When presenting a proposal to a boss, staff or board, it can be difficult to get a productive conversation started. Even when everyone is excited about the proposal and it is well-conceived, the conversation can fall flat. We have been trained to debate, rather than improve an idea.

It can help to discuss the idea at an early stage and get the stakeholders involved in creating the proposal. Yet even when you do a good job of inclusion, eventually you face a presentation to an audience that has not been involved.

The questions you ask will shape the conversation. These three are in my presentation bag because they start with the positive, encourage input and don’t invite participants to take sides.

  • What do you like about the proposal?
  • What do you dislike about the proposal?
  • What would you change about the proposal?

These basic questions can be edited to work best with the nature of the group. For instance, they can be focused on feelings:

  • What do you appreciate about this proposal?
  • What do you regret about the proposal?
  • What do you hope will happen as a result of adopting this proposal?

Variations of these feedback questions also work in evaluating events or other services.

Starting and ending the conversation with appreciation and hope can make a powerful difference for those who are bringing proposals. Opening the door to disagreement and regret gives the opening for critique. Providing all three questions to the audience as the discussion begins assures them that the presenter is open to all kinds of feedback.