THE BLOG
09/29/2016 01:29 pm ET Updated Sep 30, 2017

How to Craft a Winning Product Roadmap Presentation

So, you just built an awesome roadmap. Congrats. Customers are going to love it because you prioritized what many of them were asking for. You did a fine job working with the sales team to make sure they were aligned with the product's direction. And engineering was standing tall right by your side in full agreement.

You were also able to keep the executive team's pet priorities at arm's length. You did it -- all of the different groups in the product team are happy. Now what? Oh yeah -- now you need to actually present it in its final form to make sure everyone agrees.

Plenty of product managers have mastered the creation of a visual product roadmap. But what about how to craft the presentation of that roadmap? What is most important to convey? How do you prepare? That is not often talked about, but it's just as important. 

A product manager with a roadmap that connects planned work to high-level strategy and business goals is on the path to success. But without a solid plan for how to present it, that product manager will not get very far.

I have presented hundreds of roadmaps since I first became a product manager in the 1990s. Now, as the co-founder and CEO of Aha!, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to share those experiences with you, and thousands of other product managers and innovators who are doing their best to lead their teams with conviction.

Here are a few of the lessons I learned from years in product management crafting roadmap presentations:

Do your homework
It is not enough to go through the motions -- you need to truly understand where you are headed and what needs to be on the roadmap to get you there. You also need to be aware of your assumptions about the market and customers, and be able to explain them when asked. With a firm grasp of the "why" behind your work, you can present it clearly.

Know your audience
Understand who you are speaking to and what they would benefit from seeing. For example, executives do not need to see every single planned feature. On the other hand, your champion at a major customer wants to see the specific details of the features their team requested. Different groups require unique takeaways -- invest in understanding what will positively impact them most.

Get to the essence 
This is likely the first time your audience has seen or heard about your new plan, even though they are familiar with the product and where it is generally headed. Now, for some groups and organizations it's important to tell people what you are going to tell them ahead of time. But for rapidly moving, healthy organizations that is not always necessary. Your presentation will be fairly fresh for them. Either way, take time to distil the key concepts you want to convey and share those upfront before getting into the details. 

Keep an open mind
Understand going in that roadmaps are a collaborative effort and everyone will have an opinion when you present yours. This means that you are guaranteed to receive feedback and not all of it will make you smile. Expect it and be prepared to say "yes" or "no" to the requests. If "no," you should explain the rationale behind your response -- which should be easy if your assumptions and goals are clear. 

Remember to have fun
This last lesson is the simplest, yet the hardest. Being a product manager should be the best job in the world -- you have the freedom to create the future now. Enjoy the process and honor the responsibility.

It takes time to perfect the art of crafting and presenting a roadmap. It should. Your plans are the future of the company and everyone wants the product and company to be its best. 

The hard work of a product manager does not stop after you share the roadmap. After your meeting there will be revisions and adjustments, compromises and refusals. It is an iterative process. You will present, learn, adjust, and do it again.

How do you prepare for a big roadmap presentation?