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APMP 2016 Exclusive: 5 Key Takeaways

Now that I’ve unpacked, answered the inevitable flurry of emails and voicemails, I can finally take time to reflect on an amazing four days of learning and networking!

Here is what I learned at the 2016 APMP Bid & Proposal Conference. (I’d love to hear what you learned! Please leave your thoughts and lessons in the comments.)

#5 – No one can stop me from having fun. 
“No one can stop me from having fun,” Tim Gard said in his side-splitting Thursday Keynote; and after I stopped laughing, I reflected on the truth of his message:

How I feel about things really is up to me. 

Many management gurus will tell you the same thing – but there’s something about giving ourselves permission to have fun that really makes it stick.

We can see inconveniences as the end of the world or the perfect moment to throw in an Office Space quote. It’ll all be about our attitude.

David Sotolongo and Amy Shende Mills truly put that message to work in their “The Walking Capture,” (a play on the hit TV show Walking Dead) an entertaining and educational session about how to improve the capture process and its results. They did a great job explaining how to gather intelligence about the client so your solution is really relevant.

Key takeaway: a desk full of work and a broken printer are never fun, but they don’t have to be devastating either. 

#4 – No one can stop me. 
“No one can stop me,” is what the ground-breaking Steph Davis taught me during her Friday Keynote. Davis is a famous free solo climber (meaning she climbs mountains without ropes, or protective gear), she also base jumps off mountains.

While I’m reasonably sure I’m not going to start scaling up or jumping off precipices, two things Davis said really resonated with me.

First, her determination to face her fears. Second, her resiliency in the face of tragedy.

“What I could control was myself, and never more than when I stood on the edge” 
She wrote in her recently re-released memoir Learning to Fly: a Memoir of Hanging on and Letting Go.

Her words, which could easily feel cliche coming from most people, are poignant because of the sacrifice behind them. Davis not only risks her life every day, but actually lost her husband in miscalculated base jump.

Yet her message remains: what I do is up to me and it includes taking risks.

What does letting go look like for a proposal writer?

Samantha Enslen and Christy Hollywood taught me it can be as simple as avoiding letting anxiety block creativity. In their practical presentation “Writing Proposals without the Pain,they suggested using tools like simple shortcuts (bullets anyone?) to shift the focus from fear of failure to simply starting the process.

Key takeaway: let go and just write. Use the time you usually waste worrying to edit and review instead. 

#3 – Get Organized.
Just attending the APMP Bid & Proposal Conference is a lesson in what can be accomplished when you’re organized. 

This year we had 850 attendees, something like 70 workshops, keynotes, and/or learning sessions, and it was all incredibly well planned and executed.

Sessions started on time, there was plenty of room, networking with peers was as easy as sitting down to lunch, and every aspect of the conference fit together beautifully to make a phenomenal experience.

Key takeaway: it’s a reminder that things that seem insurmountable are completely possible when you find the right people, make a plan, and get organized. 

#2 – Everything Matters.
From the outstanding visual and graphic presentation by Mindy Marchel, Aaron Birkbeck, and Anita Magriplis, Making Design a Discriminator” to the “Four Domains of Value” from Tom Sant, and “Instant Oodles” from Christopher Sant, the message was clear:

Everything that goes into a proposal matters.

  1. The foundation: you begin with understanding and articulating the value of your solution. This is the essential foundation.
  2. The walls: then you build your case using meaningful, easy to understand, and relevant metrics to quantify your value.
  3. The facade: you finish the job with curb appeal, making your proposal fresh, visual, and attractive. (Avoid using too many colors, tiny text, or stale graphics, it only muddles the message.)

Key takeaway: content is king, and each piece of the content (including design) matters. 

#1 – I Matter.
Like many fellow attendees, I came to be in Business Development and proposal management because no one else in my organization was willing to do it.

And like many of my fellow attendees, I mostly work by myself, often providing full service proposal support all the way from capture to production.

Proposals are a lonely business, with late nights, tired eyes, and caffeine overdoses – and often enough, they lead to disappointing results. I call it Business Development Burnout. 

Which is why Thursday’s Awards Dinner was so meaningful. It was a testimony not only to the individuals recognized for their outstanding contributions to the Association, but also to APMP itself for its relentless dedication to people like me.

I’m so grateful for an organization who strives to make my work more fun, to help me keep going and be better organized; and to improve every aspect of my work so I can deliver a better product to my clients.

APMP isn’t just an opportunity to learn or network, but a chance to belong and take pride in our profession.

Key takeaway: the antidote to burnout is learning from people who do what I do. It’s talking to people who understand what I say, and listening to people who listen to me. 

Thank you to everyone who made the conference so amazing. I hope to see you all next year in New Orleans.