Developing Effective Oral Presentations

Today, the federal government is placing more and more emphasis on oral presentations in the awarding of contracts.  This is a new development with important implications for proposal professionals.

As Larry Tracy – an experienced Army and private industry orals coach – has pointed out, some Request for Proposals (RFPs) now stipulate that bidders must submit a PowerPoint presentation with their application to give evaluators a sense of their upcoming oral presentations.  In addition, RFPs often will state that only key personnel identified in the application can make oral presentations because evaluators want to meet and assess the personnel who will be carrying out the contract.

As a result of these changes, proposal development and oral presentations must be developed together.  They are interdependent.  In fact, today many bids are won or lost through oral presentations.

Mr. Tracy recommends that companies follow a three-stage process in developing their oral presentations that focus on the three Ps:  planning, practicing, and presenting.  They are explained below.

Step 1:  Planning.  Read the RFP from the government’s perspective.  Although some RFPs are poorly written and difficult to understand, you must develop your oral presentation around what the government wants to accomplish, not what you intend to do.

Step 2:  Practicing.  Develop a PowerPoint presentation that is (1) specific enough to flesh out your presentation’s major themes, major points, and recommendations and yet (2) broad enough to enable you to expand and modify the points made in your slides.  Once you have a draft presentation, work with the presenters to (1) hone their delivery skills; and (2) focus on anticipated questions from evaluators.  There are two common presentation practices that you should definitely avoid:  do not read from a script and do not read the visuals.

Step 3:  Presenting.  Presenters must be ready to speak logically, clearly, and intelligently about your bid.  Focus is extremely important.  In addition, they must be prepared to answer questions and address doubts and potential risks raised by evaluators.  Consequently, presenters should thoroughly rehearse and be thoroughly critiqued.

If you focus your oral presentation on planning, practicing, and presenting, you will win more contracts.  Making a team oral presentation is a challenge.

Do not leave this task to the last minute.  Work on your presentation while you develop your bid, and the two will compliment and strengthen each other.

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