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Team Presentations

There may come a time when you are asked to give a presentation along with several other people. The advantages of team presentations are endless. Not only do you have the brains of many people, you also have the talents. If one person falls short in a certain area of presenting (for example, he isn't able to deliver financial reports and be engaging at the same time), another can pick up. But that doesn't lessen each individual's responsibility to the team. A team presentation can be quite a time commitment, but it is imperative to the success of the presentation that the group meet regularly to plan, to perfect, and to rehearse vigorously.

The Plan's the Thing

Without planning thoroughly, the group members will lose direction quickly. Without planning, it is easy to wind up with four separate presentations, rather than a strong cohesive one. When the group is together for planning, to ensure maximum success, these are the points to cover:

  • Purpose: Each person should be made aware of what the purpose of the team presentation is. It is important that they all be clear on why they are working together. This goes for the people who are assisting you behind the scenes.

  • Delegate Roles: The group should assess each member's abilities, strengths, weaknesses, and background. You would not want a serious, monotone speaker to deliver the rousing and memorable conclusion to a speech—the more energetic member of the crew should do that. Nor do you want the creative team member to be delivering the technical information.

  • Define Individual Purposes: Each team member, now assigned a different role, must develop (with the group) his purpose and how that contributes to the overall purpose.

  • Map out a Logical Agenda: It is time to decide who goes when and for how long. Keep in mind your audience, the group's time restraints, which part is most important, and what needs to be said.

  • How to Cover Introductions: You have a few options as to how you can introduce the speakers. You can introduce everyone at the beginning of the entire presentation. You can also wait until each presenter is about to begin his part of the presentation. Another way to handle the introductions is to briefly introduce everyone in the beginning and then do a more in-depth introduction as each person begins his section. Introducing a speaker right before his speech serves as a good transition between speakers. "Here is Joan Smith. She will enhance the points Jack made and how they apply specifically to your situation. She is highly qualified to do this because she was a client of ours and knows how this applies across the board" serves both as an introduction and a transition.

  • Visual Aids: All visual aids—for each person on the team—should look like they were designed by the same person. It is not good to have catchy, computerized visual aids for one person and hand-drawn transparencies for another. Be consistent! The most efficient way to accomplish this is to have one person designing all of the visual aids. This person can be a support staff member, or a team member, who is especially deft at graphics. The visual aids should have the same design and purpose, as the material allows. Go back to the chapter on visual aids and revisit the key points to make visual aids an integral part of your presentation, and not a distraction.

  • How to Handle Questions and Interruptions: It is good to maintain a consistency throughout the team presentation. A team captain should be in charge of the questioning procedure. He or she should field questions appropriately. Your group can accept questions all at once at the very end of the entire presentation, or they can accept questions at the end of each individual presentation. A more challenging option is to handle questions as they arise at any time during the presentation—this may be more desirable for a proposal presentation. The same applies for handouts and other interruptions—decide beforehand when and how handouts will be distributed and by whom. Also, are the audience members free to come and go as they please (this may be unavoidable in a client's busy office), or would you rather have them not be getting up and down during the presentation?

  • Plan Transitions: Transitions can make or break a team presentation. The audience should be able to easily follow the presentation and make the connection between each speaker and how he is contributing to the team presentation. Comfortable and impactive transitions ("or passing the baton") make the difference between a so-so presentation and an outstanding one.

Regular group meetings are a must and they should happen well in advance of the actual presentation. Team members should come to these meetings prepared to give a report on their progress; inform the group on the outline for their parts and any numbers, stories, or examples they will be using; and state how they will start and end their section. Each part should flow easily and subtly into the next section and these meetings are a time to make sure they do.

Rehearse, Run Through, and Repeat

Pay special attention to the introduction and conclusion of the entire presentation, not to mention the transitions between each section. Practice not only presenting the talk, but also the standing and moving. Team members don't want to be bumbling and bumping into one another—that looks neither professional nor organized. Audiences appreciate not only good verbal transitions, but they also appreciate good physical transitions. The more time you spend rearranging visual aids, microphones, and walking around one another, the more you are losing your audience's attention.

The entire team should be "onstage" throughout the presentation. Every team member must contribute and be supportive if the team is going to be a winner. If your listeners see one person presenting his section and his team members are off to the side not paying attention, they won't see this group as a team. Support each other at all times.

Test your presentation in front of an audience of coworkers and colleagues—as long as they are not connected in any way to your presentation. They must also be a group of people who will not feel hesitant about offering constructive criticism. Before you rehearse your presentation in front of them, ask them to write down their expectations of the talk. Afterwards, have an evaluation form on hand for them to fill out. Make sure it covers whether their expectations were met, what the purpose of the presentation was from their perspective, and if there was any information they thought was excessive or left out. Mention team members individually. Ask questions such as, "Were the transitions smooth?" "Did you understand who was speaking and why?" "Did you understand the purpose of each presentation?" Videotape the presentation and play it back, so you can see how you are perceived and fix any trouble spots.


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