Being on a selection committee to evaluate proposals and presentations is an important job. But, sitting through four or five presentations in one day can be sheer agony. By the third presentation most evaluators are ready to fall asleep and by the end of the day they totally forget who said what; and hopefully they took notes.
You want to give a presentation the evaluators will remember at selection time. You want them to remember your presentation and why it was stood out from the rest. You want them to know when leaving the room that whenever they vote you will be at the top of their list.
First of all, think about the reasons for the presentation. One, of course, is that they want to hear your solution from you and have the opportunity to ask questions about it. But, another very important reason is to see if they want to work with you. That is why image and relationship are so critical to a successful presentation. They also want to see how well your team works together in creating and delivering the presentation. The final reason is that you have the opportunity to present something that will “blow their socks off” and create a buzz with the evaluation team. Your proposal may be great and give some strong positive differentiation; but you must continue this approach through the presentation.
Here are some tips to creating and delivering a presentation that will stand out and be remembered by the evaluation team:
- Start preparing your presentation early, even before your proposal is submitted you should be thinking about how you can differentiate yourself in the presentation.
- Do a first draft of the presentation and get reviews from those familiar with the bid and others who may know the customer. Keep in mind that this draft will probably not look at all like your final presentation. Your purpose at this time is to establish a baseline and get feedback from others.
- Always ask yourself in preparing, “What can we do to create positive differentiation in the presentation?”
- Select the right team to present. Do this early so your team can practice working together and get to know each other. Who is important for the evaluators to see and hear from? Who is going to be working with the customer on the job?
- Know the members of the evaluation team and consider what is important to each. Be sure all evaluation team concerns are addressed at some point in the presentation.
- The presentation must not only tell a story; it must tell a compelling story. Your story should give the evaluators all the reasons for choosing you and leave no doubt in their mind that you are the right decision.
- Do an early baseline practice presentation in front of a mock evaluation team. Provide them with a checklist that focuses on both your message and the delivery strengths and weaknesses of each presenter.
- Practice, practice, practice. We are often asked how many times the presentation team should practice. The answer is, as much as possible in the timeframe. This enables your team to become more comfortable with the content and delivery.
- Change the presentation as you go to correct mistakes and add new positive differentiators. At some point, however, you must baseline the presentation and no longer make changes.
- Provide individual coaching to presenters who are weak in any aspect of presenting. Having a dedicated facilitator who orchestrates the entire practice period and can also do one-on-one coaching for each presenter.
- Have all presentation team members and others associated with the bid submit likely questions to the team. Take the time to prepare answers to each question and possible follow-up questions.
- Do final practices in front of a mock evaluation team that also asks likely questions from the customer. Make this a full dress rehearsal with the team wearing clothing similar to what they will wear to the evaluation. Include senior level people from your company not only to add a fresh perspective from their experience, but also to get the team comfortable presenting to senior people.
- After all practices and the team is confident to “go,” do a team building exercise or a social event to put everyone at ease.
- Don’t do a practice presentation the day of the presentation, even if you are presenting late afternoon. The team will already be “up” for the presentation and a poor run through at this point will damage confidence. If anything, do a simple “walk through” by a facilitator to refresh memories of important points to be covered.
- Check each other’s appearance just before the presentation. Take this time to also encourage each other and relax.
We strongly recommend a professional consultant lead your presentation preparations. Your team will listen to an outside professional more objectively and the consultant can “drive the team” to practice, practice, practice, and provide individual coaching to help team members who may need develop their presentation skills.