Ten Important Steps for FEDSIM Orals Bids – Part 2

  |  March 17, 2020

Karl Leatham

Getting the slide preparation process right is a huge step in winning a FEDSIM competition.  I have used the following slide development strategy numerous times in FEDSIM and other oral efforts.  It offers discrete, logical steps that begin with analysis of the slide requirements and end with the completed presentation.

1. Assign an Oral Slide Volume Lead.  The demands of oral slide/media preparation are different from written proposals.  This is especially true if slides are due concurrently with the written submission.  Because writers will be concerned with completing their assigned sections and will be reluctant to support slide development until their sections are complete – normally too late to begin work on the slides.  Assigning a separate volume manager fixes responsibility for the oral slides.  The oral volume manager can then work with the proposal manager and written volume managers to direct technical resources as needed to complete the slides.

2. Determine the number of slides. A well-proven rule of thumb is that the slide total should roughly equal 2/3rds of the presentation minutes available, excluding covers and agenda slides.  E.g., for a 90-minute oral presentation, 60 slides etc.  This allows one and a half minutes per slide – a comfortable presentation pace.  The slide numbers will probably grow slightly during deck development, but if possible, the number should be capped at no more than 3/4ths of the minutes available to avoid a hurried, uncomfortable presentation.

3. Develop the Slide Titles. Determine the topics that must be addressed from the instructions, SOW, and evaluation criteria and allocate them to slide titles across the total number of slides. The slide total will dictate the level of abstraction in the slide titles and the topics to be addressed on each slide. Once the titles are determined, develop agenda slides that divide the major sections according to the letter of instructions and/or Sections L and M. Some topics may require minimum treatment and can be combined onto a single slide. Just list the two titles separated by a semi-colon.

4. Lock the Format, Pallet, and Slide Submission Process. Before developing content, it is important to have a skilled graphic artist develop the overall look of the proposal as well as specify a coordinated, effective color pallet to be used by all slide developers.  This step avoids rework and saves enormous amounts of time later.  The sample pallet should also reinforce the prime contractor’s branding and include font type and size, line widths, look and color treatment of text boxes, headings, tables, features and benefits, innovations, etc., so that they are consistently applied across the slide deck as slides are developed. The graphic artist should enforce these rules on every turn of the slides during development.  With the graphic artist, develop and document for slide developers the process for submitting drafts and changes to slides as well as designate the location of the master copy baseline (normally controlled by the graphic artist).

5. Develop oral presentation storyboards. Depending on the specific RFP requirements and level of abstraction dictated by total slide numbers and titles, develop storyboard templates appropriate to the various types of slides being developed to stimulate and facilitate content development.  Make sure to assign an author to each slide.  Have the authors populate the storyboard slides with requirements, approaches, overall concepts, methods and techniques, and sketches or copies of any key graphics they plan to use.

6. Move the storyboards to the wall (real or virtual).  Move the storyboards to the development environment and gather any re-use slide materials that proposal managers and slide authors have determined are applicable.  With a distributed workforce now being the norm, enterprise-level virtual development environments (SharePoint, Privia, etc.) are almost always used for this step.

7. Conduct a Blue Team to get management buy in. Overall mapping of requirements to slide titles, value proposition, messages, deck structure, approaches, concepts, graphics, methods and techniques, and the color pallet should all be approved in the blue team.

8. Develop the slide materials and hold rolling reviews when slides and sections are ready. A very useful technique in this phase is to set a goal each day of completing a set number of specific slides that are in the final stages of development (say 5 or 6 per workday). Plan a day or two in advance to make sure any needed resources are committed to help the slide authors.  Five slides per workday adds up, producing 50 draft slides in 2 standard work weeks.  This pace allows the oral volume lead to drive the process at a good pace and to get one-on-one time with authors and SMEs to mockup and complete the slides. This technique also keeps the graphic artist(s) working at a consistent pace to avoid workload surges requiring additional graphics help. Rolling reviews of individual slides and sections can be completed as slides are finalized, easing the review burden later.

9. Based on the submission schedule, hold the red and gold reviews, and the final white glove edit. It’s important to get reviewers in the red and gold teams who are familiar with winning FEDSIM oral bids. Written volume reviewers without oral experience often have unrealistic expectations with regard to oral slide content due to the level of abstraction being presented. The final white glove review should be done by a small number of detail-oriented reviewers who, in addition to looking for copy errors (missing periods, double spaces, spelling errors and final grammar checks, etc.) also look for and enforce complete consistency of color pallet standards across the proposal.

10. Wrap up the presentation and get rid of all rogue copies.  For concurrent written/slide submissions, the government usually specifies that no changes to the slides are allowed post submission, and normal proposal processes will ensure that slides are final at time of submission.  When slide development follows the written submission, however, special attention to this step is needed to give the presentation team a final clean copy of the slides to work with at the start of training so that the team’s delivery practice sessions can use a final slide baseline.

More FEDSIM coverage can be found here: Developing Orals for FEDSIM Bids – Part 1