With apologies to Liam Neeson, team presentations require a “very particular set of skills.” They shouldn’t be thrown together at the last minute or delivered without a work-through to figure out how all the pieces are going to fit together. To be successful, team presentations need to factor in all of the following techniques.
Plan to rehearse all together in-person at least once, if you can. You may not need to go through it word-for-word, but you do need to practice how you’ll handle the presentation introduction, #speaker transitions, conclusion, as well as any planned and unplanned Q & A. Figure out where everyone will stand (or sit) while they wait to speak, how they’ll pass the remote clicker to each other, which direction they’ll exit the space after speaking, etc. A quick walk-through will prevent fumbling and bumping into each other.
As you’re waiting on the sidelines for your turn to speak, stay focused on the speaker. Your side conversations and phone scrolling will pull focus. Whatever you look at, we’ll look at, so make sure that’s the speaker.
Whoever kicks off the presentation at the top should include a self-introduction, as well as an intro of every team member waiting in the wings. They should wave or nod when they hear their name called so the audience can start to put names and faces together.
“Lectern #etiquette” says that the speaking area should never go unoccupied. Each team member should wait to surrender the space to the next speaker. As you transition to the next person, stay in place until they reach you, then walk away. I recommend taking a step back as you exit so you don’t walk right in front of them.
Good teams turn speaker transitions into an art form. What not to do: “So I’ll turn it over now to Bob.” Preferred: “And now I’ll bring up Bob, who’ll talk about the best restaurants in Chicago—so you’ll always know the right place and the best price. Bob?” What makes the second example better? The speaker not only shared Bob’s name, but also set him up for success by teasing his topic and the audience relevance. You’ve done the heavy lifting for Bob and all he needs to do is deliver on your promise.
If you plan to end with a formal Q & A, all team members should reconvene front and center. You don’t want someone answering a question from the side wall. Don’t talk over each other during Q & A, either. If two people start answering at once, one person will need to let the other continue. If you disagree with a teammate’s response, please don’t throw them under the bus in front of everyone. “But John, don’t you remember? This was already agreed upon last week!” Instead of “but”, use the old trick of “yes, and”. “Yes, and I’d like to add to John’s answer that the board did vote to move forward last week.”
Filler words can kill your credibility and rob you of your authority. Qualifiers, disclaimers, and hedging phrases (“sort of”, “maybe”, “y’know”, “like”) make you sound unsure of your ideas. And turning statements into questions sounds like you’re apologizing for having an opinion at all, don’t you think? To learn the two words that are never appropriate for every audience, click on this 1-min animation (and turn on your speakers).
In her new book, “Presence”, Harvard Business School professor (and creator of “power posing”) Amy Cuddy shares that in first impression situations, people instantly answer two questions about each other:
Can I trust this person?
Can I respect this person?
Cuddy says that trust equates to warmth and respect to competence. Ideally, we want to be perceived as having both, but we can lose out if we think competence is the most important factor on which to be evaluated. The goal-to be seen first as warm and approachable. Others will respond more favorably when they sense first that you’re trustworthy. It’s only when trust has been established that competence will be evaluated.
The takeaway? Trying too hard at the beginning to convey you’re smart, accomplished, and competent can send a vibe that you’re unapproachable and maybe even manipulative. Brush up on your social skills, ask questions, be a little transparent, and show interest in others. Cuddy says, “A warm, trustworthy person who is also strong elicits admiration, but only after you’ve established trust does your strength become a gift rather than a threat.”
A good rule of thumb is to not use jargon unless you know for sure that everyone in your audience will understand exactly what it means. Words and phrases we take for granted have become part of our everyday vocabulary and too often slip into our conversations, pitches, and presentations. And we often end up confusing or frustrating our listeners. It’s doubly hard for our non-native U.S. clients and colleagues. They’re not only translating everything they hear and say, they’re also trying to make sense of our strange sports metaphors and colloquialisms. They often don’t understand the nuances of American English and want to take what we say quite literally. Before your next presentation or con call, review your content and throw out the jargon!
Here’s a list of phrases to eliminate. If you have others you’d like to add to this list, please add a comment to this post.
“off the top of your head”
“hit the fan”
“let’s touch base”