Presentation Strategy: Team or Group PresentationsAsk the Experts
Q. Our group has to give team presentations from time to time. What tips can you give us on preparing and delivering a successful team presentation?
A. Let's first acknowledge that in some ways, team and solo presentations are alike. Both rely on the same fundamentals—setting objectives, preparing, structuring, and then presenting with the right skills and techniques.
But the similarities pretty much end there, and the recognition that you're now part of a team becomes all-important.
To be successful, a team presentation must come off as just that: a team presentation.
The team leader—and every team should have one—leads the team in deciding on the specific outcome to be achieved. Most important, the team leader should guide, not dictate. The leader's job really is to facilitate the process of deciding objectives and key messages. What response does the team want from its audience? If the team is successful, what will happen?
It's also critical for the team to buy in to the team's goals and key messages. They should understand and accept that they will succeed as a team.
The team must have clear goals.
Narrow your list to those that are most important. A good rule is to focus on the three most essential goals you as a team want to achieve. You can build sub-sets of these, but everything should point to those priorities that the team together should be working toward.
From this, you can move to an overarching theme that ties the individual presentations together. You can then begin to see the unifying elements within the overall scheme and how they link to one another. The team now begins to get an idea of what each member will discuss.
Preparation is critical.
Preparation is even more essential to a team than it is to a solo presentation.
As you prepare, organize your individual presentations as if they were each part of one continuous presentation spoken by several people instead of one person. It may help to think of these as chapters in a book, with a story line running through the book leading to a specific end.
Deciding who should present what topics depends on your overall objectives and the command of the content each person has. Among close colleagues, that's usually an easy decision. In any case, consider the special knowledge and job experience of each member and how that fits into the overall scheme. That's more important than picking team members based on rank alone.
Your team preparation must include a careful analysis of your audience. What you don't know can hurt.
During this preparation phase, make sure the presentations are consistent. Obviously, nothing said by any team member should contradict or call into question something said by someone else.
Consistency applies as well to the use of visuals. It's best to have a single template, with everyone following the same design guidelines. Use the same color coding and consistent font style and size throughout. And, of course, stick with the same graphics software. For a unified look and higher quality, we strongly recommend using a designer to prepare the visuals.
Rehearse as a group—early and often.
Run through all the presentations. Focus on how each one is structured. Review visuals. Clearly establish everyone's role and how the presentations link to one another. Get used to one another's speaking styles and especially, strengths and weaknesses. Is there too much content? Too little of the right content? Is there overlap? Do the presentations complement and support one another? Do they flow logically? Are they aligned with your objectives?
The team should also prepare for Q&A's as a group. That means anticipating questions that are likely to come up and agreeing as a team on the answers. Also agree in advance on the team member or members who are best suited to respond to a given question.
Include both introductions and transitions as part of your preparation and rehearsal.
The team leader may choose to act as host and not one of the presenters. In any case, the team leader should be ready with a brief, succinct introduction of what's to come. State the overall theme. State the topic each presenter will cover. Ask each presenter for a concise—repeat, concise—description of their presentation. In a few words, what does each presenter think is most relevant? Include that as you mention each topic in your introduction. Also find the most relevant things to say about each presenter other than simply their name and title. It doesn't help much to say simply that "Bob here in sales will talk about our sales results."
Focus on transitions.
During your preparation, focus especially on transitions. These are the all-important bridging elements that conclude one presentation and lead to the next one. Each presenter should wrap up his or her own segment, then establish a link to the next presenter. Wherever appropriate, each presenter should include brief references to the key points made by the other speakers. This reinforces key messages and helps your audience retain information, an important consideration given that your listeners are receiving much more input than they would from a solo presentation.
Finally, when you think everyone's ready, do a final run-through. Assemble a small live audience to serve as a sounding board. Think of this as a dress rehearsal before opening night. It's likely you'll still find things to improve upon.
When it's time to present.
The team should arrive early at the meeting site. Ideally, everyone should run through their segment at least once, in the order in which they'll speak. They should click through their visuals and get comfortable with the equipment and physical setting. Practice with a microphone if you're going to be using one. Know where to find technical help, just in case.
This onsite test run is important in any case. It's even more important when the presentation is taking place before a large audience.
You're "on," even when you're not speaking.
In a team presentation, everyone is being watched, not just the presenter. So stay alert. Listen. Show interest in what's being said. Remember: your body language can convey a positive or negative message. Stifle that yawn. Don't slouch or look bored. And unless it's absolutely necessary, do not whisper an aside to another team member. Also pay attention to the audience. You may pick up signs helping you to gauge audience response. That can be useful if you have yet to present.
A final note.
Over the years, we've seen more and more business presentations dealing with highly complex technical issues, not just in industries like information technology and biotech, but now in just about every field. This points up a special need for those with highly specialized knowledge to learn the essentials of clear, effective communication in order to reach wider audiences that don't have expert knowledge.
This question was answered by Peter Giuliano, chairman, Executive Communications Group. Our consultants are ready to answer any questions you may have about presenting in real-life situations. Use our "Tell Us" form to submit your question. We respond to all questions. Your question could be featured in our next "Ask the Experts" column.