The Development Source

Use Graphics to Show your Proposal Data

Mr. Mike Parkinson, a partner with the proposal graphics design firm of 24 Hour Company, has been an articulate and tireless advocate for using good graphics to improve the competitiveness of proposals.  According to Parkinson, strong proposals depend on good data, and using good graphics is one important way to get your data to stand out and be remembered by reviewers.

Parkinson recommends that you take three steps to make your data more memorable.  They are explained below.

Step 1:  Provide real numbers. 

One of the most convincing ways to sway reviewers is to provide clear, accurate data to support your themes and major points.  But often, data are presented in tables and spreadsheets that are difficult to read and analyze.  Because reviewers are busy and easily distracted by their responsibilities, you want to turn data into numbers that reviewers can remember without much effort.

Step 2:  Turn data into quantitative graphics.

Parkinson recommends that you consolidate your data into bit-size chunks that can be read and understood easily.  Examples would be bar charts, area charts, line charts, and pie charts.  To see examples of quantitative charts, visit businessgraphiclibrary.html.

Step 3:  Use visual embellishments.

You do not want your bar and pie charts to look like a generic chart rendered in Excel.  Use visual embellishments – such as striking colors and pictures – to make your points.  For example, if you were using a bar chart to illustrate how your technical solution will save money, you might use stacks of dollars for your bars.

The fourth step is one that I have added because it is a common problem in proposal graphics.

Step 4:  Tie the graphics to the text.

Too many proposal graphics have no action captions and are not explicitly tied to the proposal narrative.  Your text should reference graphics (“See Figure 5 below”) and each graphic should have an action caption that makes a point and ties the graphic to the proposal narrative (“Our solution will save you 14 percent in year one of the contract.”).  Your table of contents should list all graphics, and they should be numbered for ease of identification.

Good graphics promote understanding and persuasion.  Develop effective graphics to visualize your data, and your proposals will become more competitive.


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