16 Aug Avoiding Style Over Substance: How To Deliver On Both Presentation And Content
When avoiding the trap of ‘style over substance’ in a bid for work, being strong on details is key.
By knowing what your client wants and how you can deliver it, and by being well-versed in the value that your business provides, you can ensure that your pitch contains exactly what your audience needs to know and wants to hear.
While presentation matters – and will help your bids make more impact on their readers – if your applications lack depth and detail, anyone who looks closely enough will see the holes.
Because of this, we’ve put together this article about how to achieve a balance between good presentation, and written content that has genuine substance.
Make A Great First Impression
While the written content of your tender application is undoubtedly its most important aspect, it is also vital to use attractive visuals to make a good first impression.
While it is uncommon to see any marks specifically awarded for a bid’s visual impact, presenting your documents in a visually engaging layout can help you to convey a sense of professionalism and attention to detail.
The design of your application can also directly affect the clarity of the written content. For example, be sure to categorise each section correctly, and use a cover page, headers, footers, titles, and any other relevant headings, to make sure that your reader will progress through the document with full attention and minimal fuss.
When trying to create the best bid possible, using a proofreader is essential!
Not only will a proofreader check for correct spelling and grammatical mistakes, they will also assess whether certain sections read well enough, or should be clarified.
Also, when writing, it can be hard to know what is clear on the page, and what is clear only in our minds.
This means that having a professional proofreader – who has not been immersed in creating the material – carefully read through it, will help to identify flaws and failings in the content that may not be apparent to those who wrote it. This is because the proofreader is more likely to see things from the perspective of the reader.
Whether using a colleague within your company, or an outside expert you have hired, ensure that the person you consult is clear on what you are trying to achieve in the bid. That way, they can make a full assessment of how effective they feel you’ve been.
Use Graphics & Images
Images are a great way to ensure that written content is visually striking and immediately engaging. But they should be used sparingly, and never to compensate for a lack of substance in the writing.
Graphics and images can be used to illustrate a point or enrich your responses to criteria and questions. For example, infographics can be especially helpful in conveying complex processes in a simple and memorable way.
To ensure that the use of images does not become ‘style over substance’, include only the graphics that you think make the best impression and the biggest impact in terms of communicating information. It is not necessary to use them for decoration.
Also, some of the questions you will need to respond to in your bid may be best answered through visual mediums exclusively, while others will be best served by text accompanied by an image or infographic. And when answers are best delivered purely via text, do not feel the need to include unnecessary images just for the sake of it, or because you feel you ‘should’.
In short, using an image or graphic to enrich and clarify your message — not distract from it — is the optimal approach.
Keep Content Relevant & Impactful
Perhaps the best way to avoid falling into the trap of ‘style over substance’ is to pay close attention to what the client is asking for. This is because delivering substance often comes down to ensuring your responses are as relevant as possible to the opportunity being bid on.
Identify what your client wants and tailor your answers specifically to those requirements – do not be tempted to include information that you may want to share, but which is not needed in your answer.
Every part of your responses across all your bids should directly answer the questions posed and outline the value you offer as a company. By knowing what the client wants, and explaining how you can deliver this, your answers will never stray far from relevance.
At this stage, it can be especially important to enlist the help of several team members – and the proofreader you have chosen to look over your bids – so you can be certain that no important criteria required by the client has been overlooked in your bid for the work.