20 Questions to Ask before Your next Team Presentation

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Originally published July 5, 2017 on Inc.com.

“The whole presentation is an hour, but I am only really ‘on’ for 10 minutes.”

“I only have to know my part. The other guys know the rest of it.”

“Which one of us is taking questions? We’ll figure it out — you know, keep it loose…”

You might think that having two or three other colleagues to co-lead your presentationpitch or proposal with can cut the preparation and practice down significantly for each of you. You might feel a sense of relief that others can swoop in and rescue you if you get sick, sweaty or stuck. You might believe that the less speaking time you have, the less responsibility you hold for your overall success

Yes, you might feel all of that — but unless you have planned, prepared and practiced as a team — you would be wrong. Whether you’re making a VC pitch, sharing your recommendations with the board, or selling your newest products or services to a customer, presenting as a team can be significantly more difficult to sound concise, coordinated and cohesive than going it alone.

In 25 years of coaching individuals and teams to make more persuasive presentations, I’ve found that group presentations tend to fall into the trap of creating a feeling of shared accountability (“we’re all in this together”) that translates into a reality of no accountability (“I’m sure someone else will test that the A/V set up is working.”) This means that core elements of presentation planning, design and delivery often fall through the cracks, resulting in a mishmash of uncoordinated -and sometimes competing -objectives, repeated or missing information, wildly different styles in graphics, and the likelihood that the presentation will run significantly under- or over-time. Add to that the feelings of frustration and resentment that people working in teams often feel about carrying more weight than their partners, and a team presentation is often a recipe for disaster.

But it doesn’t have to be. A team presentation can look and sound highly professional and polished. Furthermore, it can serve as a model for the level of coordination, collaboration and teamwork that you want your prospects and clients to associate with you and your company. How does that happen? By sitting down with your team to ask and answer these 20 questions before anyone picks up a pen, a mouse, or a mic.

  1. Who is accountable for this presentation overall (the person who gets to make final decisions and have veto power)?
  2. Who is responsible for which part in terms of content vs. design?
  3. Who will “knit” the parts of the presentation together so it looks and sounds like a consistent and cohesive whole?
  4. Who do we need to work with outside of this group to give us objective insight and feedback?
  5. When is each part due and who will keep us on schedule?
  6. When will we practice delivering as a team and how much time will we need for that?
  7. Who is in charge of checking the AV before we present? Who is in charge of running it as we present?
  8. How will each presenter be introduced to the audience on the day of the presentation?
  9. Where should the team members stand while the others are presenting?
  10. What should the non-speaking team members be doing/not doing when they’re not “on”?
  11. How will we keep track of our time in each section, for each speaker, and overall during the presentation?
  12. Who is taking notes/writing flipcharts/distributing materials?
  13. Do we want to share one microphone or do we each need one? What kind?
  14. What do we do if someone on the team says something incorrect or inaccurate?
  15. What do we do if a member of the team chokes or isn’t at his or her best?
  16. Who will be watching the audience for clues and cues? How will we communicate our “reading of the room” to the rest of the team during the presentation?
  17. How will we transition from one speaker to the next? What will we say to hand it over to the next person?
  18. How will we divide up the Q&A?
  19. Who is the point person on our team for any follow-up needed?
  20. How can we support our weakest link and showcase our strongest player?

Deborah Grayson Riegel Deborah Grayson Riegel is an executive coach and Director of Learning with The Boda Group. Deborah has coached hundreds of thousands of professionals to communicate more effectively in industries ranging from advertising, financial services, and government to non-profits, pharmaceuticals, and technology. Deborah is a graduate of the University of Michigan and Columbia University, and an instructor of Management Communication at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Learn more about Deborah or get in touch.