Real life. Reality shows. Nothing’s more entertaining than watching drama unfold before your very eyes – oh, the pain, the suffering, the humanity.
Except when it’s you.
Team presentations, whether a sales pitch or a corporate report out, have the potential to make you feel naked and afraid. Unfortunately, that humiliation doesn’t happen alone in the wild but in public, in front of those you want most to impress or persuade.
Even more humbling is when it happens to those of us who believe we’re good at leading presentations. We don’t need training; we don’t need rehearsal; we’ve done lots of presentations and have come away unscathed.
Until it happens. When one of the team goes off script during a presentation – goes off somewhere they never should go and takes away the presentation’s success with them.
In reality, we thought we were good at leading presentations when we were just lucky.
The following learnings are from my 27 years making sales presentations.
Failure is the birthplace of knowing what not to do next time.
– Chris Arlen
So, here’s to staying clothed, confident and ultimately successful in team presentations.
Logistics and the Lay of the Land
Before getting down to the nuts and bolts of the presentation itself, you’ll be well served by paying attention to the realities of place and time.
To do that, prepare for the 5 Need-to-Knows and though they may seem overly fastidious, they can help prevent you from feeling cold failure before you even present. They are:
- Know your audience
- Know the room
- Know the technology constraints
- Know your position in the agenda
- Know you’re prepared
Rehearse, Rehearse & Who’s Doing What?
Hubris, thy name is “we don’t need to rehearse, we’re experienced.”
If professional actors rehearse, then why wouldn’t a presentation team need practice too, even if your team includes executives higher up than you?
And while you’re at it, make sure everyone understands their roles during rehearsals. The entire team will need to know who is playing the part of:
- Lead actor
- Supporting cast
- Top dog
Crucial Minutes in the Room Beforehand
Often team presentations take place in unfamiliar territory. The few minutes you have to setup your equipment and prepare the room are critically important.
You’re literally setting the stage for your presentation’s success. Pay attention to these details:
- Arrive early, or don’t show
- Butterflies are only good if you harness their energy
- Prepare the room: ensure the audience has the best seats
- Adjust lights & blinds for best screen visibility & safety when walking in the room
- Place handouts so they’re handy when it’s time to hand them out
Hello, We’re On!
Nothing like the first spoken line to set your destiny for the rest of the presentation. So get the beginning more than right, get brilliant at starting when the curtain rises.
- Informal introductions first — start with warm & friendly
- Second introduction: get formal — lift the curtain so everyone knows the show has started
- Ground rules for the show — let them know what’s expected
- Challenge them with your first line — push against expectations: get participation
- Customer required agendas — more guideline than requirement, offer an alternative
Be in the Moment – Eye to Eye
Once you’re in the presentation, pay attention to the performance as a whole. Your audience may be entranced at any specific moment, but you don’t want to lose that excitement and have them leave the presentation on a low, flat note.
Play the arc of the presentation, build the scene’s excitement to the allotted time.
You’ll want the ability to address the topics your audience is interested in – in the order they want to hear them. You may want to address topics “A” through “Z”. They may only want to hear “K”, “P”, and “R” – but “R” first, then “K”, and then “P.”
Design your presentation deck to enable that interactivity and you’ll keep their interest because you’re going where they want to go.
Also, it’s expected that when someone in your audience is speaking, your team will look them in the eye. It shows respect, that your team is listening.
Extend that to your own team. When any one of your team is speaking, ensure your entire team is looking at your speaker. It shows your audience that what’s being said is important.
“All good things must end” so make sure your presentation ends on the good. Your audience has heard thousands of words from your team and you want them to remember the important parts. So start wrapping up the presentation 5-10 minutes before your time ends.
- Beginning the end — the lead actor alerts the audience the wrap up is beginning
- Clearing for questions — one last check-in to see if the audience have unanswered questions
- Confirming follow-ups — letting the audience know you’ll get back to them with outstanding answers
- Narrating the short story — the final summation of your compelling business case
- Your last word — commitment, give yours explicitly to whatever your presentation’s call to action is
- Time to go — pack up & exit gracefully
This article, “Naked and Afraid in Team Presentations” was originally published in LinkedIn.