How Can You Make Your Ideas Stick in Proposals?

One of the most stimulating books I have read in recent years in one by Chip Heath and Dan Heath called Made to Stick:  Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (2007).  By sticky, the Heath brothers mean that “your ideas are understood and remembered, and have a lasting impact – they change your audience’s opinions or behavior.”

Sticky ideas are important in proposals.  If you cannot get reviewers to understand and remember your major themes, your proposals are not likely to be successful.

According to the Heaths, there are six basic principles at work in all sticky ideas:

  • Simplicity.  Sticky ideas are stripped down to their essential core.
  • Unexpectedness.  To get people to pay attention to your ideas, you need to challenge people’s expectations.
  • Concreteness.  Being concrete helps make ideas clear and memorable.
  • Credibility.  Sticky ideas have credibility.  People need to test your ideas to see if they are true.
  • Emotions. People will care about ideas if they can feel something.
  • Stories.  People are more likely to act on your ideas if you can tell a great story.

At the conclusion to their informative book, the Heaths come to an important conclusion.  According to them, there is no correlation between “speaking talent” and the ability to make ideas stick.  Captivating speakers typically do no better than others in making their ideas sticky.  In other words, focusing on the presentation rather than the message is a mistake.

The Heaths’ advice has obvious applicability to the content of your proposals.  By using sticky ideas, you can help overcome these typical problems that that plague proposals:

  • Getting reviewers to pay attention to your message. 
  • Getting reviewers to understand and remember.
  • Getting reviewers to believe you or agree.
  • Getting reviewers to care.
  • Getting reviewers to act.

You can make your proposals stickier if you simplify your messages, make them concrete, emphasize the most telling details, use interesting and inspiring stories, and stimulate curiosity.  The challenge in any proposal is to make your proposal understandable, memorable, and effective.  Made to Stick:  Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die will help you accomplish this challenging task.

1 Comment

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    October 20, 2010

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