In oral presentations, direct answers are more important than creativity – Published September 14, 2012
In oral presentations, direct answers are more important than creativity
Washington Business Journal by Lee Dougherty, Attorney, General Counsel PC
Date: Friday, September 14, 2012, 10:04am EDT – Last Modified: Friday, September 14, 2012, 10:14am EDT
When required to give an oral presentation with little time to prepare, directly answer the questions presented by the contracting agency, and the chances of winning the contract will increase dramatically. Conversely a poorly given oral presentation could cause the agency to choose another contractor.
Protesting contractors: J5 Systems Inc., San Diego
Contracting agency: Department of Navy, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command
Issue: Whether the agency’s evaluation of a bidder’s oral presentation was unreasonable.
Postmortem: The Navy published a solicitation for the award of task order contracts for command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) systems to contractors whose proposals represented the best value to the government. The request for proposals was atypical in that it oral presentations were to be one the highest evaluated factors.
Often contracting officers shy away from oral presentations because that method takes more work and frequently is the subject of protests based on the perceived subjectivity of evaluating an oral presentation. The Navy relied on video recordings and photographs and thorough documentation of its evaluation decision to counter allegations of unreasonableness in its decision.
J5, after losing out on a contract worth $40 million, protested the Navy’s determination that it was not among the companies representing the best value. J5 argued that the Navy’s determination was not reasonable in light of the information presented during the oral presentation.
When oral presentations are part of the evaluation criteria they usually simply involve explaining parts of the written proposal. In this case, the Navy developed a “test.” Each company was given a sample task and had 2 ½ hours to prepare a presentation and 90 minutes to give the presentation. The Navy evaluators found that “J5’s oral presentation did not discuss eight of the specifically-required areas as set forth in the sample task.”
J5 chose to organize its presentation based on the organization of the RPF and the subject matter expertise of its presenters rather than directly address the areas that were required by the sample task. The evaluators concluded that J5’s oral presentation “did not indicate a clear understanding of the sample task and its technical detail.” The Government Accountability Office agreed with the Navy’s evaluation of J5’s oral presentation and denied the protest.
In its recommendation denying the protest, the GAO reminded contractors that the requirement to “prepare a well-written proposal … is as applicable to oral submissions as it is to written ones.” J5 failed to address eight areas which were specifically questioned, and according to the GAO the information that was provided was in “piecemeal fashion.”
Any company faced with an impromptu speech should not try to think too far outside of the box. Agencies are not evaluating your ability to be creative in how you present the answer; they are seeing if you can address the technical questions in a concise and detailed manner that shows a complete understanding of the needs of the agency.