitch, not lose it!  This is so your manager can do an easy comparison of the return on their investment. Don’t be afraid to tell your potential training providers about the other people you’re talking to for quotes.  It’s not rude or disrespectful, it’s just good business for a Learning & Development Manager to be accountable for any spend. When someone tells me who else they are talking to for persuasive presentation skills training it helps me pitch, because I know who is good, who is rubbish and how I’m different to all of them. Get your potential training provider to do this work for you, it will save you time. Pitch the provider you most want to work with at the top, with the less attractive providers after and make sure you call it, Option 1.

  • Send an email pitch.

Most people agree it’s better to first mention your request via email, and then follow up in person. This way your manager has time to think it through before they see you face to face. Here’s a suggested outline for the email:

“Hi (name), you know that we have achieved x,y,z in the last quarter. We are proud of this result. One of the things we realise we need help with to ensure we continue our momentum and enhance our overall productivity is some persuasion and presentation skills development for a number of our team members.  I have found an ideal training provider, and 4 of us would like to attend some external training with her in July or August this year. If we attend the same program as a group of 4 we save $800 + GST for the business.

Here are the details:

Company Name: Michelle Bowden Enterprises

Course name: Persuasive Presentation Skills Masterclass

Duration: 2-days 

Times: 9.00 – 4.30pm

Venue: North Sydney

Delegates per course: 10

Cost: $1995 + GST per person (group discount for 3 or more applies)

Included materials: there is pre-work and 11 post-learning resources included in this investment including unlimited script checks from the trainer for an indefinite period.

Facilitator: Michelle Bowden CSP

How will this training help us?

This training will help us better analyse our audiences so we better understand their needs and issues. It will help us prepare clearer and more persuasive presentations that achieve faster outcomes. We will learn how to design captivating slides that support our data points. And we will be better placed deliver our message more confidently, clearly and persuasively every time, even in emails and business cases. We will dramatically improve our engagement in meetings. Plus it will save us time preparing, which means faster outcomes and improved productivity. In general it will lift our professionalism as a team. And as a side benefit that’s not to be overlooked, this training will provide a fun team building benefit if 3 or 4 of us attend together.

“The sense of teamwork and team bonding was achieved whilst gaining fantastic insight into how we can reduce the time taken to prepare presentations, increase their impact and persuasive power, and grow in confidence and capability.  Highly recommended for all client-facing people leaders.”

Alasdair Smith, Client Partner, Westpac, Tata Consultancy Services

(As displayed above, be sure to include a relevant testimonial (depending on your industry, simply type Michelle Bowden Testimonials Finance, or Michelle Bowden Testimonials IT etc. and you’ll find a massive list of testimonials from all sorts of industries to choose from!)

Please could we schedule a face-to-face meeting to discuss further? 

  • Be prepared to offer an extra incentive.

Your manager might be more likely to allow you to attend if you offer to share the learning after you’ve attended training. A strategy that often works is to offer to do some kind of lunch and learn for the whole team or business after you attend this external event. That way your managers see a transfer of your learning across the business.  Of course the added bonus of having to train your colleagues in what you’ve learnt is that you actually have to understand it! It will cement your learning too!

  • The face-to-face meeting.

The face-to-face meeting. After you have sent the initial email requesting approval, be sure to prepare all the info you have collected about the promised ROI, competitors and specific learning outcomes etc. all ready to go in the face-to-face meeting. You may even like to print it out and have it ready to give your manager in the meeting. That way, no matter your manager’s concerns you have an impressive response. 

  • Have a BATNA.

In negotiation skills we talk about having a BATNA. It stands for best alternative to a negotiated agreement. Here are some examples of a BATNA:

I. If your manager says no to all 4 of you attending, perhaps they will approve just one of you attending as a pilot to double-check that the training delivers what it promises. 

II. Maybe you can set up a phone call between the trainer and your manager. Whenever I’m asked to do this I jump at the opportunity because no one can sell my training course to your manager better than me!

III. Further, most trainers are often very happy for you to visit their training for an hour to check it out prior to booking. I offer this on day 1 of all my public master classes. This way you can come along and have a look at me, at the content, at my style, at how I manage forming, norming and performing the group of strangers. It’s a great way to check that my training is what you need.

So there you have it, a comprehensive approach to help you convince your manager to approve your attendance at external training. Please reach out to me if you need anything further. I hope to see you in my Persuasive Presentation Skills Masterclass in 2020!

Happy presenting!