SPAC 2020

APMP Southern Proposal Accents Conference

Currently, SPAC 2021 is targeted for March 2021

Past Events: SPAC 20 (2017) — Shaping Future Success

SPAC 20 a Big Success

More than 110 attendees enjoyed a day of learning and networking at SPAC 2017 on March 23, 2017 at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center in northwest Atlanta. The Carolinas, Florida Sunshine, and Georgia Chattahoochee APMP chapters co-hosted the full-day conference, welcoming attendees from across the southeast and beyond to help celebrate the 20th SPAC.

Event Photos

Photos by Serge Lecomte, Georgia Chattahoochee APMP Chapter.

Presentation Abstracts and Presenter Bios

The twelve presentations challenged attendees to consider new ideas and approaches to shape their future success in proposal management and business capture. Click here to access the SPAC 2017 presentations.

Betsy Blakney

Gillian Dionne

Betsy Blakney and Gillian Dionne

Knowledge Management (KM): That's Not How We Do It Here | slides |

Want to win more deals, be more productive and find content you need to write a compelling and distinctive proposal? We discuss the process necessary to implement a company-wide KM program with a focus on BD content. By examining one organization's mature KM program and another company's revamping of theirs, we'll learn how to increase productivity, promote collaboration, spark innovation, and preserve institutional knowledge. Whether just starting out, starting over, or just surviving, we'll discuss culture change necessary to remain competitive and avoid the loss of institutional knowledge due to turnover. Join our knowledge exchange and learn from two veteran knowledge integrators.

Betsy Blakney, CPP APMP Fellow, is director of proposal management at CACI where she manages content for the corporate business development portal as a certified knowledge manager (CKM). With 20+ years' proposal management, development, and training experience, she oversees the business development training curriculum and proposal writing team. Betsy has served in numerous leadership roles within APMP and is a favorite speaker at conferences.

Gillian Dionne, CP APMP, currently develops and supports BD knowledge management systems for GDIT. She is active in APMP and has served in many leadership roles within the organization. Gillian is a certified knowledge manager (CKM) and is working on Certified Information Professional (CIP) and Enterprise Content Management (ECM) certifications.

Lisa Pafe

Lisa Pafe

Proposal Writing and the Eight-Second Attention Span | slides |

A 2015 Microsoft study found that digital distractions have resulted in the average person having an 8-second attention span, less than a goldfish! A 2016 Harvard Business Review article stated that bad writing is the biggest productivity buster. Yet, we still write proposals the old-fashioned way, as if our evaluators have unlimited time and focus. This presentation will discuss how to modernize our proposal writing to win in the digital age, using persuasive, attention-grabbing techniques such as calls to action, exceeding expectations, and clearly relevant writing. A hands-on exercise will include rewriting bad writing examples.

Lisa Pafe, Vice President (VP) at Lohfeld Consulting Group, CPP APMP Fellow and PMP, has 25+ years' capture and proposal experience. She is President of the APMP-National Capital Area (NCA) Chapter, and was VP and Speaker Series Chair for two years each. She holds a BA from Yale University, MPP from Harvard University, and MIS from The George Washington University. She is a frequent guest writer for Washington Technology and a LinkedIn Publisher.

Colleen Jolly

Colleen Jolly

Hire an Intern: Shaping the Next Generation | slides |

Want to create a pipeline of future leaders? Help shape your company's brain trust? Hire an intern. In this session you'll learn how to create an effective internship plan for finding, training and successfully transitioning high achieving interns to full time staff. Identify performance metrics and measures while defining appropriate tasks for budding proposal managers. We'll discuss how to engage local colleges and universities and create fair pay structures with clear roles and responsibilities. Based on a successful internship plan to take college students to owners, this session is for all managers looking to implement or improve their internship programs.

Colleen Jolly, CPP APMP Fellow, 17+ year proposal veteran, manages 24 Hour Company. Colleen is very active in APMP and served as CEO, international board; Layout Editor, Journal; and Secretary, NCA chapter. She was named the youngest APMP Fellow in 2010. She is a frequent worldwide speaker and writer on creative and general business topics. She started her career as an intern and is passionate about giving the next generation their chance to shine.

Robin Davis

Robin Davis

It's Not Rocket Science: Succeeding in a Career You Didn't Plan for | slides |

Raise your hand if you went to college to be a proposal writer/manager/editor. Right, me neither. An extension of my "No Papers" Ignite presentation at the International APMP Bid & Proposal Con in 2015, I'll share with you the seven things that shaped me for success in the world of proposals despite having not planned for it. And you can do it too.

Robin Davis, CF APMP Fellow, Metre — Robin's company helps health care clients build the foundation required for sales success. She specializes in proposal development and management, strategic messaging, and process definition and deployment. Robin is a popular and engaging speaker and is the co-leader of the APMP Commercial Community, former leader of APMP's Healthcare Industry Task Force, and former member of the association's Board of Directors.

