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Introduction-Successful Oral Presentations For Government Contracts
By Larry Tracy   Printer Friendly Version

Successful Oral Presentations For Government Contracts

In recent years, the Federal Government has placed increasing emphasis on the "oral presentation" in warding contracts. Additionally, many Government agencies, in their Request for Proposal (RFP), are stipulating that only those who will be working on the contract are to be involved with the oral presentation. This is obviously intended to permit Government agency evaluators to have an "eye-to-eye" meeting with those with whom they will be working, thereby resolving issues and questions before the contract is awarded.

This new emphasis on the oral presentation has not been greeted with universal acclaim by companies. Most have developed a skilled cadre of proposal writers, and probably feel a bit uneasy about having their economic future riding not on the demonstrated ability of these writers but instead on the verbal skills of engineers and technicians who have not been called on in the past to make marketing presentations. Now, however, the "doers" must become "sellers."

Some Government agencies have also instituted changes in the RFP with respect to how visuals will be employed. These agencies, probably realizing the persuasive capability of "PowerPoint" and other graphics programs, often require that only black-and-white overhead transparencies be used. This may not be good news for Microsoft and other software developers, but it is actually a compliment to the effectiveness of such programs. Evaluators in the agencies imposing this restriction may believe they will be able to concentrate more on the substance and recommendations of the presentation if black-and-white overheads are used, and not be swayed by the remarkable features of computer-generated visuals.

Another restriction dealing with visuals can be counterproductive. The company bidding on the contract, or more likely the group of companies combining their talents into a consortium, are sometimes required to submit the overheads approximately two weeks before the actual presentation. Evaluators want to have a "heads-up" on the direction the presentation will take, and to see how it tracks with the already-submitted written proposal. Unfortunately, this early delivery may inhibit the synergistic creativity that can be generated in the run-up to the presentation by people from the diverse backgrounds found within a consortium. Thinking may be "frozen" to the submitted overheads. Both the Government and the consortium lose if this happens, as excellent ideas may not be included in the presentation if they were developed after the visuals were sent to the Government. A way to lessen the impact of this problem will be shown later in this essay.

Copyright © 2000 by Lawrence L. Tracy
All Rights Reserved.

or clash? Is the prime contractor really in charge, or do there appear to be some Prima Donnas among the sub-contractors, suggesting later friction? Does the presentation demonstrate that the consortium has the experience to accomplish the project required by the RFP? Is there a willingness of team members to accept Government oversight, or an attitude of "give us the contract, then get out of the way?" Most importantly, does the company/consortium seem genuinely interested in, and demonstrate proven capability to solve, the Government's RFP-expressed problem?

Technical experts placed in the position of making the oral presentation must strive to demonstrate they are a confident (but not arrogant), competent, and coordinated "team." Forging this unity and cohesiveness is achieved with thorough planning and rigorous preparation, elements that are the center of my Presentation Skills in a Nutshell workshop.

Copyright © 2000 by Lawrence L. Tracy
All Rights Reserved.


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