Oral Presentations for Government Proposals

Thursday, June 25, 2020

“I don’t need oral presentations training – I’m a SME!”

One of the ultimate examples of Government Contracting hubris occurs around oral presentations for Government proposals. Government contractors incorrectly assume that if they know the subject matter, then there is nothing else to learn or any need to prepare. 

Wrong. Presenting to the Federal Government requires a bit more effort. Oral presentations are not just a recitation of your own internalized knowledge – it is theater. 

We mean theater quite literally. You and your team are there to put on a show to sell your story to the Federal Government. Oral presentations for Government proposals should showcase your solution through an inflated, exaggerated reality. The winner of this exercise is the team that has simplified a complex solution and has gracefully connected the Government’s pain points to their benefits – all delivered with a little pomp and circumstance.

Beyond an innate understanding of the material, there are presentation mechanisms you can employ to give ‘em the old razzle-dazzle and drive your point home to a contract win. Because not all of us in Government Contracting are great actors, here are a few best practices to get your team ready for the stage!


Showcase Your Camaraderie 

If you find yourself in a group orals presentation, part of the evaluation will be on how well you work together as a team. As the saying goes – there is no “I” in “Team”. Avoid the temptation to divide and conquer orals presentation materials. Assigning individual parties with their section and then praying it all comes together is not a strategy. Remember that orals are a yardstick to measure teamwork, so presenters should employ some simple tips to demonstrate their ability to work together:

  • Don’t act like strangers! When it is time to end your part, pass it on to the next speaker, and use each other’s names. This simple tactic gives the allusion of friendship and unity and allows for a natural transition from point-to-point.
  • Orals are rarely a solo act. Invite other speakers to engage in your speaking section to avoid overexposure. Avoid the temptation to take center stage and to have the last word. Invite your team members to engage by name to further elaborate on your section.

Make Your Point

Just like a well-written proposal your presentation must always answer the pinnacle question: “So what?” Whether you are answering scenarios, responding to questions, or reciting a relevant anecdote –  your content must be strategic and purposeful. People have a tendency to ramble, but there are tactics you can employ to slow down and organize your thoughts:

  • Enumerate to add emphasis and to give subject headings to your speaking section, such as: “In this discussion, I will touch on three components – 1 X, 2 Y, and 3 Z.” Furthermore, this tactic will help your audience stay organized and follow along.
  • Rhetorical questions! What point will bullet two cover? Using rhetorical questions is a powerful tool to draw in your audience and buy yourself time if you get lost in thought.

Look the Part

Oral presentations are attended and evaluated by real people, therefore human nature is always at play. That means that optics will matter. Your Federal audience will notice, evaluate, and assess your non-verbal communication almost as strongly if not equally as the words that you present. Here are a few hints to ensure you are putting your best foot forward: 

  • Arrive well-groomed. Make sure groups are all dressed in a similar (but please not identical) fashion. Coordinating things like the color of your outfits communicate your team’s camaraderie without ever saying a word.
  • Just because you are done presenting does not mean that you have become invisible. Be alert and engaged when it’s your co-presenters turn. Non-verbal cues like eye contact and facial expressions can be misinterpreted so continue to stay interested throughout the entire presentation.

Need more tips and tricks on orals presentations? Contact your theater-enthusiast for details on how we can assist! Reach out to The Pulse of GovCon here.

Data featured in “Oral Presentations and Government Proposals – Fed Edition” written by Jaime Gracia, Federal Acquisition Change Agent.

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