by Steve Adubato, PhD
More and more people are either asked or required to make presentations--team presentations, group presentations, presentations that require professionals and others to work together and communicate in a cohesive, coordinated and compelling fashion. But presenting as a team can sometimes be very different than doing it alone.
With this in mind, consider some tools and techniques the next time you have to present as a "dynamic duo:"
- You have to trust each other. Without trust no team can successfully present. You must have full confidence that other presenters understand that you are all in this together. It's very difficult for people who don't respect each other, or worse, don't trust each other (no matter how articulate they may be individually) to present effectively as a team.
- Once this trust is established, team presenters must look out for each other and seek opportunities to "rescue" your partner if you think he or she needs it. You can only do this if you genuinely care about how your partner presents and see your fate tied to his or her performance. It's not enough that you did a good job. That's the difference between being part of a team and going it alone.
- Balance the time that each person presents. If one person is doing 90 percent of the talking, your audience will begin to wonder why the other presenter is even there. Make sure each presenter's role plays to his or her strengths with respect to content and style.
- If you have to correct your colleague, understand that this is a very delicate matter. If the mistake he has made is minor and doesn't significantly impact on the quality of the presentation, leave it alone. However, if the mistake is so serious that it jeopardizes the presentation's outcome, discretely step in and say something like, "Jim, let me just jump in here. I want to clarify a point that there might be some confusion about…" Then make sure you hand it back to Jim.
- In order to effectively execute this last technique, you have to check your ego at the door. It is critical that you see your presentation partner "chiming in" not as an interruption but as a compliment to what you are saying. If he corrects you, have the confidence and comfort level that allows you to say, "Thanks, Bob, I really appreciate you clarifying that point…"
- When one of your colleagues is presenting, it is essential that you stay focused on what is being said. Avoid the temptation to daydream just because it is not "your turn" to speak. Be engaged and involved and you will see opportunities to add to the team presentation whether it was part of the script or not.
- Speaking of scripts, team presentations should have a game plan for who is going to play what role in the presentation. But don't have it set in stone. Be structured and organized but remain flexible enough to respond and react to the fluid dynamics of the situation. Keep a conversational tone, which will allow for such spontaneity.
- Being flexible is one thing, but you have to know exactly who is going to open and who is going to close a team presentation. Don't leave that to chance. Avoid any awkward silence or confusion when the time comes to "close" the deal.
Finally, practice, practice, practice. There is no substitute for it. Do a mock team presentation before colleagues who will give you honest feedback. This will allow you to tighten up your timing and the handing off from one presenter to another. It will also give you more confidence that you are truly prepared when the time comes to present for real.