Public speaking can be nerve-wracking enough, but presenting as a group adds a whole new level of anxiety to the process. And when the presentation is a new business pitch, that really raises the stakes.
Organizing a group presentation can be like herding cats, only with less focus and discipline.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you make it a true team effort, the sum of the various parts should add up to more than the whole.
Of course, in a group setting all the usual rules about presenting apply, like understanding your audience, telling stories, using cool visuals, putting energy behind your performance. On top of that, here are six other things to keep in mind when presenting as a team.
1. Pay Attention
Even in the moments when a teammate is doing the talking, you still have to be “on” and engaged. That means paying attention to what she’s saying, offering acknowledgement and encouragement (including occasional verbal and nonverbal reinforcement), and checking in with your audience through eye contact.
2. Create Group Chemistry
The best group presentations are those where the audience leaves saying, “That didn’t even feel like a presentation. It was like a conversation. They were completing each other’s sentences and going back and forth and just talking like friends.”
The more it feels like a spontaneous conversation, the more effective you’ll be. Though that does not mean you shouldn’t rehearse. That kind of spontaneity requires careful planning!
3. Practice as a Group
This one seems obvious, but I’ve been part of countless group presentations in which we spent so much time discussing and assembling the material that we never adequately rehearsed it.
Plus there were occasions when members of a team would fly in from around the country and we’d meet each other for the first time in the car ride to the client’s office. Fortunately, we were PR people and were good at quickly engaging and making a connection with each other and giving the appearance that we were a well-oiled machine.
If your team is far-flung, practice together online. If you’re in the same location, there’s no excuse. Rehearsing together is absolutely critical to creating a seamless presentation. And a well executed presentation indicates that you may just be the right team for the job.
4. Eliminate Stage Directions
I got this idea from a really informative podcast with marketer Mitch Joel and presentation expert Peter Coughter. They made the point that in movies, the stage directions aren’t read aloud. (“Interior, Office: Rob, disheveled and wearing a tattered robe, shuffles to his computer and begins typing.”)
Instead they’re shown, through visuals and action. In the same way, when you’re presenting as a group you should avoid saying things like:
- And now my colleague Phil will walk you through our distribution strategy.
- As this chart shows ..
- As you’ll see on this next slide …
There’s no need to narrate every action. Instead, make it a performance. Create smooth transitions and let your slides do their job without explicitly calling them out. Remember, this is a performance.
5. Be Likable
The not-so-secret little secret of business pitches (and job interviews, for that matter) is that people want to work with people they like. All other things being equal (skills, experience, industry knowledge), they will choose the team with whom they can imagine spending endless hours toiling away together.
Sometimes, in fact, they’ll pick the less experienced or knowledgable team based on likability, chemistry or enthusiasm. So be warm, be open, be funny. Show some personality. Humans like to do business with other humans.
6. Like Each Other
Of course the first step to being a likable team is for you to actually like each other. If people don’t truly get along, if there’s a rift in the team, it will be pretty obvious to everyone in the room.
Clients don’t want to deal with your drama, so put your personality conflicts aside, suck it up and act like a truly unified team. Showing that you work well together signals that you’ll play nicely when hired.
There’s No “I” in Team
As for your role in this process, here are a few things you can do to keep things running smoothly. Step up, take responsibility and follow through on what you’ve promised to do. It’s very easy in a team environment to elude accountability, especially when roles aren’t clearly defined.
Also, avoid using the “I” word. Even when you’re talking about stuff you did and experience that’s yours alone, using “I” instead of “we” makes you sound like a diva.
And don’t use the “M” word, either. As in “my.” Otherwise, you’ll sound like a Madonna.