David Stearman

David M. Stearman

RSVP for the Win Party | slides |

We begin with a heresy: Proposals don't win—or lose—contracts! Focusing on the proposal as the sole cause of a win or loss is like looking through the wrong end of a telescope. The proposal is only an artifact—it's the strategy that wins or loses.This session boils down the complexities of proposal strategy into a simplified model, called RSVP. The presentation describes the elements of the RSVP model, explains why they are central elements of a winning strategy, and makes the case that by focusing on just these few elements, any organization can shape a successful future.

David M. Stearman, founder and principal of Proposal Strategy and Development Consulting LLC, helps Government contractors gain a Winning Edge by providing strategic perspectives, asking the right questions, and challenging assumptions; applying best practices and innovative approaches in proposal planning, preparation, and development; and coaching, mentoring, and training individuals and organizations to succeed in a highly competitive environment. Mr. Stearman is a Shipley-certified Business Development professional with 18 years of demonstrated success in winning proposals.

David Sotolongo

David Sotolongo

The Walking Capture | slides |

Are your capture team members like characters from The Walking Dead? This presentation will take a light-hearted look at managing capture efforts by using tips from favorite characters in The Walking Dead. Explore how you can cut corners when you are running from "walkers," and learn ways to effectively modularize your capture process to stretch precious resources. Tailor your capture plan to protect incumbencies from competitors like The Governor, and steal market share from the evil managers of Terminus. In the end, you will be able to run a more effective capture process — and be prepared for a zombie apocalypse.

David Sotolongo, CPP APMP Fellow, is vice president of Business and Proposal Development at RTI International. He also manages RTI's multi-media communications group. David has presented at various APMP conferences, including the Generation Gap at Work, Science of Happiness, 10 Rules for Dating My Proposal Manager, and many other topics related to capture and proposal management. He is an avid fan of The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, and Z Nation — though he is not at all prepared to deal with a zombie apocalypse.

Ian Burkett

Ian Burkett

Wisdom from the Sages: What I Learned as the Youngest Member of a Proposal Team | slides |

For nearly two and a half years, Ian was the youngest member of his proposal team by twenty to thirty-five years. He had a teammate whose first proposal was handwritten on carbon paper — he's never written anything without a word processor, let alone by hand on carbon paper. In his presentation, Ian will share some of the proposal wisdom he picked up as the youngest member of this proposal team — wisdom that other young proposal professionals need, wisdom that will help "shape future success."

Ian is a husband, dad, proposal manager, graphic artist and avid movie-goer who daydreams of being a contestant on Master Chef. He is based in Charlotte and works for Woolpert, an architecture, engineering and geospatial firm. He also serves as a board member for Clothed in Hope, a nonprofit on a mission to empower women in Zambia through education and economic opportunity. Ask Ian about it or visit

Melissa Mabon

Melissa Mabon

Mysterious Case of the Self-Locking Excel RFP HELP! | slides |

Sometimes when answering an Excel RFP, a cell suddenly becomes locked, making it impossible to edit it afterward. What causes this? Having an Excel RFP lock answer cells is exasperating to say the least. But there is a way to spot it and avoid the trap.

Attend this session to learn:

  • Why does Excel change a cell from 'unlocked' to 'locked'?
  • How to know if 'Locked' is a default property of an Excel Workbook?
  • How to change Excel's default formatting properties?
  • How to avoid triggering the self-locking in a protected Excel RFP?

Melissa Mabon is founder and software architect of Expedience Software, Successor Company to Pragmatech Software which she cofounded in 1994. During her tenure Pragmatech grew to be the leading proposal automation provider, twice receiving the INC 500. Other awards include the New Hampshire Entrepreneur of the Year and New Hampshire Remarkable Woman. Melissa Mabon holds two masters' degrees from Columbia University where she did extensive research in logic, epistemology, and expert systems.

Kevin Switaj

Kevin Switaj

The Hybrid Approach: Balancing Collaboration and Virtualization in Proposal Development | slides |

Proposal development has experienced a revolution as virtual tools allow teams to execute proposals better with geographically dispersed contributors. Despite the increased virtualization of our industry, there is still a need for co-location to promote creativity and collaboration. This presentation proposes a hybrid approach that combines both in-person and virtual proposal development depending on the stage of the process, the work required, and the desired results. Combining the best of both approaches allows proposal teams to reap the collaborative benefits of co-location and virtualization's productivity advantages and cost savings.

Kevin Switaj is the Director of Proposal Development at Buchanan & Edwards, a mid-sized Government contractor based in Arlington, VA. Dr. Switaj has developed, implemented, and refined proposal processes for large, mid-sized, and small businesses. He has been published in the APMP Journal and the APMP-NCA chapter's e-zine, Executive Summary. His article on this topic won the 2016 John Elder APMP Journal Award. A proposal professional for nearly a decade, he has degrees from Rutgers College, Villanova University, and Indiana University.

