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3 Tips to Powerful Presentations to the Government

by Erik Jensen | shared from Mike Parkinson, Blogs.Office.com

This post on presenting to government agencies is the second in a series of occasional posts by guest expert Mike Parkinson on using PowerPoint in different industries and for diverse audiences. Mike is an internationally recognized visual communication expert, multi-published author, and a partner at 24 Hour Company, a premier proposal and presentation graphics firm. His first post for the PowerPoint blog is titled 2 steps to change the world with PowerPoint.

I’m not the only person using PowerPoint to help grow my company. The U.S. government often requests PowerPoint presentations to choose the organization best suited to win contracts valued at millions or even billions of dollars. Many government procurement officers tell me that PowerPoint makes it easier to understand proposed solutions. Unlike with written proposals, government evaluators can ask the presenters questions about their solutions and get answers immediately during the presentation. Plus, they often refer to slide graphics and notes in their handouts for greater clarification.

PowerPoint makes it easy to use visuals, which are proven to increase learning and retention and also increase the likelihood that the audience will agree with the presenter’s solution and choose it. Often, the winning company’s solution affects people and livelihoods around the world. I’ve designed and worked closely on many presentations to the government that propose solutions to tough challenges like starvation, disease control, and the delivery of medical aid. Accompanied by well-designed and presented PowerPoint slides, a company’s oral proposal educates evaluators on ground-breaking solutions and can help create thousands of jobs (opening of a new research facility), save lives (aid to countries in need, first responder solutions, military protection), and help our world become a better place (NASA, NOAA, etc.).

Here are three tips for presenting to government agencies:

1. Reflect your audience in your presentation. People are drawn to the familiar colors, imagery, terms, etc. Below are two slides from a presentation to the U.S. Army. Slide A uses Army imagery and colors. The bullets focus on their relationship with the Army. Slide B uses the corporation’s colors and shows business imagery. The bullets do not mention the U.S. Army. Which slide would be more memorable to the audience?

2. Use a template. Before I begin any design work on a presentation for a government proposal, I create a template slide with graphic and text style guides, colors, and sample imagery. The more detail, the better. Continue to add icons and update the styles as necessary. Often, I am working with a team of designers on a proposal with a quick turnaround. Using a template helps to guarantee consistency, and consistency breeds trust. Again, when possible, choose colors and imagery that reflect your audience or its goals. (Note the tie-in of red, white, and blue in the title bar below. Government reviewers respond well to patriotic symbols like the flag, the eagle, military personnel, etc., as long as it relates to your subject matter.)

3. Make your slides benefit driven. Connect features or content to a specific benefit to give your audience a reason to listen and care. Research your audience and learn what questions your slides need to address. Is security their priority when establishing a new network for a remote office? Is cost or schedule the most important factor in delivering a new submarine? Will civilians or military officials be using the product or service? Below is a sample graphic from a presentation to a government agency. We highlighted our features, benefits, and discriminators to make it easier for our audience to understand why our solution is the best.

– Mike Parkinson

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