Enhancing the Oral Presentation Experience for Both Vendors and Evaluators

How a Little March Madness Can Help Evaluators Make Orals Count 

As I was watching the top ranked teams drop in game after game in this year’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball tournament, I couldn’t help but think of the ancient play and the soothsayer’s warning to Julius Caesar — “Beware the ides of March.” This naturally led me to think about the oral presentations segment of the request for proposal (RFP) process and the cautions I often give to clients when preparing them for this “life and death” moment, especially as it relates to the evaluator’s role. 

While the oracle’s warning didn’t save the Roman leader, perhaps a few lessons learned at RFP Success will help your prospective vendors — and you — shed a little less hemoglobin during the process.  

  • Ensure the RFP is well developed: Only five players can be on the hardwood at any time, and too many people involved in the design and development of the RFP could make the goals of the RFP less clear than sitting in the nosebleed seats. Having a dedicated, knowledgeable team creating a clear and consistent RFP will go a long way in presenting an organized, instructive solicitation and event.  
  • Ensure everyone on the evaluation team understands and is on the same page with the program objectives: No team will make it to the Final Four if they are not aware of, or haven’t bought into, the game plan. Even one player who’s not on board with the team’s plan can be a bracket buster. The RFP developers and evaluation team should have a clear understanding of the intent of the RFP and what the agency is looking for in a vendor. An evaluation guidebook and training process will go a long way in ensuring your agency gets a great response to your solicitation. Who knows, maybe your expertly written RFP solicitation will provide you at least a group of “Sweet 16” to choose from! 
  • Develop a scoring sheet that makes it easy for the evaluators to be consistent: Having an easy to understand, and easy to score evaluation sheet will help evaluators track each vendor’s qualifications during the often long and busy day of oral presentations. After all, the goal of the oral presentation is to identify that number one seed that will help you reach your agency’s goals. Make it as stress-free as possible for your evaluators to score and comment on each vendor. 
  • Check references: Finally, while everything looks shiny and new in the arena — or at least in your agency’s conference room — make sure your evaluators check the references of those that make it to orals. We’ve all seen it where teams come out on top after orals, only to lose it after their references are fully vetted. Vendors should earn their spot to the Big Dance in all areas of the RFP process.  

While there may be more on the line with your agency’s RFP than at the NCAA tournament, following these recommendations just might help you find that “Cinderella Story” vendor — whether it’s the middle of March or not — and help you reach your agency’s goals.  

Ted Koval, PMP is a Proposal Manager and Writer for The RFP Success Company and has served as a senior government and communications leader with nearly 30 years of proposal management, government, communications, change, and project management experience. Ted has led the full cycle proposal process, designed, and developed policy, communications, and outreach programs at all levels of state government and the private sector. Holding a Master of Public Administration Degree, he has extensive experience advising leaders on complex policy and proposal initiatives impacting millions of citizens across several states, counties, and industries. Ted is a Certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and has Fortune 50 consulting experience writing and managing government and corporate communications and change and programs. He is a frequent speaker on designing and executing project management, communications, and change initiatives.

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