David Stearman

David M. Stearman

Metrics that Matter | slides |

"What's your win rate?" It's a pretty common question—but it's the wrong one. This session takes a heretical position: Using "Win Rate" to evaluate individual proposal professionals is inappropriate. The presentation lays out the case against Win Rate as an individual performance metric (and discusses its limitations even as an organizational metric). Instead, performance assessment should focus on outcomes over which the individual has a significant level of control *and* that provide useful information about the individual's actual competency. The presentation discusses metrics that fit this bill and enable both organizations and individuals to shape their success meaningfully.

David M. Stearman, founder and principal of Proposal Strategy and Development Consulting LLC, helps Government contractors gain a Winning Edge by providing strategic perspectives, asking the right questions, and challenging assumptions; applying best practices and innovative approaches in proposal planning, preparation, and development; and coaching, mentoring, and training individuals and organizations to succeed in a highly competitive environment. Mr. Stearman is a Shipley-certified Business Development professional with 18 years of demonstrated success in winning proposals.

BJ Lownie

BJ Lownie

IMPROVing Communications: "Whose Proposal is it Anyway?"

The ability to communicate effectively is essential to successful proposal development. And keeping things light hearted and playful goes a long ways to reducing the stress typically associated with proposals. In this informative, engaging, highly interactive, and sure to be entertaining session, participants will have an opportunity to test and improve their communication skills as they are introduced to and have a chance to play games drawn from improve theater. Participants of this session are sure to leave with improved communication skills and a smile on their faces.

BJ Lownie is truly "Passionate about Proposals". He has 30+ years' experience, has worked on 100s of proposals and has had 1000s of people attend his presentations and workshops. He is a founding member, accredited Professional and Fellow of APMP. He is the co-author of the recently published Proposal Essentials: Win More Win More. B.J. and the Strategic Proposal team are credited by numerous individuals and organizations for significantly improving their proposal quality and capabilities.

Chuck Keller

Chuck Keller

Being Your Own Boss: Success as a Proposal Consultant/Contractor | slides |

Returning as a SPAC speaker, an older (and wiser?) proposal development retiree, Chuck will offer advice to those working in the proposal development profession as a consultant/contractor or those planning or considering to become one. He will identify the pros and cons of being your own boss as a consultant/contractor. For job success, he will describe personal and professional prerequisites, and tips for marketing, business management, professional growth, and client relationships. Drawing on his work experience and 20/20 hindsight, Chuck hopes to help people succeed as their own boss or conclude it is better working for someone else.

Chuck is a retired proposal development professional with 30 years in the profession, including more than 20 years as a consultant/contractor. An APMP Fellow and charter member, he co-founded the Georgia and Florida chapters, serving both as the chapter chair. He co-founded SPAC, serving as its conference chair several times. He is a co-author of the book Proposal Writing: The Art of Friendly and Winning Persuasion. A retired Naval Reserve Commander, Chuck lives in Pensacola, FL.


On Wednesday, March 22, seven APMP members earned APMP Foundation certification by participating in the pre-SPAC Foundation Level Training & Examination workshop offered by Lohfeld Consulting. Another eight APMP members prepared for earning APMP Practitioner Certification in a pilot mentoring program jointly sponsored SPAC and APMP.

Sponsors & Exhibitors

Nine Sponsors and Exhibitors supported SPAC 20, providing valuable information about the products and services they offer. SPAC attendees took advantage of this opportunity to learn about how these partners can support and enhance their day-to-day proposal management activities. Special thanks to the SPAC 20 Platinum Sponsors: Lohfeld Consulting Group and 123 Proposal Automation Software.

Platinum Sponsors

Lohfeld Consulting Group — the premier capture and proposal services consulting firm focused exclusively on government markets—with a practical, cost-effective, and efficient approach to winning new business. Choose from our full line of services:

  • Go-to-Market strategy and execution
  • Pipeline development
  • Capture and proposal process consulting
  • Capture management
  • Proposal management, writing, and review
  • Capture, proposal, and APMP Foundation training

We'll tailor our services to fit your needs from the smallest to the largest government contractors.

Sign up for our free monthly capture and proposal tips ebrief. Proposal Automation Toolkits (ver. 6.0)

With our New Version, you will now be able to Generate a Compliance Matrix/Checklist, Proposal Manager's Outline, and an Annotated-Outlined Master Author Document (with all Relevant RFP Text in the Sections to which they belong)... all in under 30 minutes.

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Our Simple BUT Powerful Guarantee:
Our Software can Save 3 to 5 Days on a 30-Day Turn Proposal or it's FREE!

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for a Free Demo.

Gold Sponsors



Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre

SPAC 20 was held on Thursday, March 23, 2017 at the spectacular Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre (CEPAC), located at 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway Atlanta, GA 30339, 770-916-2800.

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