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The Group Presentation


The Group Presentation

Group presentations present tremendous opportunities to create something much greater than an individual can normally do. It is always easier and quicker to do things on your own, but most of us will be more effective as part of a team that combines the knowledge and talents of several people.

Creating the Group Presentation

Team Presentations vs. Group Presentations

Yes, group presentations are different! They involve teams, which is why much of this site is devoted to team building. The group presentation gives you opportunities to do much more than a lone presenter can hope to do. Consider these benefits:

  • Variety is built right into the presentation by virtue of having different people presenting
  • One person can manage audio-visual aids (run the video clip, change the overheads) while one concentrates on talking
  • Greater expertise is available
  • Presentation tasks (timing, dealing with questions) can be managed better
  • When audience involvement is part of the presentation, the team can mingle and provide leadership
  • Different faces, paces, voices and styles can complement each other
  • Role plays and other creative techniques are more feasible
  • This is reality. Team presentations are very common as teams of experts (engineers, sales people, financial experts) all present different aspects.

So what’s the difference between a team presentation and a group presentation? With some work by each member, there won’t be any difference. If the group fails to make itself a team, though, there will be an uneven, rough presentation that is not integrated.

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Building Your Lineup

One of the reasons for the team-building process is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each member in the presentation group. In some cases, groups can be chosen by their members, typically on the basis of friendship. In many situations, people find themselves part of a group that has a job to do and they must determine where to fit in.

This is essential to assemble a great team. Suppose you had to present a complete business plan, including marketing, finance and human resource issues. It turns out you have three people who are Speaker with microphonestrong in marketing, but none with major finance strengths. The person who has the most strength in finance must fill that gap. For this group presentation, that is the role they will be asked to play, even though they would fit more naturally in marketing.

That’s what makes it a team presentation! Think of a jazz combo, with many skilled musicians who can play great solos. However, most of the time they are playing rhythm to support their colleagues. They are filling a role that makes the most of the team effort.

Matching Players with Positions: There are several factors to consider when deciding who will do what in the presentation:

  • Strengths and weaknesses of individual team members will suggest speaking order, and who will deal with which content
  • Styles and skills of your team are important to determine who should lead off, conclude or deliver each section.
  • The audience itself is important; will they be technically-oriented, which suggests you better have a technical expert?
  • The purpose of the presentation. If it is to persuade, your best salesperson should have a leading role. If it relies heavily on involvement, a freewheeling approach works well.

Typically, we want the quick thinker to handle the questions, the detail person doing the technical comments and the dynamo for the opening and closing.

When matching people with different parts of the project, take the time to realistically assess all these elements. Count on a couple of meetings to build the task list that will lead to your lineup.

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It’s One Presentation

A very common error for those planning group presentations is to have each member run off to “research an area” and then have a quick meeting to glue the pieces together. Instead of a group presentation, you get a series of presentations equal to the number of presenters.

A more effective strategy starts with thoughtful consideration in your meetings of what you hope to accomplish in the presentation. A good rule is to think of the three key things you want the audience to take away from the talk. These become the core theme and unifying elements within the presentation.

With this general framework, all research can be funnelled in to key on those three items. The entire team gets a pretty good idea of what each part will discuss and duplication is virtually eliminated. Material that does not fit with the themes gets dropped.

There are many, many ways to organize, but here are some to get the wheels turning:

  • Here is a problem, here is why it is serious, here’s a solution.
  • Here’s how it was then, how it is now and the implications of these changes. (Can have several sections which use the same themes or do each one all at once.)
  • Three reasons to...
  • Past, present, future
  • From the general to the particular (deductive approach), or from the particular to the general (inductive reasoning).
  • The good, the bad and the judgement; analyze pros, cons and a conclusion

Be a Team: All team members should dress similarly. The rule is a level above your audience; it they are in jeans, go for casual slacks. If it suits the occasion, all might wear corporate or team T-shirts or caps. Never wear your usual clothes for a group presentation. It is a special occasion and your attire should show that.

Have a single presentation style (one PowerPoint show, for instance), rather than having each person do their own thing. Either have one person do the whole show, or develop a template which everyone uses. Take the time to ensure that every slide has the same look and feel and that type sizes, graphics and writing style are consistent.

Transitions are essential for an integrated presentation. Transitions are bridging elements that conclude one section and start another. Watch your local newscast for examples. The goal is to “tee up” the next speaker so we know who they are, what they will talk about and how it ties into what went before. Some helpful ideas:

  • That’s an overview of the history of this project. Now, we will turn to Maria for the current situation.
  • Those are the main reasons cited in support of this concept. However, to view things from the other side, we will hear what opponents have to say. To present those viewpoints, I will turn things over to Karim.
  • With this overview of the internal issues for the company, we can now examine the external environment with Sucharita.

