The presentation: Preparation and rehearsal counts, really

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Prepare your presentations with serious rehearsals

Public speaking consultant Joey Asher has written an important post for anyone preparing for a serious presentation in the final stage competition for architectural, engineering and construction work.

This is the place where the decision-makers meet and connect and review the short-list candidates. Often millions of dollars in business are on the line, and (especially for larger project) many years of work.

Asher rightfully says you should take this process very seriously, especially if people involved in the presentation (such as construction superintendents) rarely need to give/answer formal presentations. Preparation and research is essential — and planning the presentation (and anticipating the questions and answers afterwards) should not be left to chance.

He writes:

Ultimately, the goal is to have the owners say, “I like those guys. I’m confident that they can handle this project. And I’m looking forward to spending the next one or two years working with them.”

These are the his key points:

Identify owner hot buttons

The best business pitches avoid speaking broadly about firm qualifications and instead directly address owner-concerns and challenges posed by the particular project. If the owner is concerned about getting local subcontractor participation, then the pitch should address that concern.

How superintendents, project mangers, and estimators should organize their thoughts

Asher outlines the key processes here. (There’s much greater detail on his original posting.)

  1. Point

This is a simple statement that you’re going to effectively manage one of the owner’s hot button issues. Directness impresses the owner that you’re a clear communicator.

Example:“We know that this project is being done in a high population density area and that you’re concerned about safety. We’re going to make this a very safe site.

2. Plan

Next, the speaker should lay out a plan for how to address the hot button issues.

Once again, great presentations lay out plans for solving and addressing the prospect’s key concerns.

3. Story

Next, the speaker should tell a story about how he has successfully executed similar plans for other projects. Stories build credibility and separate you from the competition. Only you can tell your success stories.

4. Commitment

Finally, the speaker should tell the decision-making panel of his own commitment to ensure that the hot button issue is addressed in a satisfactory way. Commitment statements are a powerful way to end a section of a presentation. They show the speaker’s eagerness to do great work for the owner.

5. Prepare for questions

6. Rehearse

Nothing is more important to winning a pitch than rehearsal. This is especially true with people that don’t give many presentations such as superintendents, project managers, and estimators. We worked with a superintendent who had only given a handful of pitches in his entire career. But he was extremely serious about practicing until he knew his lines and was ready to nail it. And that’s exactly what he did. In fact, the owners commented that, “We’re going to give you the job. But only if you can guarantee that we’re getting Jim as our superintendent.”

I think it helpful to add a few words about the preparation process. First, if you have a serious “inside” chance of winning the work, you should not take things for granted and just coast into the presentation. If you do, you may well win the work despite your failure to prepare, but you’ll certainly increase your chances of failing on what should be a slam-dunk.

And that leads to the final point: If you truly have an inside-track, you’ll find that the preparation process comes quite easily. You’ll certainly have enough insights into the client, the values and personalities of the selection team, and confidence in your own organization’s ability to do the work. In this situation, preparation will be less of a chore than a reinforcing exercise. Take it seriously, but you won’t need to be too serious about the effort.

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