Interviews and Presentations

The bid interview or presentation comes soon after the bid submission. It is your last opportunity to impress the buyer. This is when you need to ramp up, not wind down. You can rest after it’s done. Most of the problems we see result from leaving the presentation preparation to the last minute. Be like our framework client, the presentation was two days after the bid deadline. We started working on their presentation with them mid-way through the bid period. On the day of the interview the team were fully prepped, relaxed and ready to perform.

Before you start working on your presentation you need to nail down the following:

  • Who is your audience? Who is on the panel?
  • What do they want to hear? What’s important to them?
  • What are their instructions or guidelines for the presentation?
  • What’s the venue and the room layout of the place where the presentation is to be held?

Structuring your presentation

How not to do it
The following structure for a presentation is a sure-fire route to losing a bid, especially a close bid. Don’t feel bad if you’re guilty of having used it.

  • Who we are
  • Our journey
  • Our team
  • Our services
  • Our generic solutions
  • Any questions

Here’s why. It’s all about you. The client has a clear and distinct need and listening to you is not one of them. You are there to make their life easier and by using this approach you are asking too much. They should not have to interpret how you can help them.

Here’s how to do it
Simply flip your approach – look at things from the perspective of the buyer, be totally focused on them.

  • You (the buyer)
  • Your challenge/ need/ problem
  • Our solution to your challenge/ need/ problem
  • Our track record in delivering similar challenges/ needs/ problems (evidence)
  • How our solution is better than our competitors
  • Any questions

You are spelling out your solution in relation to their needs.

Defining your messages

How not to do it
You have some guidance from the buyer on the areas they want you to cover in your presentation, you dive straight in.

  • You allocate 10mins to Shahzad on technical, 10min to Emilie on commercial, 10min for Peter to top and tail.
  • Our journey
  • They develop their slides independently in their respective specialist areas.
  • You amalgamate the slides into a 100-slide deck packed with text, diagrams and data.
  • You describe in detail all the features of your products/services without relating the benefits to the client.
  • You will end up with a hodgepodge of ideas that are confusing and don’t flow together. You will lose the audience’s interest, and the bid.

Here’s how to do it
Be clear about what you want the audience to take away and use storytelling to take them on a journey, delivering key messages, while keeping them engage

  • Define exactly what you want to achieve in the presentation – Do you want to impress them? Reassure them?
  • Once you know your objective, draw out all the key parts of your bid that reinforces this.
  • Then distil this into three or four key points – studies show people can remember only three or four things in a presentation.
  • Then put this into a logical flow.

Delivering with confidence

How not to do it

  • Skimp on hiring a presentation skills coach.
  • Have people read from notes, avoid eye contact, fidget, and pace.
  • Don’t bother with rehearsals – the presenters know what they’re doing.
  • Don’t do a time check – overrun is no big deal.

Here’s how to do it
Don’t pretend to be someone else. Just be a better version of yourself. By this, we mean playing up strengths and playing down weaknesses.

  • Get a presentation skills coach in – everyone will benefit however experienced they are.
  • Film the presenters’ rehearsals, play it back to them, they might find it cringeworthy, but it’s a good way to give feedback.
  • Presenters should adopt confident body language – see box below.
  • They should be authentic and present in a comfortable conversational tone.
  • Your team needs to show some enthusiasm and energy.
  • Do a run through with timings to avoid overruns.
  • Rehearse. Rehearse. Rehearse – it will help your team refine its message further.
  • Make sure you produce a ‘leave behind document’.
person (1)
The Clinton Box

Based on a Bill Clinton anecdote, if you don’t know what to do with your hands, imagine a box in front of your chest and belly and contain your hand movements within. Indicates trustworthiness

person (2)
Holding the ball

As if you’re holding a basketball between your hands. Indicates confidence and in control

person (3)
Pyramid Hands

Clasp your hands together in a pyramid shape. Indicates self-assurance and feeling relaxed

person (4)
Wide Stance

Strong and steady with feet about a shoulder width apart. Indicates confidence and in control

person (5)
Palms up

Have your hands hip height and arms wide open, palms facing up. Indicates openness and honesty

Source: Centre for Body Language

Handling tough questions

One thing you can be certain of is that there will be some tough questions in the Q&A session after the presentation.

How not to do it

  • Do ten minutes of preparation for the Q&A session just before you head in.
  • Have your most senior person jump in to answer every question.
  • Start “piling on” – this is when everyone in your team chips into the answer just because.
  • Be defensive when asked about a sensitive topic.
  • Be evasive because you don’t want to commit.
  • Make stuff up because you don’t know the answer, or you didn’t read the bid.

Here’s how to do it
Know your bid inside out.

  • Agree beforehand on who will cover which topics.
  • Agree who is responsible for answering what types of questions.
  • Spend as much time prepping for the Q&A as you do for the presentation.
  • Prepare for tough questions:
    • Look at the weaknesses of your offer
    • Look at the strength of the opposition
    • Write down the toughest questions you can possibly think of and prep for them repeatedly
    • Then move onto the typical standard ones and prep for them
    • Always do closing remarks, don’t end your presentation on a Q&A.
  • Make sure you produce a ‘leave behind document’.

Developing your presentation in three Steps

You can get your interview or presentation planned, rehearsed and polished in three steps. Do it over non-consecutive days because you’ll need the time in between to do the work.

Story Development

  • Define what you want to achieve
  • Brainstorm ideas
  • Pick the 4 – 5 key messages
  • Order the messages into a logical flow
  • Decide who the presenters will be
  • Agree other media assets e.g. material, handouts, models

Slide Design & Refinement

  • Finalize the structure and content for the presentation
  • Prepare for tough questions
  • Produce your ‘leave behind document’

Delivery Skills & Rehearsal

  • Buy in presentation skills coaching
  • Practice and rehearse the presentation at least twice with timings
  • Practice answering expected questions effectively

In Summary

  • Don’t leave your presentation preparation to the last minute – start working on it in parallel with the bid.
  • Structure your presentation around the perspective of the buyer - their challenge/ need/ problem – then spell out your solution in relation to their needs.
  • Be absolutely clear on what you want to achieve in the presentation.
  • Tell a crisp, clean story – focus on 4-5 key messages.
  • Bring in a presentation skills coach to hone your delivery styles.
  • Practice answering the tough questions you could get during the Q&A.
  • Rehearse. Rehearse. Rehearse.