Why Your Storyboarding Process Isn’t Working and How You Can Fix It

Storyboards have long been a part of our standard proposal best practices. Storyboarding is a critical planning process that increases proposal writing efficiency by helping writers understand the task, brainstorm, and then map and/or plan their writing before beginning a first draft. However, as we’ve all experienced, storyboards are difficult to implement, and when we do use them, they are often ineffective. But this isn’t really a fault of the storyboard—it’s because we have been using storyboards inappropriately all along!

Problem 1: You’re Storyboarding in Silos
How often do we hand our teams a capture plan, an RFP, and blank storyboards—and then ask them to fill them out and turn them in some time before the storyboard review? If this is how you are using storyboards, then yes, you are wasting everybody’s time. What we have lost sight of over the years is that the real intent of storyboarding is to foster collaborative thinking! The process of visual thinking and planning allows a group to brainstorm together, place their ideas on storyboards, and then arrange the storyboards on the wall.

Before the storyboarding sessions, authors should review the RFP documents, capture documents, proposal outline and assignments, and storyboard templates. This will allow them to hit the ground running. I recommend setting aside multiple days for storyboarding, but limiting brainstorming sessions to 30- to 60-minute intervals with several breaks. Studies show that our minds lose focus after just eight to twelve seconds, so this strategy will help to keep the meetings productive and effective. When used correctly, storyboarding will foster more ideas and generate consensus inside the group.

Problem 2: You’re Over Storyboarding
Another common problem I’ve seen with storyboards is that proposal leadership requests too many storyboards. For proposals, storyboards work best when they support the big picture—the thread that will be pulled throughout the overall response. For smaller proposal responses, stick with the major high-level sections (e.g., Management, Technical, Staffing). For larger proposal responses, storyboarding to the first- and second-level sections will typically suffice (e.g., 1 Technical, 1.1 Development Approach, 1.2 Testing Approach, 1.3 Implementation Approach, 2 Management, 2.1 Organization, 2.2 Transition Approach, 2.3 Schedule Management, 2.4 Cost Controls, 2.5 Risk Management, 3 Staffing Approach, 3.1 Recruiting, 3.2 Hiring, 3.3 Retaining).

Problem 3: You’re Not Catering to Different Personality Types
Different people need different environments to cater to how their minds work. Some individuals need independent, quiet time to think through things. Some individuals need group dialogue to generate ideas and think through things out loud. Other individuals are more visual, and prefer to draw things out. Make sure to vary your solution development, brainstorming, and/or storyboarding sessions to cater to different personality types. Additionally, different brainstorming techniques work better for different individuals. Try presenting a variety of different formats (lists, mind maps, freewriting, etc.) to help different people get their creative juices flowing.

Problem 4: You’re Not Conducting Formal Storyboard Reviews
After storyboard drafts are complete, make time for a formal storyboard review. Have all major internal stakeholders review the storyboards and provide comments. If necessary, have a second storyboard review before moving forward with proposal draft development. When these formal storyboarding reviews are conducted, you save time later in the process because you gain stakeholder buy-in before any time is wasted writing the first draft.

Problem #5: You’re Not Transferring the Storyboard Content to the Proposal Templates
After storyboards are reviewed and approved, make sure you transfer the storyboard content to the proposal templates. This step is so frequently missed, and without it, all that time spent storyboarding simply goes to waste.

Final Thoughts
Storyboarding is a critical planning process that increases proposal writing efficiency by helping writers understand the task, brainstorm, and then map and/or plan their writing before beginning a first draft. To increase storyboarding success, make sure to storyboard as a collaborative effort, focus your storyboards on the high-level sections, vary your solution sessions and brainstorming activities to support different personality types, make time for a formal storyboard review, and ensure you transfer the information from the storyboards to the proposal draft templates. When implemented correctly, storyboarding improves the cohesiveness of the proposal strategy and streamlines proposal draft development. This up-front planning process can definitely save you time in the end!

Written by Ashley Kayes, CP APMP
Senior Proposal Consultant, AOC Key Solutions, Inc. (KSI)


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