How to Write a Proposal for Presentation

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A successful presentation proposal usually consists of two parts. First is the written proposal with all of the details. This is often a thick document, which is always designed to be read on its own. The second part is the presentation itself, where you get to explain your proposal in person and answer questions. Rarely, if ever, should you write a presentation the same way you write the proposal document.

Review Your Proposal Document

You may be asking yourself, "What's a project proposal?"A proposal document is usually broken down into sections, containing all of the information a manager would need to evaluate your recommendations. A typical proposal could consist of the following sections:

  • Executive Summary: Summarizes the proposal, briefly explaining the current situation and why your proposal should be accepted. 
  • Current Situation: Describes the current situation and any background leading to it, if relevant. Specifically, it addresses problems or shortcomings in the current situation.
  • Statement of Work or List of Products: A description of your solution to solve the problems in the current situation, including timelines if you are proposing services or a list of products to be purchased and their descriptions.
  • Management Plan: How the project will be supervised, including a schedule of project milestones, allocation of resources and people, as well as how you will manage risks involved in the project.
  • Qualifications: Explains why you or your company have the expertise to take on the project. This could include brief descriptions of past projects or a list of customers and testimonials.
  • Pricing and Contract: A detailed breakdown of the costs to the customer and a draft of your proposed contract.

Condense the Proposal Document

Make a copy of your proposal document to use as the basis of your presentation. Depending on how much time you have to do the presentation, you will likely want to delete most of the text from this document. Consider looking at a presentation plan sample if this is your first time writing one.

Use the Executive Summary as the framework for your presentation, but delete the section title. Look at each of the other sections and insert the most important information into the Executive Summary, keeping the information in the same order.

Write for Your Medium

As much as people may complain about PowerPoint, it is still the medium of choice for most presentations. Use a company logo and colors (yours or your prospect's) on each slide to make the presentation cohesive. Limit the amount of information on each slide to only the most important bullet points and use your presenter's notes to discuss what is on each slide. Avoid using animations, which can be tedious and distracting.

If you're using a whiteboard, consider writing yourself notes based on the proposal you are presenting, rather than writing a speech which you would have to read line for line. Regardless of what you use, practice the presentation a few times before going into the meeting.

Write for Your Audience

Whenever possible, find out who is going to be attending your presentation meeting. For a business proposal presentation, you can usually expect the manager who will be making the decision to be there as well as any stakeholders with an interest in the project. Often, specialists or those with technical knowledge of what you will be discussing will be there as well.

For a large project, or if your topic is particularly interesting, you should also be prepared for people to drop in at the last minute – like the CEO or the company president. Always bring a few extra copies of your written proposal so that everyone will have one

Tips

  • Never assume anyone in a proposal meeting isn't important. Anyone attending the meeting has been asked to be there for a reason. The quiet guy in the back corner may just be the manager's confidante who can approve or deny your proposal with a nod of his head.

In most cases, your audience will consist of people with varying levels of knowledge about your topic. Your presentation should be detailed enough to satisfy the experts, without going over the heads of those who aren't experts. So don't use four-syllable words when a two-syllable word will suffice. Keep it simple and invite your audience to refer to specific pages in the written document for additional information.

References

About the Author

A published author, David Weedmark has advised businesses on technology, media and marketing for more than 20 years and used to teach computer science at Algonquin College. He is currently the owner of Mad Hat Labs, a web design and media consultancy business. David has written hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines and websites including American Express, Samsung, Re/Max and the New York Times' About.com.

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