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Land that Government Contract: Tips for Presenting to the Federal Government

By Marsha Lindquist

Any company that does contract work for the federal government knows that oral presentations are a part of the game. Unfortunately, because giving a federal government presentation is so different from a typical business presentation, many companies don’t receive as many contracts as they’d like.

Realize that the federal government is not your typical audience. They come into the room and may or may not shake hands and greet you. All the federal government members stoically sit on one side of the table, and you and your team sit on the other. They cannot react to anything you say, and they cannot comment on anything until the question and answer time. Essentially, while you’re presenting, you get no feedback, no body language, and nothing to indicate whether you’re doing okay.

Additionally, the federal government sees many different groups of people present to them each day. And they often watch the same kinds of materials being presented repeatedly. They score you with a point system every step of the way, and they reward the contract to the company with the most points. So in order to stand out, catch their attention, and get the highest score, you need to present materials that are different and unique.  

If you’re tired of continually presenting for federal contracts and rarely getting picked, perhaps it’s time to brush up on your presentation skills. While the actual specifics of presenting to the federal government are complex and the topic goes very deep, following are some initial tips to get you on the right path.

Three Steps to Presentation Success:  All federal government presentations have three distinct informational phases: 1) the people who will work on the project, 2) the project’s management, and 3) the company’s problem solving abilities. Let’s go over each in detail.

1. Present the people behind the project: During the first phase you need to talk about the individuals who will be working on the project. These are the actual hands-on key personnel who get named in the proposal and who the government will be interacting with, not the ghostwriters who crafted the proposal in the background.

Make sure you present information that’s new and different, not the same data you already covered in the written proposal. Remember, in the written proposal phase you’ve likely already given resumes of the key personnel. You’ve already covered each person’s past accomplishments and educational background. Now you want to give the federal government insight to the people behind the team.

Have each key personnel member speak for him or herself, with the focus being how your past personal experiences translate to your current professional life, and how that specifically impacts the project you’re now presenting on. When you’re done, always talk about the features of “you” and the benefits of why you need to be on the team for this project. Give insight about yourself that can’t be gleaned from a piece of paper. Show how your experience has significance to the project. Most organizations that present orals to the federal government never go beyond what they supplied in the written proposal, and that’s one of the biggest mistakes you can make.

2. Present the project management aspect: The next phase you’ll present is how you’ll manage the project. Some things to consider and include in your presentation are: How is your organization set up? How are you set up to handle problems? Who are the players who handle problems? How do you draw on other pieces of your organization, not just the key personnel? How do you draw on other strategic alliances or subcontractors? How does everyone, internally and externally, work together? What are some of your established processes? What have you done on other projects that are similar to the one you’re proposing to the federal government now? In essence, the federal government wants to know about “you the organization”—what you’ve done in the past that proves what you can do in the future.

You may have covered a lot of this information in your written proposal, but now you’re revealing the live and in-person part of it. One of the deadliest things to do during this phase is present your materials in a “hum-drum” kind of way. You need to exude excitement about the organization and show your passion for the project. You need to talk about not only each individual’s commitment to the project, but also how the organization as a whole and the management team is committed to the project.

3. Present the problem solving process: For many companies, this final phase—the problem solving simulation—is the most difficult. It’s also the one piece most organizations do not spend enough time practicing. As such, they lose a lot of points here, often resulting in missed opportunities.

The challenge is that many people presume that because their team has tackled many problems together in the past, they don’t need to practice problem solving now. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even if you’re a group of seasoned problem solvers, you still need to practice how you solve a problem.

How can you possibly practice problem solving? Quite simply, you have someone from the outside (preferably a consultant) present you with case study problems that you have typically faced in the past. It could be a technological problem, a community problem, an HR problem, a financial problem, or even a terrorist problem. There are so many different problems that can come up in the course of you doing business. You then simply need to practice with the entire team how you would solve the problem.

When you do this for the federal government, they’ll present you with a possible problem, give you some time to conference about the problem and ask questions, and then they’ll watch how you solve the problem. Realize that the federal government doesn’t care what your final solution is; they care about your approach to the problem. They’re watching how you solve problems and how you work together as a team. That’s why you need to practice this problem solving simulation on a daily basis for two to three weeks straight before going live in front of the federal government. The more you practice problem solving, the better you’ll do as a team.

Secure Your Future with Government Contracts: Working with the federal government can be both professionally and financially rewarding. The key is knowing how to give a winning oral presentation that earns you the contract. By recognizing how federal government presentations differ from typical business presentations, and then practicing accordingly, you can land more contracts quickly and easily, and positively impact your company’s bottom line.

Read other articles and learn more about Marsha Lindquist.

[This article is available at no-cost, on a non-exclusive basis. Contact PR/PR at 407-299-6128 for details and requirements.]

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