Many professional services firms present their client pitches in a team format. Team presentations have several attractive features; they offer variety, provide an opportunity to showcase the firm’s range of expertise and demonstrate how well the team works together. But hasty preparation or uncoordinated execution can also spell disaster. Given the technology and format options available, the greatest challenge in team presentations remains creating a sense of continuity among three or more presenters. To design, develop and deliver an effective team presentation:
Keep all presenters focused on the same strategic goal.
You may have three or four presenters in a team presentation, but they should all be working towards the same strategic goal, rather than pursuing their own personal agenda. Don’t let people get so wrapped up in their segment of the presentation that they lose sight of the overall picture. It shouldn’t be used as an opportunity to stand out from the other presenters. The goal once again is to create a sense of synergy so that the overall team presentation creates a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
Appoint a moderator.
Think of the moderator as the conductor of an orchestra. He’s responsible for introducing each speaker, keeping segments running on time and deciding which presenter will answer specific questions. Team presentations can often bog down when individual members have difficulty deciding among themselves who will answer a particular question. The moderator keeps the presentation moving along by deciding for them. The moderator should make any adjustments to lighting, visuals, seating arrangements or room set-up.
Focus on skill sets instead of positions.
Make certain individual presenters play to their strengths. For example, if someone has great rapport building skills, let her open the presentation. Consider having this person conclude the presentation as well to add psychological closure. A person with strong analytical skills and the ability to articulate them clearly is a good choice to lay out the problem-solution section of the presentation as well as present any data collection or survey information. Financial experts will probably provide better questions about tax implications of deals than marketing people. Don’t get too “title-focused” and make the mistake of fielding questions by rank instead of expertise.
Make certain the visuals in your slide show are seamless.
Visuals present special challenges in a team presentation. If you don’t already have a corporate template, create one. Don’t use one of the standard templates contained in PowerPoint--chances are that your competitors will, and having your own distinctive look provides another way to make your presentation stand out. Work from the master slide. Too often, team members work on their individual portions of the presentation then assemble all the pieces at the end. Any incongruities in font type or size, color schemes or transitions become immediately apparent. Print out a copy of your slides so you can quickly bring up the desired one instead of flipping through them. If you’re not within easy reach of your notebook computer, use a remote mouse to advance slides instead of trying to coordinate with another person.
Practice with the entire team until you see no room for improvement.
Transitioning from one speaker to the next requires skill and practice. It shouldn’t seem as if one speaker simply stops and the next begins. Rather, it should appear as if there is a smooth continuation of thought and development of the key messages. Videotaping your practice sessions is best, but at the minimum, audiotape them. Make certain each presenter has a copy of the outline and update it regularly. If your team is working from different locations, consider using Google Documents, so the latest revision is always available online. If you’ll be using microphones, decide in advance how you’ll pass them from one presenter to the next. Determine the room setup, where everyone will be positioned and the optimum lighting situation well in advance. Anticipate what questions the audience will ask and develop thoughtful answers to them. You might also consider asking colleagues to sit in on the presentation and role-play asking difficult questions.
Team presentations provide both opportunities and challenges. With careful preparation and well-coordinated execution, you’ll stand a much better chance of closing the business.
©2008 Peak Communication Performance. Affluent’s Presentation Expert, Joseph Sommerville, Ph.D., shows executives how to design, develop and deliver effective presentations. Excerpted from Rainmaking Presentations: How To Grow Your Business By Leveraging Your Expertise, to be released by Palgrave Macmillan in January '09. When you book Dr. Sommerville to work with your organization, you’re guaranteed a high return on your investment. Please contact him at Sommerville@PeakCP.com. For more information visit www.PeakCP.com.