By Phil Stella
Team-delivered presentations (TDPs) are common in the workplace today, especially with higher-end sales pitches or senior executive project updates. But, unfortunately, so are those that become “dog and pony shows from hell.” What pushes them over the edge is poor planning and preparation, just as with other facets of workplace presentations.
The results can be very painful for the audience:
Often, a TDP takes longer to deliver the same amount of information as a single-presenter message.
The poor planning results in too much unintentional repetition or overlap of information.
Clumsy transitions between presenters create the impression – often quite accurate – that the presenters never practiced together or coordinated what they were going to do.
The audience may wonder why they’re being forced to endure several speakers of widely varying competency, when one speaker with the best skills would be better for their informational needs.
Why a TDP?
There are good audience-centric reasons that well-intended teams often justify for TDPs. Chief among them are the inability of any one speaker to handle all the technical information to be delivered and their motivation to showcase several team members as an indication of commitment or resources. While these reasons make sense, effective audience-centric team presentations require thorough planning and preparation to avoid the pitfalls mentioned above.
To avoid such dog and pony shows from hell, answer these important questions honestly and thoughtfully:
Why will having a team-delivered presentation add incremental value to accomplishing your defined outcomes?
What’s in it for the audience when one speaker could deliver the message just as well?
How will you decide on roles, responsibility and content sequence issues?
How much time will your team be able to practice the presentation?
To maximize the positive audience-centric impact of your TDPs, take advantage of these five best practices learned from all-star presenters:
The Anchor/Field Reporter Approach. Instead of leading off with the big dog, passing the baton to each person in turn and ending with the last speaker, try this approach. Have the best presenter act as the anchorperson, delivering the all-important introduction and conclusion and passing the baton to the content experts as if they were field reporters. The anchor would introduce each speaker, and then summarize his or her points before transitioning.
The Anchor-Only Approach. If the anchorperson can adequately handle all the content details, even better. He or she can introduce the rest of the team and pass specific questions to them, but otherwise deliver all the content. This approach can showcase team members or indicate the full resources involved to a limited extent while maximizing the impact of the actual presentation.
Practice the Baton Pass. Most relay races are won or lost with the pass off. Effective TDPs practice smooth baton passes so the whole message flows seamlessly and purposefully from one speaker to the next. Speaker A summarizes his or her key points, previews Speaker B’s points, and passes off. Or the anchor summarizes Speaker A, transitions to Speaker B, and introduces him or her. Everything happens on purpose and for a purpose.
Plan for Time. Even if the speakers can’t practice together live, they can go over content in detail via email or conference call. And practicing by phone or videoconference can work quite well. Each speaker additionally practices his or her segment several times with a stopwatch to make sure it meets requirements and doesn’t result in the entire message going over.
Determine Q&A Strategy. Depending on the content flow and relationship of segments to each other, speakers can entertain questions at the end of their segment rather than at the end of the entire message. Or the anchor can manage the segment Q&A. Taking questions at the end of each segment also avoids ending the entire presentation with the often-clumsy Q&A session.
So, if you’re considering a TDP, do what you can to maximize the upside and minimize the downside of this technique. Thorough planning and preparation are essential for success … and for avoiding dog and pony shows from hell!
Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, www.communicate-confidently.com, 440 449-0356, and empowers business leaders to communicate confidently. He is a popular trainer and executive coach on workplace communications and sales presentations and a senior faculty at the University of Phoenix, Cleveland Campus.