Choosing an Orals Coach
Not all orals coaches are the same. Orals coaches can differ broadly in skills and experience. When considering how to choose an orals coach, here's an outline of skills to seek out, and questions to answer.
1. Has existing knowledge
Ideally, the orals coach has existing knowledge of your company, business and corporate culture from previous engagements. There is also value in having worked with a broad range of other industries and firms bidding to federal, state and commercial clients.
2. Provides versatile methodology
The orals coach should have an Orals Methodology that guides the process from Kick-Off to Orals Day. The methodology must not be so rigid that it cannot respond to evolving conditions. Efficiency is critical. Presenters usually have full schedules with existing client work. They must use time for presentation development and rehearsals efficiently.
3. Designs and drives schedule
The Orals Coach must keep the presentation team on track to have the Orals come together on schedule. Presentation team should “peak” on Orals Day.
4. Sees the big picture
The Orals Coach must have the ability to sift through the multitude of marketing messages, win themes, discriminators and potential advantages to see the “big picture” -- the key reasons your firm should be chosen over the competition -- and can articulate that clearly for the evaluators.
5. Slide deck support
The coach should support the creation of a slide presentation that is persuasive, cohesive and clear. Slide formats and templates must highlight key messages, minimize clutter and avoid confusion. If the evaluators are annoyed by complex, poorly-designed slides, they will stop listening to you. They will, instead, listen to the little voice in their head saying, “Bad slides equals bad contract work.
6. Presentation scripting
The orals coach must be knowledgeable in the difference between the spoken and written word and can edit presentation scripts to reflect these differences. Proper editing establishes the “tone” of the presentation (e.g. confidence without arrogance -- a tightrope). This tone remains consistent throughout all presenters, while adapting to the personal speaking styles and manners of each presenter. Work choice, sentence length, and delivery impact understanding and favor.
7. Individual presentation skills coaching
The Orals Coach should be a versatile and empowering partner to the presentation team. The orals coach should have a demonstrated ability to work with a wide variety of people and styles (top executives, program managers, technical experts) without being abrasive, arrogant, demeaning -- just skilled in getting the best from people. A gentle style of coaching works best with bright professionals who are clear they have a job to do, and who want to do their best, and WIN! The orals coach must guide the presentation along efficiently and effectively toward the goal of delivering the best job on Orals Day.
8. Question/Answer session prep
Orals often include a separate Question/Answer period. The orals coach supports the preparation and rehearsals for these important sessions.
9. Short-Term orals prep
If you have only days until Orals, you will need a coach who can come in on short notice, “triage” the situation, and maximize their impact, (i.e. do all the above, really FAST!) Ideally the orals coach needs 4-5 days of prep and rehearsal time per hour of presentation. Yet, much can be accomplished in just a day or two. Avoid going with no orals coach at all. There is too much at stake.
10. Local availability = lower cost
An important point not to forget when considering how to choose an orals coach. One who is local can have strategic, part-time involvement at key parts in the presentation development as the story and deck come together. Later, the coach becomes more full time, particularly in the final days before the scheduled Orals Day.