Effective Team Presentations

A team presentation is a special animal. It’s easy to get excited when your company makes the short list of vendors who are invited to make a presentation on a big piece of business. But, while your skills and experience can get you on that short list, it’s invariably the power of your team’s presentation that will win or lose you the business. In fact, your challenge is the double header of not just demonstrating your fit for the job, but also projecting the “softer” skills of attitude, enthusiasm, responsiveness and client orientation.

Team presentations present a unique challenge, so I’m going to cover this topic in two separate articles—this one on the technical effectiveness of the presentation itself and the other on the people skills that are so important to creating chemistry with the client.

So what are some ways your team presentation skills can stand out over the competitors?

  1. Obviously do your homework. Know the prospect’s business, their needs and hot buttons.
  2. Select the members of your team based on complementary areas of expertise. Most team presentations are best handled with three to five members. This is decided primarily by the size of the prospect’s team (you don’t want too many to their small group nor too few to their greater numbers) and the amount of time you have—less time means fewer presenters.
  3. Choose the team leader strategically. It may not always make sense for it to be the highest ranking person on the team, especially if that person will have absolutely no role when your company actually gets the business. A more meaningful choice might be the person who would have the most contact with the client.
  4. Adapt to the presentation logistics. Find out ahead of time if this will be a formal, stand-up presentation, or a more informal, seated discussion approach. Learn about the A/V set-up if you’ll be using visuals. Try to determine the seating arrangements. While there may be a benefit to being seated among your prospects, keep in mind that being seated across from them is not necessarily a divisive gesture. This is a great opportunity to be seen as a team, to capture the spotlight and show your stuff.
  5. Outline the presentation. This includes what each person will speak on, when and how long each one speaks, and the leader’s role in all of it. The leader, as the key facilitator, will: open, make introductions, direct the flow, conclude, manage the Q&A, and wrap it all up.
  6. Prepare your content. Make sure you are responding to the prospect’s criteria, that you meet time limits, and that each person knows his/her topic well.
  7. Rehearse: First, to make certain that you come in under your time limit, and secondly, to ensure that every presenter is confident and credible. Videotape and candidly critique yourselves.
  8. Plan for Q&A. Anticipate the possible questions you’ll get (especially the ones you’d rather not be asked!) and know how you’re going to answer them. It’s smart to assign each team member a subject area responsibility for Q&A. This helps prevent either everybody answering at once or a long pause while everyone waits for someone else to tackle it.
  9. Look and act like a cohesive team. Remember that even when you’re not presenting, you’re still “on.” Your facials and body language are sending signals about whether you’re bored or engaged. Resist grimacing or interrupting a team member if someone has said something incorrect. Project positive nonverbals throughout the whole presentation—look interested and supportive and affirming.
  10. Debrief after presentation. Why did you—or did you not—win the business? Ask the client why they made the decision they did. Request—and be prepared for—honest feedback. That way you can learn how to win (again) the next time.

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