How to Deliver Group Presentations: The Unified Team Approach
Think of a group of people whose careers or circumstances require them to work well with one another: athletic teams, orchestras, or emergency room workers. If individual members “do their own thing,” the entire group suffers.
When you’re asked to present as part of a panel of experts or a team making a sales pitch, you might think that there is safety in numbers and that you need to prepare less than if you were speaking on your own.
The truth is that, for your audience, a group presentation is only as strong as its weakest presenter. Here’s how to help your team create a strong and unified group presentation.
3 Ingredients of Great Group Presentations
The three ingredients to develop and deliver a unified group presentation are clarity, control, and commitment.
- Clarity of Purpose
- Clarity of Roles
- Clarity of Message
- Control Introductions
- Control Transitions
- Control Time and Space
- Commit to a Schedule
- Commit to Rehearsing
- Commit to Answering Your Audience’s Questions
Incorporating these elements will give your audience a “seamless” message.
Ingredient #1: Clarity
Clarity means clearness of purpose, thought or style. Developing clarity within your group will help you develop a clear message for your audience.
Clarity of Purpose
Just as your presentation will have a clear purpose, expressed in a thesis statement, your group should create a Charter Statement that explicitly captures the group’s desired outcome.
The charter is different from a thesis statement. The thesis specifically frames the presentation message whereas the charter frames your group’s purpose. This Charter Statement becomes the test of everything that will go into the presentation and help guide the efforts of the team. The charter and the thesis may overlap, but even your thesis statement must be tested against the group’s Charter.
For example, if your group agrees that your general purpose is to sell your product, and, more specifically, you know that the key decision maker in the audience is leery about cutting checks to companies like yours, build that into your Charter Statement.
The purpose of our presentation is to sell our Product to ABC Company by overcoming the objections of the company’s Purchasing Officer through clear examples of how our Product provides a fast return on investment.
The Charter Statement will come in handy when you have a team member who may want to go “off track” to tell personal anecdotes that don’t pass the test of the group’s charter.
Clarity of Roles
Personalities come into play when groups meet to develop presentations. Jockeying for position and ego struggles can quickly deplete the group’s momentum, resulting in hurt feelings and, potentially, a weaker presentation. Providing clarity to group roles helps to establish expectations and keep the entire group moving towards a common objective: a great group presentation.
Identify the roles your group needs during message development. For example, to ensure that team members are meeting assignments, select a Project Manager. This person isn’t the “boss of the presentation”, but rather will focus on schedule and assignments.
Other roles could include a Gap Analyst who is responsible for identifying “gaps” in content and support materials (handouts, graphics, etc.), which in turn could work closely with other roles within the group like the Chief Researcher.
Capitalize on the unique personalities within your group to develop roles that work well for all, but be sure to discuss the roles openly so they are clear to everyone.
Clarity of Message
Instead of writing “speeches” for each individual speaker, try creating one master presentation, a unified narrative, and then decide who speaks to which points, and when.
This is a shift from the traditional segmented method of group presentations where often group members are directed to “give five minutes of talking” and then are left to develop content independently.
In a master presentation, each speaker may weave in and out at various points during the presentation. When done well, this fluid dynamic can hold an audience’s attention better by offering a regular change in speakers’ voices and presence.
By using a master presentation, your group will ensure that each of the presenters will stay “on script” and use cohesive language, smooth transitions, and (when using visuals) consistent graphics.
Ingredient #2: Control
Group presentations face unique logistical challenges beyond just developing presentation content.
Your audience notices how your group introduces itself, so plan those introductions with your presentation.
Your presentation may be part of a larger event that includes an emcee who will introduce the team. If so, be sure that you provide pertinent information to the emcee that will allow her/him to generate interest in your presentation even before you begin speaking.
If your group is responsible for making its own introductions, however, you will need to decide if you will introduce your group members in the beginning, or when they first speak. Your group also will need to decide if each member introduces her/himself, or if one member will introduce everyone.
There is no one right way to do introductions, but your group must decide how to do them before the day of the presentation.
Decide how you are going to “hand off” from one speaker to the next. In the “master presentation” approach, you may want to consider simply have speakers pick up a narrative right where the previous speaker left off.
If you use the more traditional segmented approach, each speaker may cue the subsequent speakers by identifying them and their subject matter. For example:
“…and speaking of quality control, no one is more qualified the Bob Johnson. Bob is going to tell us about how this team will deliver a quality project for you.”
Another option is to assign a group emcee who will handle transitions between presentation sections. Your group will need to determine which option makes the most sense based on your presentation style and audience expectations.
Control Time and Space
Multiple speakers translate to occupying more physical space, and the potential to gobble up more time with introductions and transitions.
If you will be presenting in a small room, consider where each speaker needs to be positioned to quickly reach the speaking area, and whether they will sit or stand when not speaking.
Your presentation must fit within your allotted time, so you will need to time your group’s presentation, including equipment set up, introductions, and transitions.
Ingredient #3: Commitment
Commitment from each group member is going to give your presentation the best content and flair that will impress your audience.
Commit to a Schedule
Once you know the date of your presentation, create a schedule that includes specific milestones, such as “presentation draft due” and “final rehearsal”. Having a specific schedule allows members either to agree to the group’s expectations or to offer dates that better fit their personal schedules.
Additionally, you can assign specific responsibilities to the scheduled milestones; for example, who is responsible for bringing the handouts, projector, and laptop to the presentation?
Commit to Rehearsing
Rehearsing is one of the most important steps for presentation success. Have your team members agree from day one that they will make themselves available to practice with the group.
If you find group members who lack the commitment to rehearse, consider finding group members who will commit. Practice makes perfect, and no rehearsal means your group doesn’t know what will happen to the content, timing, or quality of the presentation. Do those sound like things your group would like to leave to chance?
Commit to Answering Your Audience’s Questions
Once your formal presentation is over, you may see some raised hands in the audience, ready to pepper your group with questions. Your presentation is not over yet. How you handle those questions is as important as the presentation itself. A well-done presentation means nothing if presenters fumble questions so badly that they appear incompetent.
Have each member develop a list of potential questions and then, as a group, review the list. Discuss who will be responsible for handling which types of questions. Are there any questions important enough to build into the presentation?
From a Rag-Tag Group of Speakers to a Dynamic Presenting Team
By incorporating these three ingredients into your next group presentation process, you will find that you not only develop a presentation that your audience loves, but your group will transform from a rag-tag group of speakers into a dynamic presenting team.