Sunday, May 4, 2008

How to Defend Your Proposal

The first item on the checklist to get a doctoral dissertation signed off is a successful defense of your proposal. It's the same as getting a green light for a film script - it's approval to go on with the project. The proposal committee members want to see that you've done enough research and structured your idea sufficiently to develop a full-blown dissertation that is socially acceptable to the Academy.

I turned in the first draft of this proposal to my advisor last December 17. He took forever and then some to get back to me. I quickly made all the corrections he suggested, sent it back to him in the revised form, and waited another eternity. Then I turned in one small section - the one he said was most important -- in its re-re-re-written form. And I heard nothing from him. Each time someone asked me about the proposal, I would begin my rant on how this guy was slowing me down. And he was. But that wasn't the whole picture; I wasn't ready to defend this proposal yet.

Then I got an attitude. I knew that I knew that I knew this proposal would have to be defended before the end of April. I mean, yes or yes. On Tuesday, April 28, I successfully defended it; my adviser said it was the easiest defense he had ever seen. I was ready!

Each business, school, and organization has its own form of the proposal defense: almost any project you want to undertake requires approval from someone. Your attitude is 90% of your job. You feel confident, and NOT threatened by any comments that seem, or are, negative. You've done your homework, you know your content, and you know the benefits of your project to your audience. Proposal defending is a form of sales, just as is any green-light process.

Your confidence tells your audience more than the words you speak. If you feel confident in yourself, then they will feel confidence in you. Being confident means you are less likely to get thrown off by some unexpected question or comment. Confidence is not arrogance, but the quiet assurance that you've got something valuable to bring to the table. It also means you're delighted to get suggestions on how to make it better.

What undermines our confidence? In one word, fear. False Expectations Acting Real. If you feel fear, you're probably not ready to defend your proposal.