How (and why) you should produce really effective “skimmable” proposals

Skimmable proposals matt handal

Matt Handal has published a worthy article for anyone who has to prepare complex and incredibly detailed proposals. These are often necessary because of the specific requirements in the proposal documentation — and of course if you don’t complete all the requirements, your efforts could be quite easily trashed for non-compliance.

But how do you make the document into something that isn’t so turgid — and how do you ensure that the proposal reviewers read the parts of your message that are most important to capture your proposal’s advantages?

Handal offers several suggestions, notably, making your work “skimmable” — with the stuff that is read on quick view being, of course the content you want the reviewers to read the most.

Here are some of his suggestions:

  • Benefit-Based Subheadings Make Your Key Points Unavoidable;
  • Focus Boxes Sell Your People And Experience;
  • Less Text Means More Of Your Proposal Will Be Read;
  • Attention-Grabbing Images Bring Eyes To Your Text
  • Themes Hammer Your Key Message Home; and
  • Psychology Grabs And Maintains Reader Attention

This review of course is a “skim” version of his article, which provides some background examples and explanations of each of the points. You can read it here.

How important is it to get your proposal process right? Since most AEC business is won through the RFP process, obviously you need to think through each stage of the initiative — from deciding where to go and not (wasting your time on proposals where you haven’t the faintest chance of winning is a killer) to getting your actual short-list presentation right. But you have to get to the short-list stage, of course, and that is where this advice is exceptionally useful. Especially since, if you follow the concepts effectively, you are setting yourself up for a positive first impression when you indeed reach the short list/interview stage.

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