Win a Proposal with a Successful Oral Presentation

Published by on November 17, 2015 at 2:25 pm.

Group of coworkers at an office brainstorming and presentationA job interview gives the interviewer an opportunity to meet the interviewee to ensure they understand the job position and can meet the demands of the position. If you are giving an oral presentation for a proposal, you are the interviewee and your evaluator is the interviewer. A proposal is a complex job application and the oral presentation is the job interview. How you handle the oral presentation can say a lot about how you will handle the job.

If you do not prepare for setbacks, select qualified presenters, or consider the customer’s challenges and needs, you will dramatically lower your win probability. The evaluators will ask themselves, “If this team cannot even handle this presentation, how can they handle my project?”

So how can you ensure a successful oral presentation?

  • Follow the RFP
  • Have a Central Message and Theme
  • Select the Best Presenters
  • Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse
  • Know the Logistics
  • Know your Customers
  • Dress for Success

#1 Follow the RFP

Like the written proposal, the oral presentation must follow Request for Proposal (RFP) instructions.  You should begin preparation for orals early in the written proposal process.

As the central goal of the presentation is to communicate effectively the essence of the proposal, a presenter generally should be involved in the written proposal’s development. Presenters should have a solid grasp on proposal development and content, including options or approaches considered but not taken. The evaluators may question presenters about such matters.

#2 Have Central Messages and Themes

Your presenters and the proposal’s central messages and themes, presented in compliance with RFP instructions, are the two backbones of the presentation.  Each presenter, regardless of specific role or topic area responsibility, should have an understanding of all of your key messages and themes.  These key messages and themes should be a relatively small amount of information, and easily committed to memory by each presenter.


#3 Select the Best Presenters

cartoonThe central challenge of this area of preparation is to select personnel who “fit” and can effectively speak to the outline and content.  Selecting participants is a task that should be completed early in the proposal development calendar.

You should sit down with senior management and your proposal team and make a detailed assessment of potential presenters and their presentation role, matching substantive and public speaking skills to RFP and audience requirements.  In making your selection, think about name recognition to the customer, and eliminate anyone with negative customer experience.

You must be ready for the unexpected, such as the sudden unavailability of a key presenter.  Address this contingency by cross-training the participants, so that you can readily rearrange or alter the roster of participants.

#4 Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse

Rehearsals are a critical element of preparation.  Recognize this fact early in the proposal development process, and have participants adjust their calendars accordingly. Rehearse with exactly the same equipment that you will use on orals’ day.  Choose equipment that meets RFP requirements. Read more about Rehearsing Oral Presentations here.

#5 Know the Logistics

Think “common sense,” “preparation,” and “back-up.”  Verify any entry, security or classification procedures, and clear all potential participants – both primary and back-up – for entry.  Verify the exact presentation location, and visit it ahead of time unless you know exactly where it is; complexes of office buildings with similar or the same address can be very confusing.  Determine the travel time to the location, and allow plenty of time.  Scout alternate routes in case you need them.  If out of town travel is required, budget even more time and have more than one airline ticket and route.  Ensure your equipment can travel with you, and send your back-up equipment well ahead of time to a secure location near the presentation site.  If possible, re-test the back-up equipment after shipping.  Have descriptions and serial numbers of all the equipment … many customers will require this information to bring your equipment in and out of their facility.  If the customer will allow it, setup and test your equipment at the site before the presentation.  Carry a spare shirt and tie or blouse along with your equipment.

#6 Know Your Customers

Give some substantial thought to the specific nature and biases of your customer and the particular audience, and tailor your appearance, equipment and presentation accordingly.  If you know of a negative or potentially negative issue, assume it will be raised and be ready.  Again, let common sense prevail – ensure that you address any “hot buttons,” and steer clear of known landmines.

#7 Dress for Success

Have everyone dress in coordinating (or at least not obviously different) clothes.  Use name badges that are visible to the evaluators.  If you have created a team logo or slogan, make sure everyone uses it.  If you look like a team and act like a team, then the customer will believe you are a team.

You have followed the instructions for the written and oral proposal in the RFP, you have prepared customer-centric content, and you have prepared and rehearsed to perfection. Now you are ready for your proposal’s oral presentation. Good luck!

Learn more about winning a proposal with “Proposal Engineering: