I’ve been seeing a new type of government proposal this year.
Traditional government contracts — especially in the federal arena — require a lengthy written proposal. The request for proposal (RFP) specifies the content to be addressed, things like past experience, pricing, resumes of key personnel. And much more.
Sometimes, the RFP requires an oral proposal as well. After submitting a written proposal, companies that are down selected are instructed to send in a team to present the highlights of their proposal in person, with PowerPoint slides.
In the past, oral proposals highlighted and elaborated on a few key issues already addressed in great detail in the written volume (or volumes).
This year I’ve worked on four proposals which follow a different format.
This new type of government proposal shifts most of the content from the written volumes to the oral proposal.
I’ve talked with other proposal professionals about why this is happening.
Why are written proposals (created in Word) being subordinated, if not replaced, by oral proposals (created in PowerPoint)?
Their consensus is: The new — and younger — crop of contracting officers is not accustomed to reading (or writing) lengthy volumes. They prefer having information presented in a simplified and visually appealing format.
The PowerPoint deck for this type of government proposal must fulfill two requirements at the same time.
It must present enough content — ideas, information, and explanations — to demonstrate how your approach (your people, processes, tools and technology) will give the customer more of what they want than the competition, addressing the specific issues addressed in the RFP; and
It must make the main idea of each slide clear, concise, and obvious to reviewers who are more likely to skim than to read attentively.
As I review the slides that most teams prepare for this new type of proposal, I’m usually impressed with how well they address the first requirement. Their slides are typically rich in content, compliant with all the specifications spelled out in the RFP.
The problem is that the good stuff –the ideas, information, explanations — obscures the main idea of each slide.
Meeting the second requirement requires more creativity.
The selection committee should be able to look at a slide and quickly understand its main point: what is being offered + how it benefits the customer.
Do not hide that point on the slide. Do not bury it in the middle of a paragraph. Make it painfully obvious.
I’d be happy if that main point were no longer than 10 or 12 words.