While I was selecting songs from my iTunes library recently, it occurred to me that the way I listen to music today is very different than it was ‘back in the day’. (And yes, I can hear Jon now, “Do tell us B.J. What was it like back when music consisted of strolling minstrels?”).
I’m talking about in the 70’s or 80’s when music was done as an album, and the artist intended the songs to be listened to in a particular order. One song introduced and led to another and the album as a whole told a story. In today’s world of downloading single songs, creating playlists in whatever order the listener chooses, etc. music is listened to in a very different fashion and the idea of listening in a particular order is certainly well out of the control of the artist.
A reviewer might read a proposal from the beginning and work through it in the order in which it is presented. But it’s just as likely that, certainly as a first pass, they will scan the document, choosing to read some sections, stopping where something catches their attention and skip others, especially if it appears on first glance that it will be laborious to get through.
So it’s our job to make sure that each individual section captures and holds the reviewers interest and reads well as a stand alone section. We can’t expect or count on a reviewer having read the sections in order and we can’t assume they’ll have the requisite information from one section before reading another.
When developing proposals, we need to make them work as both a single piece as well as having each section stand on its own. We need to capture the reader’s attention at specific points and be prepared for reviewers to “pick and choose” information to meet their needs. This requires planning, time and specific skills. And it sure does make our job challenging, doesn’t it?