5 Tips to Nail That Team Presentation
Pulling off a team presentation can feel like herding cats.
There are so many voices to integrate – and typically someone with more power swooping in at the last-minute to tell you to change something, or not to say this/that which can really throw you off. And who has time to prep!? All together, no less?! Ugh.
But when a team presentation goes well, it can be a powerful experience – communal, purpose-driven, empowering, even fun!
It feels good to nail that kind of presentation, doesn't it?!
But nailing a team presentation doesn't just happen.
One of my all-time favorite clients is a team of women who present together a few times a year. Working with them is complicated as we try and coordinate and integrate so many competing needs – keeps me on my toes! – but together we have mastered a few key elements to making it work without it causing unnecessary stress, keeping the team aligned, empowering them as individuals and as a team – and nailing that presentation!
Here are 5 key tips to making your next team presentation awesome:
1. Coordinate - your schedule and your message.
The word coordinate means to “bring the different elements of (a complex activity or organization) into a relationship that will ensure efficiency or harmony.”
Sounds about right. And to create efficiency and harmony (which leads to a great presentation), you need to take time to intentionally coordinate the schedule and the message.
It seems like a No-DUH kind of thing – but it's often rushed through and overlooked.
Start by blocking off time on everyone's schedule – more than you think you need – and bring in a coach to hold you to that time.
One of the best things to come out of working with a presentation coach is s/he will help you be accountable to a timeline. Of course, the presentation is coming – ready or not! – but so often, especially in situations when you have to coordinate many people's schedules and varying levels of comfort/confidence/interest, it's a behemoth's job. So having an outside person you're paying to come in and help you ensures you'll show up and give it your all.
I can't tell you how many of my clients have said to me, “Knowing you were coming in today, I finally put in some time…” and “Thank goodness you are here – otherwise, this would never move forward…”
Once you have your schedule set up (which will undoubtedly change and need to be adjusted, but you've at least laid out a road map) – then you can think about content.
There are many ways to approach coordinating a message – but I always start with asking the group a series of questions. Speaking these things out loud, together, gets everyone on the same page. Here are just some of the questions you need to answer before you dive into your content:
– What is the goal?
– Who needs/gets input?
– How long do you have with your audience?
– What do you want them to experience? How do you want them to feel?
Once you're on the same page, you can begin to block it out. Every team I've worked with does it differently – from using an existing deck and working off of that (which creates as many problems as it eliminates – a post for another time), to outlining the basic flow, to sketching it out visually first.
The goal is that you have put in the effort to PLAN and COORDINATE the best you can – so that the presenting team knows what to expect.
2. Practice Together.
Ultimately, one of the most key elements is practicing – together.
I mean, of course you need to practice!
But practicing TOGETHER is essential.
Get out of your separate practice spaces and get in the same space, together. Learn each other's tendencies; be each other's audience; support and guide each other as you stumble-through. It both helps put the pressure on in the most helpful way – and also reminds you that this is not a parade of random people who are talking in sequence; you are doing this together.
Practicing is often the part that gets avoided. And I totally get why! It's awkward and artificial and – don't' you have a billion other things to do that seem WAY more important?! And, you've done this dozens of times before! You got this… you don't need to practice.
WRONG. Please practice! If anything, do it for your coworkers.
Teams that don't practice together lose out on the intangible connection that is created amongst a team of people who know the whole of the content and how to move through it well, together.
P.S., teams are built on moments like this.
3. Make Your Teammates Look Brilliant.
When I was first doing team facilitating – a close cousin to team presenting – one of the most important rules of the road was that my job was to “make my teammates look brilliant.” It wasn't to BE brilliant – it was to make my teammates look brilliant.
I didn't consider myself someone who wanted to out-shine my coworkers – but, like most people, I was worried about how I would do, and not so worried about my coworkers.
This subtle shift brings big changes – because when (not if, but when) someone screws up, it's a huge mental shift to know that your coworkers not only have your back, but will do it in such a way that doesn't undercut you.
Like a client of mine who was up in front of some big-league executives and forgot the point she was trying to make. Her coworker expertly asked her a question that put her back on track – and no one was the wiser to the mistake. Brilliant!
Compare that to the client who shared a story of a time when he was running long – taking up too much time – which was impacting the rest of the presentation. His coworker interrupted him with something like “Mark's going on a bit long here, so we'd like to move on to this next piece…” and just took over. Ouch. Mark kind of slunk back to his chair, feeling like an idiot.
Not only is that rude – it tells me soooooo much about your culture as a team (nothing good), and puts me in an awkward position as the unassuming audience member. Awkward was probably not what you were going for…
Mark's coworker – probably concerned and wanting to do what's best for the audience and the presentation – could have instead said something like, “I'm so sorry to interrupt – but we are running short on time, and need to skip ahead. Mark, I know there's one final point you want to make about last year's growth?…” – which hands it back to MARK to finish it on his own terms, while acknowledging what needs to happen. Much better.
When the rubber hits the road and you are standing up there together, you sink or swim – TOGETHER. So when given a choice between protecting yourself and making your teammate look brilliant – opt for the teammate. If you are all doing that for each other, you're covered.
4. Know Who Has the Con
“The con” is a boating/shipping phrase, short for “the controls” – i.e., who is steering this ship?
And as speakers, we use this phrase to identify who is in control of the presentation at any given time. And in team presentations, one of the most important keys to success is knowing who has the con at any given time, and then when and how you're going to pass the con.
The con determines where the audience's attention goes.
– Sometimes a video has the con.
– Sometimes you quickly pass the attention to another speaker.
– Sometimes the con goes to an audience member as she answers a question.
You can take the con, and you can give the con.
If you think about team presentations as a flow chart between speakers who are passing the con – suddenly you understand what flow really is.
You can read more about Holding the Con here – but know this: someone or something should have the con at all times. And as the presenters, you are the ones who intentionally and deliberately shift it.
If you can do this element well- it puts you head and shoulders above most team presenters.
5. Focus on beginnings, endings and transitions.
Many times, people come to me seeking help for a big team presentation with just a few business days to go before ‘go time.' We are always running short on preparation time.
So – if this is you (and this has been me, too many times to count), focus on these three things:
If you have a strong beginning and end – and create smooth transitions between elements (from speaker to speaker, or speaker to video, or from video to speaker to music – whatever it may be) – the overall FEEL of the presentation will be positive.
As we all know, audiences remember so little… so depressingly little! But, they DO remember how we made them FEEL. And strong beginnings, endings and transitions help an audience feel positive things.
And the contrary is true: if you have a tentative beginning – and totally nail that middle section – and then sort of back out slowly at the end… well, all they'll remember is that awkward ending. They'll have totally forgotten that middle section you nailed.
So – when time is short – or you're in your final stages of preparation – make sure of this:
Nail your beginnings, endings and transitions.