authentic communication

How to Give a Powerful Group Presentation

Is a group presentation really that different from an individual presentation? Oh yes. The dynamic is very different. Most of us have discovered this the hard way.

In my first and worst experience with a group presentation, I was one of four managers attending a programming conference in Miami on behalf of our radio station. We were invited there to present a success story on changing the music format successfully and increasing our share of the market. It was a big honor. We were excited.

As we walked to the front of the room that day, I felt that wave of discomfort that comes from realizing last minute you’re not entirely prepared. There were a hundred of our most respected peers in the room. Suddenly I had a pit in my stomach.

Group Presentation

When we reached the front, two of us were given hand-held mics. We had to pass them back and forth awkwardly to introduce ourselves one at a time. We knew our stuff–but we hadn’t practiced how to show up as a group.

My teammate Paul mumbled through an opening and then talked a blue streak through his portion of the presentation. During his comments, I noticed that everyone else had their heads down, nervously reading their notes, instead of listening to Paul with interest.

When Paul finished, he said, “Uh, now Lou is going to talk about uh, our timeline.” Both mics were passed to me at the same time. I grabbed one and began by sharing with the audience what a considerable role Paul had played in our success. Of course, Paul didn’t hear me because he had his head down to review his notes and see what he had missed.

You get the picture.

I’ve learned that to show up with command in a group presentation, the team has to meet up, build the presentation together, assign clear-cut roles, and practice together. For an audience to follow and enjoy a group presentation, it must be fluid—seamless.

12 Steps to Giving a Powerful Group Presentation

  1. Team commitment. Sit down as a team and decide how much energy you’re going to commit to nailing this presentation. Schedule time to build the presentation and do at least three dry-runs.
  2. Core Message. Decide upon your main message or “big idea” as a team. Everything in the presentation should support that idea.
  3. Presentation Leader. Choose an “emcee” to deliver a strong open, introduce members of the team, moderate Q&A, and close with energy. This provides continuity.
  4. Opening. Agree on the first minute of the presentation as a team. If you are going to engage the audience, it will be easier by saying something compelling in the first minute.
  5. Key Points. Layout the content that supports your core message. Don’t be tempted to unpack everything about the project. Consider what the audience wants to know. Organize into 2-4 focus areas.
  6. Assign Key Point Speakers. It should be easy to agree on who is qualified to cover each of the supporting focus areas. Don’t change speakers more than necessary. The presentation will seem choppy.

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  1. Slides. Have one teammate prepare a minimum number of slides. Coach your teammates to know their portion well so they can connect with the audience without having to stare at their slides. Use color charts and beautiful photographs. If your slides look like eye charts, you will lose the audience every time.
  2. Practice 3 times. Pay attention to body language. Stand tall and be attentive to each other. If you aren’t interested when other members of your team are speaking, why should your audience be?
  3. Clean Transitions. It’s not necessary to verbalize transitions by saying, “and now Mike will talk to us about…”. After team introductions, Mike can step forward and move into the next focus area by building on what the previous speaker just said.
  4. Q&A. This should be well orchestrated so that everyone participates and offers the best insights. The emcee can field questions and invite the appropriate team member to answer the question. This prevents people from stepping on each other, or one person from hogging the spotlight.
  5. Close. After moderating Q&A, there must be a clear conclusion. Decide upon the final minute as a group, and have the presentation leader deliver it.
  6. Finally, don’t present a textbook. Throughout the presentation, tell a story. Humanize the content. Use real names, examples, and illustrations.

Whatever you do, don’t settle for being the team that blew an opportunity with a clunky, mediocre presentation. Be the team that nailed it and had people talking.