Preparation Is Key to Rehearsing

A Wall Walk is the first step in rehearsing a team oral proposal.

But preparation is really the first and the most important step in rehearsing an oral proposal. If you’ve prepared your presentation well — your message, slides, demonstration, and support material — you’ve half-way home.

Once you’re ready to rehearse, start with a wall walk. Here’s how it’s done or, at least, how I do it:

  1. Print out your slides, one to a page.
  2. Tack or tape them to the wall in order. You may need to post a number of columns — five slides top to bottom in one column; then start another column.
  3. Assemble your team and have them stand in front of the first slides.
    (For the sake of this explanation, let’s pretend there are 100 slides broken into five sections.)
  4. Ask the lead presenter to answer these questions as briefly as possible:
    What do you want the review board to do at the end of this presentation? (The answer should be something like “to award us the contract.”)
    What does the review board need to know and feel in order to do that?
    How does this presentation as a whole achieve that goal?
    (These questions should have driven the creation of the presentation in the first place so they should come as no surprise to anyone.)
  5. Then go section by section — in this case through all five sections — through the entire presentation, asking the team or the person who will be briefing each section to answer these questions as briefly as possible:
    What is the purpose of this section?
    How does it advance the overall goal of the presentation?
    By the time you’re finished presenting the slides in this section, what do you want the review board to know and feel?
  6. Once the team clearly has in mind the purpose and flow of the presentation at a high level, walk slide by slide through the entire presentation, asking the person who will be presenting the slide to answer these questions:
    What is the one central idea of this slide?
    What concern, problem, or goal of the customer does it address?
    How does this slide lead to the next slide?

That final question — “how does this slide lead to the next slide?” — is critical. Too often, people create a lot of slides and simply string them together. They seem to think that simply by presenting a lot of information makes a persuasive case. It doesn’t. What turns data or information into something compelling and useful are the connections, how you tie things together.

The Benefits of Conducting a Wall Walk

Conducting a wall walk lets everyone understand the proposal as a whole, not just their part in it. It surfaces any inconsistencies, gaps, and minor mistakes. It also builds team cohesiveness.

A wall walk with a team of five presenters and a hundred slides can take anywhere from two to four hours. It’s a great investment. If you work with teams, consider doing something like it before sending individual presenters off to rehearse their parts. Make sure everyone understands the presentation as a whole and their role in it. You’ll be surprised by how well everyone does as a result.

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See also Designing PowerPoint Slides for an Oral Proposal and The Seven Biggest Presentation Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them).

Chris Witt is an orals coach based in San Diego who specializes in providing team coaching for oral proposals. For more information, contact us.