THE BLOG
01/21/2015 10:59 am ET Updated Mar 23, 2015

4 Tips to Tie a Team Presentation Together

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A basketball team that can work the ball down the court and dunk it play after play is a beautiful thing. A family that laughs together whether they vacation or clean out the garage builds memories for a lifetime. A management team that can flip a division loser into a profit center wins respect.

But a project team that presents a recommendation as four soloists in concert will frustrate their audience. A team presentation is labeled a team presentation for good reason: Its parts should comprise a whole. But team presentations all too often sound like a symphony orchestra warming up instrument by instrument.

The following tips will help your team create a presentation that's clear, concise, and cohesive:

1. Decide on a One-Sentence Message for the Entire Presentation--Together
For starters, a team that presents together should create together. Before all members disappear into their offices to start gathering information and building slides, determine the goal. That should be a given. But frequently team members have very different ideas about the overall message they're trying to convey. That makes it impossible for all the parts to support that theme. The final presentation resembles a relay race when runner number three is racing over on a separate track.

2. Develop a High-Level Outline Together
After you have developed a summary sentence as the primary takeaway, your team members may still be fuzzy about how each member's section will support the overall theme.

When I arrive on the scene in my coaching work, I frequently discover that most teams have sent individual members "to their corners" and expected them to come out ready to present. This approach invariably dictates a disjointed final product.

A quicker approach that leads to a more cohesive end product: Create the presentation structure together. After you've agreed on the overall message, outline the complete presentation--typically, three or four key supporting points. Not topics, but supporting points. There's a big difference.

Individual team members who have expertise in various areas will begin to rise to the occasion and fill in more detail quickly under those three or four supporting statements.

Before you leave the group huddle, the entire team will have a good idea of what the final presentation will look like. At this point, you can identify potential overlaps, add complementary points, adjust timing, and assign presenters to the appropriate sections.

3. Do a Dry-Run Early On
Procrastination proves to be a pesky problem in many projects. Presentations are no exception. A procrastinating team member may wait until the last moment to complete his sections, and that of course pushes the dry-run until after the "early completers" have already added all their finishing touches (art work, slides, final data collection, interviews).

Then when the dry-run finally happens, the team sees problems: gaps, overlaps, missing information, conflicting or fuzzy focus. But because the dry-run has been scheduled so late in the process, the team has little or no time for a course correction. Instead, they decide to "go with what they have."

Don't let this happen to you. Agree on the entire preparation process upfront, making sure the dry-run happens with plenty of time for tweaks before the final presentation.

4. Make the Dry-Run Count Even with the best schedule and superb content, the dry-run will reveal a few rough spots. Dry-runs exist for polishing these things:
  • Determine and practice appropriate transition statements that tie the segments together.
  • Verify the timing to decide where you should or can cut if necessary.
  • Get input from your teammates on your phrasing throughout.
  • Have your teammates fire anticipated questions to you and practice your responses.
  • Polish your overview and summary statements, continually relating them back to the overall message.
As with sports, you can't present any better than you practice.

Nowhere is teamwork--or the lack thereof--more noticeable than in a presentation. Make it seamless.