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Presentation Skills: Communication Strategy: Team Presentations

When It's Time To Present As A Team

How do team presentations differ from solo performances? How do you make sure everything flows smoothly?

In some respects, team and solo presentations are alike. They both follow the same principles. They require the same preparation, the same structure, the same audience analysis, the same ability to think on your feet. The differences, however, are important—and represent a separate set of challenges.

The most important thing about a team presentation is that it has to look like a team presentation—and not a series of loosely connected parts. Each segment should be integrated with the others to create a sense of seamless communication. The entire team must understand and agree on the overall objective and how their presentations help to achieve it.

Talk to one another.
A team presentation presumes the team members know one another and what role each has in the overall presentation. That sounds pretty basic, but it's often a neglected part of the team's overall preparation. It's easy enough to get caught up in your own presentation, neglecting to find out what the other presentations are about.

Know the rules.
Every team presentation operates within its own set of rules. How much time does each presenter have? How much time for the total presentation? In what order will everyone present? Will there be questions during your presentation or afterwards? Who will precede and who will follow you and how, especially, can you link your remarks to theirs? Will the meeting have a moderator? If not, who will introduce you? What kind of introduction will you have and how can that be made to help set up your remarks? Will you introduce the next presenter?

Pay attention also to logistics. What's the room setup? Will you be seated or will you be at a podium or simply standing in a conference room? What's the audience size? What equipment will you be using? Will others be joining your meeting via phone or video hookup?

Transitions are important.
Presenters should wrap up their own segment, then build a bridge that links what they said to the next presenter. The best transitions set up each presenter for a smooth launch into their segment.

To create a sense of unity and seamlessness, each presenter should include brief references to the key points made by the other speakers, creating wherever possible a link to the other presentations. For the same reason, presenters should also briefly preview the presentations that follow. These techniques have the added benefit of aiding retention—an important consideration given that your listeners are receiving much more input than they would from a solo presentation.

Pay attention.
Each presenter should be aware that when one presenter is on, the entire team is on. Your audience will be paying the most attention to the speaker. But they will also occasionally look at the other members of the team. Which means that everyone should remain alert and involved in what's going on. Everyone should be listening closely to the presenter while also checking out the audience for its reactions. This allows the team to gauge how the various messages are being received. The worst thing any team member can do, of course, is to show disagreement with what another presenter is saying. That reaction is best left to a debate format, not a team presentation.

What if?
If you're the first speaker, and there's no moderator to set up the presentations, that role will fall to you. In that case, it becomes even more important that you know the other presenters and their material well enough to set the tone for the meeting. If you're the last speaker in that situation, you may be left to sum up the various presentations—even if very briefly. In either case, it's especially helpful to review the other presentations in advance of the meeting so that you can prepare your remarks ahead of time.

If there's a Q&A period, beware the extremes of either dominating the responses or being asked no questions. Be quick to redirect a question to other presenters if it's related more to their presentation than yours. Be ready also to add to someone else's response if relates in some way to your topic.

Remember: team presentations pose a special challenge. There's clearly much more material for your audience to absorb than in a solo presentation. That makes it especially important that everyone closely coordinate their presentations to create a seamless whole.

This Issue

Work with a private coach to help develop your next presentation. You can schedule a session for the entire team. You may want to consider a special communication skills training program for them, too.

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