Does your team achieve effective communication in business presentations?
There may be more to answering that question than you realize. For instance, one of the essential truths about team presentations is this: the total result must always be more than the sum of the parts. That means that, however dynamic your key personnel, they can't simply come across as a series of excellent presenters one after the other, like a string of expensive pearls. (To learn how to speak with influence and impact, download my free cheat sheet, "4 Characteristics of an Influential Speaker.")
Team presentations, in other words, have to be both conceived and delivered as a unified whole. That can be a difficult proposition when your people work in their own silos of individual expertise, and rarely get together except when your company is pitching to an important client.
You Must All Hang Together, or You'll Assuredly Hang Separately
Benjamin Franklin said that at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, but it's valuable advice for today's business teams as well. When your team shows up to present to a prospect, customer or client, your listeners have a reasonable expectation that your assemblage is going to be working together as a coherent group. The group should have clear and specific roles in your presentation. Otherwise, why arrive as a team at all?
Yet it's amazing how many business teams don't "hang together" in any way. One of the major problems in this area is a lack of balance. For instance, the big guys handle the lion's share of the talking, while the junior members aren't much more than potted plants brought along for scenery. If your prospects are wondering about this strange state of affairs while you're delivering your pitch, chances are your presentation won't achieve its intended effect, to say the least. (Read this article for 6 questions to ask yourself to understand and influence your key audiences.)
Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse
You know how busy all your people are and how they didn't have time to actually practice this important presentation? If that's the case, make your Accounts Payable people happy and cancel the airline and hotel reservations to travel to your client's offices. Without sufficient time to plan and practice your presentation (both!), you won't have much to offer to put your organization in a favorable light.
To deliver a presentation as a team without rehearsing together as one is simply to invite disaster. You'll discover two truths very quickly if you tempt fate in this way: (1) You have no idea of the flow of your talk, and (2) Your time management will likely be wildly out of whack. Here are 5 great ways to organize and deliver a powerful team presentation.
You should make the effort to bring your people together prior to your performance—wherever they need to travel from—and get them up on their feet for a timed rehearsal, in as close to real conditions as possible. Plan 3 to 5 practice sessions. Less than that, and you're just running through it a couple of times. With more than 5 practice sessions, you can become mechanical, speaking or gesturing in a certain manner in your actual presentation because you did it that way in all 17 of your rehearsals.
Grading Your Team's Performance
Now for the prize: How do you quantify your team's performance in key areas? The following checklist should help. You'll see that there are four main areas of presentation effectiveness. Under each main area, four additional positive outcomes are given. Grade your members individually and as a team, using the indicated scale from "P" for poor to "E" for excellent. Write in additional comments if you like.
Here's the checklist:
TEAM PRESENTATION CHECKLIST
Pitch or Topic _______________________________________________
Speaker/team rated on each point: P=Poor F=Fair A=Average G=Good E=Excellent
PRESENCE AND AUTHORITY
Level of focus and staying on message
Sufficient energy and enthusiasm
Impression of expertise and authority
Professional, calm, and confident
TOPIC AND APPROACH
Talk well organized, logical, and topical
Used stories, anecdotes, personal experiences
Points clear and reinforced at end
Related well to listeners, showed likeability
CREDIBILITY AND TRUST
Established and maintained personal credibility
Impression of openness and honesty
Interest in and respect for audience & culture
Created strong, positive impression
Eye contact and rapport with listeners
Varied tone, pitch, vocal quality (not monotone)
Well paced, with pauses where appropriate
Natural gestures and physicality
You'll note that there's very little in the checklist that's concerned with content. Far more important are nonverbal communication, presence, and your ability to reach and move your listeners. Work on improving these things; the information you convey will more or less take care of itself.
If this checklist is an eye-opener for you, you should work with a speech coach or corporate trainer whose business it is to understand how successful teams influence and move listeners to action. Your company deserves nothing less.
Key takeaways from this blog:
- Team presentations must be conceived and practiced that way.
- A series of expert presenters one after the other will not achieve your purpose.
- You must create balance and a sense of proportion among the speakers.
- Planning and rehearsing together are equally important to your success.
- Grade your team's performance on presence and effectiveness, not content.