SkydiversIt’s that time of year again when I get to watch no fewer than 15 team presentations. They are always enlightening and never fail to provide tangible, meaningful and helpful Do’s and Don’ts for the rest of us.

Here are my favorites:

1. Batting Order:  How to decide who’s up, on deck and in the hole?  Most teams use job role or subject matter expertise as their framework for assigning who speaks when. That’s fine, and in some cases necessary. For example, if you are the account manager or lead salesperson and your team is presenting to your prospect, it makes sense for you to speak first. Here’s another way: assign your most energetic, authentic or personable team member to welcome the audience, and, here it is: grab their attention. When your audience shows interest in your topic in the first 90 seconds, you have set yourself up for success.  Whenever possible, match speaker style with the material and/or the structure of your presentation.

2. Air time: I watched two teams give the least amount of air time to their most compelling speaker. Why?  When I asked them what happened, the first one said, “We were just trying to be fair”, and the second one said, “They were worried that I would get all the positive feedback and they would look bad.”  Really? When the stakes are high and your ability to meet your goal is dependent upon the success of the presentation, don’t minimize your best asset just because it’s more collaborative to give everyone the same amount of time.

Another important note about air time: brevity. I have a client in the pharmaceutical industry whose team has the whole issue of long-winded presentations all sewn up for them. The prospect uses a timer set for three minutes with green, amber and red lights. If the presentation goes longer, the microphone shuts off.  Ask yourself: have you cut everything out that could easily go into an appendix so that at the end of your presentation, your audience wants more?

3.  Speak to your audience. In addition to making decisions based on fairness rather than impact, some teams end up putting equal weight on every aspect of the presentation to not insult or demean a colleague’s value to the team. Understandable, but often a mistake. A wise person once said, “When nothing is important, everything is important.”  We could switch that around and say, “When everything is important, nothing is important.”  Great team presentations are designed to highlight the key messages. In addition to the clock, teams can use body language, tone of voice, and visual display to ensure their important message connects with the key decision-maker(s).

4.  Speak with one voice:  This one is simple.  Whenever possible, use the word “we” instead of “I.”  Rarely does the word “I” find its way into a high-performing team’s presentation. When an audience member hears the word “I” in the middle of a cohesive presentation, they are often surprised, and sometimes disappointed. It’s a quick way to undermine your colleagues as well.

If you are preparing for an upcoming team presentation, use these tips to refine – or perhaps validate – your game plan.