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Oral Presentations of Government Proposals

Whether providing a computerized presentation or utilizing slides, there are several "do's" and "don't's" to ensure a successful presentation.

When preparing your presentation, be sure that you:

  • Consider your audience. What do they want to know? What do they need to know? What is the best, most easily understood, most interesting method of conveying this information?
  • Organize your presentation in a logical manner. Have a consistent look for the presentation. Make sure that it can be identified with your company and/or product or service. For example, this could be achieved through use of a consistent color scheme or your company logo.
  • Consider any time limitations on your proposal. Try to keep your presentation as brief as possible while still covering any information your client will want or need to know. For lengthier presentations, plan on scheduling breaks every 30 to 45 minutes, if possible.
  • Consider any supplementary material your client may need to go along with the presentation. This might include company information (such as brochures or business cards) or even an outline or copy of the presentation itself.
  • Carefully review and follow any instructions your client may have regarding what they want in the presentation. For example, the Government usually has very specific requirements regarding the length and content of presentations, up to and including the font size of the type used and the supplementary materials that can be provided.
  • Plan on spending no longer than two or three minutes on each slide or graphic. The interest of even the most attentive member of your audience will wane after two or three minutes on the same slide.

Before the presentation, you should:

  • Practice. Make sure you are familiar with all of the material, slides, graphics, and any other items you will use. If possible, practice in front of colleagues and/or videotape your presentation so you can work out any problems prior to the actual presentation.
  • Try to anticipate anything that could go wrong and how you would cope with that situation. You don't want to dwell on things that could go wrong, you just want to be prepared in case something does go wrong.
  • Visit the site where you will be giving your presentation. Bring at least one other person with you. Have the other person sit in the various places where your audience will sit and practice saying a few words so that you'll know how to modulate your voice. If you will be using a microphone, practice with the microphone. You want to be sure that your audience will be able to hear you clearly, but you also want to be sure that your voice won't be too loud. If you will be using equipment other than your own, ask if you can practice with the equipment so that you'll be confident in your ability to use it.
  • Verify the date and time of the presentation and the number of people who will be there. Make a list of all of the items you will need for your presentation and the quantity of handouts and supplemental materials you will need. Review this list with one or two colleagues to make sure you haven't forgotten anything. Make sure required equipment will be at the presentation site and arrange for sufficient supplemental materials prior to your presentation. Double-check all of the items you will need for your presentation: make sure you have all of the slides and that they are in the correct order, that you have sufficient supplementary materials, and the like.

To have a successful presentation, follow the rules of public speaking:
  • Get a good night's sleep the day before your presentation. Being well-rested will help you feel more confident, less jittery, and enable you to better deal with any surprises that might arise.
  • Dress appropriately, but dress comfortably. You don't want to be distracted by ill-fitting clothes or clothing that requires constant adjustments. Avoid distracting accessories, as well, such as jangling bracelets or necklaces. If you will be speaking in front of a large audience, wear brighter colors or accessories (vests, jackets, or ties) to help make you more visible. If you will be speaking in front of a camera, don't wear stripes, houndstooth, or other intricate patterns that will be distracting on film.
  • Eat a light meal or snack before your presentation. You don't want to feel too full, but you don't want to be distracted by hunger, either.
  • Leave early for your presentation to allow for travel delays and any other problems.
  • Make sure water is available for you to drink. Nervousness and prolonged speaking are likely to make your mouth dry. Avoid drinking caffeine or sweetened drinks, which can make it more difficult to speak clearly.
  • Of course, don't do anything distracting during your presentation, such as chew gum or tobacco products, smoke, or eat.
  • If possible, have someone familiar with your presentation with you to help assist with slide transitions and passing out any supplementary materials. This will provide you with a friendly face in the audience as well as someone to help you remember all the critical details of your presentation. You may also want your assistant to help monitor your speaking time; if necessary, your assistant could signal you with an unobtrusive, previously established signal to let you know when you're running long, when you're running short, or when you need to stop for a break.
  • Be sure to introduce yourself and any colleagues with you to your audience and thank them for this opportunity to provide your presentation.
  • Speak naturally, rather than read directly from your presentation. You may use an outline or briefing notes to help keep you on track during your presentation, but avoid reading directly from your notes. Be yourself, but be professional.
  • Try not to get upset if something goes wrong during your presentation-visible agitation on your part will only make it harder for you to overcome the problem and will make your audience uncomfortable. If appropriate, make a small joke while you fix the problem. If the problem can't be fixed easily, just continue with your presentation, adjusting it as necessary to fit the circumstances. Being familiar with your subject and your presentation will help you continue despite any technical difficulties that might occur.

After your presentation, be sure to ask if there are any questions and respond accordingly. Once your presentation is complete, be sure to thank your audience for the opportunity to speak with them.

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