Developing Orals for FEDSIM Bids – Part 1

  |  January 15, 2020

Karl Leatham

Note: The author is a master orals coach with extensive FedSim experience.

A Short History of FEDSIM Orals –FEDSIM was an early pioneer and remains a consistent user of oral presentations in procurements it supports. Historically, the technical volume in FEDSIM procurements has been submitted via orals, and the structure of the oral presentation has followed generally recurring patterns, with heavy emphasis on management, staffing, and transition processes in addition to meeting the client’s technical requirements.

It is generally understood by industry that if the government asks for an orals presentation, they are sending a key signal that they want to see, hear, interact with, and be comfortable with the key team members you are bidding.  Often, only staff bid as key personnel are allowed to attend, and in virtually all cases, the proposed program manager will be required to be the key presenter.

FEDSIM Orals Trends —In early FEDSIM bids, the winning Government Wide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) vehicle prime teams could not protest individual Task Order Requests (TORs) as a generally understood condition of the contract.  This made the GWAC vehicles very popular. Oral presentation evaluation could be more subjective, and an award could be quickly made.  Non-verbal evaluator feedback and interactions (intentional or not) during live oral presentations and especially live Q&As gave valuable information to bidding teams – leading to claims of unfair competition.  The early subjective nature of oral evaluations, the perception of “unfairness”, and the popularity and increasingly high value of bids in the GWAC environment where orals were used created problems for the government. The eventual result was a change in protest rules allowing bidders to protest individual TORs.

Once the GWAC protest environment changed, orals procedures necessarily had to change as well. Government evaluators had to become more objective in their oral evaluations to defend their decisions. Now evaluators often record the live orals to facilitate later detailed analysis and to back up award decisions.  In extreme cases, live oral presenters sometimes present to a camera linking the presenters to evaluators in another room so that no feedback is possible.  Also, bidders are now sometimes required to submit a video of the oral presentation – thereby completely disconnecting the presenters from the evaluators both in place and time.

Compliance in Orals Presentations –By definition, FEDSIM procurements that use orals as the mechanism for presenting the technical volume require that bidders address the client’s technical requirements.  However, a very important fact in orals is that bidders must refine requirements and ideas up to a higher level of abstraction.  It is simply not possible to get the same amount of detail into the presentation slides as would be possible in a lengthy written proposal. Most often, slide development teams are working at the overall approach, major process, and major methods and techniques level of abstraction.  Bulleted text replaces whole sentences / paragraphs of what would be written text. Working at his level requires more “right brained” thinking that can sometimes be difficult for technical personnel who must think and write at a more condensed level.

Technical requirements in orals are always client-unique and very different for each procurement.  These sections are commonly difficult to prepare, require more original thought and research, and require the production of original graphics to meet the specific technical requirements of the client.

The Importance of Slide Libraries – An axiom of orals presentations is that management, staffing, transition, and other non-technical slides can be produced much more quickly and easily than the SOW-based technical slides. This is true for several reasons: First, there are only a limited number of ways to manage, staff, and transition a government contract. These techniques have already been invented, used, and repeatedly described, both in writing and in orals presentations. Second, graphics used in written management sections such as org charts, task/work order process diagrams, risk management techniques, quality processes, etc., are often very similar to those used in orals presentations.  And third, multiple award GWACs that use oral presentations as the evaluation technique often require that particular forms of PMO management, staffing matrices, and transition processes be used. Once developed for one TOR, these orals slides are highly re-usable on subsequent task order bids.

Experienced managers and proposal staff have used and refined this material many times and can easily see where it can be applied in orals presentations. Savvy companies maintain archives of this material to facilitate the quick generation of ideas and speed up slide development.

In Part 2 of this series we will provide tips on how to improve the slide development process and in Part 3, present methods to train the presentation team.

Part 2 can be found here: Ten Important Steps for FEDSIM Orals Bid