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The Practised Presentation

Many athletes use the technique of envisioning their performance as a way of building up their confidence before an event. The race car driver imagines the car exiting a tricky corner, accelerating and setting up for the next turn. The skier sees herself swooping through a turn, holding steady on the icy patch, then biting in on a fast turn.

They know that the more you practice, both mentally and physically, the more confident you will feel in the actual situation; it’s as if you had already been there.

For presentations teams, the ideal is to use the room you will Speaker with data projectoractually present in with a couple of non-presenters on hand for feedback. Videotaping is highly recommended.

It is important to use all the things you will actually use in the presentation. Run that video clip, use the overheads or slides, work with the microphone (if there is one) and do everything exactly as you hope it will go on the day.

Team members who are not presenting should make notes of any problems, such as spelling errors in slides, clumsy transitions and moments of uncertainty.

Recognize the difference between spoken and written language. Reading from notes is the most common criticism students make about others’ presentations. Unless you are highly skilled as a writer of speeches, your prose will be unsuited for a speech. Learn to work from the bullets on your slides (best) or very short notes.

Recognize that the timing in your rehearsal may not match what happens in the presentation. Presenters report that the real thing proved to be either shorter or longer than anticipated.

To deal with this, know how to “accordion” your section. How can you make it go longer or shorter to fit the time available? This is especially important for later sections. You need to know what is essential and what is nice to have.

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Execution of the Plan

When the day of the presentation arrives, you will not regret one moment of preparation and rehearsal. Here’s a helpful checklist:

  1. If you can access the room hours before you present, do so to check that all equipment is present and functional. You can solve many problems with hours to spare. Know where to find technical help.
  2. As you are getting set to present, make sure all systems have been checked. If you are using a data projector, test it and have a slide showing your title at least in the moments before your start. If using videotape, set up the machine so one click is all you need at the right moment.
  3. Identify where each person will stand during the presentation so it is easy to move unobtrusively to and from centre stage. Ensure you will not stand in the light from the data projector.
  4. Have one person managing the visuals while another presents and ensure they are coordinated. (Where practice pays...)
  5. At the start of the presentation, introduce your team and topic. Even if the audience knows all the presenters, this is still important as a way of kicking off the presentation. An interesting variation is introducing your agenda and associating each person with a part of that agenda. (“Nancy will be discussing the benefits of this proposal.”)
  6. Tell them what you are going to tell them. Present a brief agenda to give an overview and context for the presentation. This also provides a logical transition to the first person.
  7. As your teammates present, give them the same attention you expect from the audience. It is rude to chat among yourselves or to show disinterest in your own presentation. Think of the message you are sending your audience as you observe others in your team presenting.
  8. Ensure that two people on the team are closely monitoring your time against expected length. It is important to end on time and allow opportunities for questions, while still getting all of your essential points out. Remember the accordion.
  9. For questions following the presentation, have all taking part in the same location. If the entire group will handle questions, all should be centre stage. If one is designated, he or she alone should be up front.
  10. Enjoy the moment. This is the payoff for your hard work.

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Towards Effective Group Presentations

A random collection of tips on group presentations, based on bits and pieces picked up from my experience and from others. While I would dearly love to attribute these, they are from such diffuse and diverse sources that I could hardly begin to nail them down! Use the resources page for access to ideas on how others approach these issues.

  • Recognize that a group presentation is a team presentation; take the time to build the team.
  • Use such tools as formal meetings, contracts and plans to set out what the group hopes to accomplish.
  • Never have each person “do one section” unless there is tight coordination before they go research it, when they present their key findings and when it is integrated into the overall themes of the presentation.
  • Recognize the difference between a group presentation (talk #1, talk #2, ... last speaker) and a team presentation (introduction, components, conclusion).
  • Rehearse. Videotape your entire show. Have a friend sit in and observe your trial run. Do a complete run-through of your entire presentation exactly as you would hope to do it.
  • Provide one another with candid feedback, particularly ways to improve.
  • Maintain an unwavering commitment to improve your communication and teamwork skills.
  • Use resources like these to get better!

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This page was prepared by David Nowell, Professor, Sheridan College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning, Oakville, Ontario, Canada. It is intended for the use of all students to assist them in this important part of their learning. Please send comments on how useful (or otherwise!) you found this page to David Nowell.

Contents Copyright ©2002-05, David Nowell. All Rights Reserved.

Images Copyright ©2002,

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