CommCore Blog and News

Winning a $280 Million Contract- Does Extra Practice Pay Off?

This is the story of a high stakes RFP (request for proposal) in Texas. It’s relevant to anyone who has ever been involved in a competitive bid that required both a written and oral 5

Texas, like most states, mandates yearly standardized testing in the public schools. This year, the state issued an RFP worth $340 million seeking companies to administer these tests over the next four years. Pearson Education, the incumbent, made it to the finals along with Educational Testing Services, aka ETS. Who won?? ETS. What was the deciding factor? The oral presentation.

Both companies submitted extensive written proposals and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) summary indicated that “prior to the oral presentations, Pearson’s overall scores were higher than ETS.” State education officials said that ETS brought a big team that “made a strong presentation.” After the orals ETS won $280 million; Pearson received $60 million.

The moral of this story: many organizations spend excessive time and energy on the written presentation while ignoring the delivery. ETS got it right with a balance of content and delivery.

Our advice to prepare for orals- whether it’s the state house, FDA Advisory Committees, or Federal Government orals:

  • Designate a team captain
  • Create a strong opening and closing
  • Determine the three central  messages and repeat them throughout presentation
  • Anticipate the questions, especially the tough ones
  • Bridge answers from challenging questions back to main messages
  • Above all, Practice, Practice, Practice!!! This means
    • Full rehearsals
    • Questioners who can simulate questions and special decision makers
    • Use a video camera and watch the play-back
    • Bring in professionals who specialize in getting a team ready