March 28, 2002
Delivering the pitch after making the short list
By DAN SAFFORD
You’ve prepared your proposal, submitted it, and have just learned you have been short-listed. That’s the good news.
But, there’s also bad news — now you have to deliver the pitch. If writing the proposal was bad, this is much worse.
To make it as easy on yourself as possible, you decide to do what most teams do: organize your presentation based on your proposal outline and deliver a condensed version of your proposal.
And bore the panel to tears.
Here’s a fact that can change the way you prepare and deliver your presentation. In the interview the evaluators are looking to answer two main questions: Can we work with these people? and Should we trust them with our project?
The client already knows you are technically competent. That’s why you are in the interview. It ain’t about the technical work. It’s about the people!
What you need to do is help the evaluation panel answer those questions in your favor. They want to hear your enthusiasm for the job and to feel that they can trust you with the project. You won’t get them to feel that way by repeating what you’ve already said in the proposal.
Here are some tips to make a powerful presentation:
Executive summaries should excite the readers and make them anxious to see more. Your presentation should do the same. It should get the clients interested in working with you. So interested that they can’t imagine working with anyone else.
A presentation that revolves around a central message is easier to develop and deliver. From the audience’s standpoint, it’s a whole lot easier to listen to. It’s more interesting than just a bunch of techno-speak strung together, or a disjointed series of things you’ll do that seem to have no continuity. You will be able to control the listeners’ attention a lot more completely if you have a central theme they can get interested in.
This can seem like a risky approach because you’re putting all your eggs in one basket. But if it’s the right basket — if you have nailed your client’s hot buttons accurately — the risk is really pretty low.
Don’t stop with the theme. Every single time you can point out how you will benefit the client, make sure you do. Pepper your presentation with benefits, large and small. The idea is to make your team as attractive as possible, to make it impossible for the client to not select you.
But, of all the possible things you will do during the project, of all the many activities and approaches you will take, which ones should you mention in the 15 minutes you are allotted? What’s your basis for selecting the topics you will address?
Focus on the issues you know the client thinks are important, then tell her how you will resolve them. This will grab and keep her attention. Remember that every competitor — every team that presents — is about equally capable technically to do the work. And each team will likely come up with a similar approach. But if you focus on the issues that are critical to the client, you score points.
You want to talk technical. It’s where your comfort zone is. It’s easy for you to lapse into a nuts-and-bolts discussion. The panel, however, doesn’t want to hear it, at least not as much as you.
OK, that should get you thinking about how to develop your presentation. Now let’s talk a little bit about the most important five minutes in your pitch: the beginning.
In other words, the first words out of your mouth lays the foundation for how the audience will perceive you — and your pitch — for the rest of the presentation.
Think hard about the tone you want to achieve, then figure out the best way to go about it.
Make sure everyone on the team is on board. When the time comes for them to speak, they must play their role in controlling the tone of the presentation. If they don’t, things can unravel very quickly.
If you start off flat, you will stay flat, at least from the listener’s point of view.
It can be as simple as that.
Remember this about the short-list presentation:
Help them. Think about them. And give them what they need to make the decision in your favor.
Dan Safford is CEO and senior proposal consultant at Seattle-based PS Associates. He has nearly 20 years of experience managing proposals, including a stint at Boeing Defense & Space Group as a proposal specialist, where he had a win rate of over 75 percent. PS Associates can be reached at (206) 463-6827 or on the Web at www.psassociates.com.
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