Better Presentations By Playing Like A Team

by David King - Date: 2007-08-07 - Word Count: 630 Share This!

I love pitching as a team.

My favourite team was myself, Fred and Mike back in my investment banking days. I was the quarterback, Mike was the captain and Fred the specialist/player (see the separate article "Oh Captain, My Captain!" to understand these roles).

This isn't my favourite team because of how many mandates we won. It was my favourite because it was so easy and enjoyable. We had pitched together so many times and our skills were so complementary that it was almost like we could read each other's thoughts. As a result, our presentations were lively, engaging, fun and extremely impactful as we played off each other and enjoyed the collective energy.

But it didn't happen overnight. We pitched together for four years and we rehearsed, strategised and carefully prepared for every single pitch. But we also rehearsed our "special moves" to the point where they were natural and second nature to everyone.

Here's a few of our "special moves" for you…

Know the other team's playbook.
Prepare some "client side" questions in advance and distribute around the team. Some clients will ask lots of questions. But others will not ask any - you may need to ask their questions of their behalf!

Asking questions from a client point of view also makes it clear you are thinking from their side of the table. These questions can also be great to break up the presentation and "wake up" the client.

Keep the ball moving.
Move the presentation through the team. Try not to let any one person speak for too long. Keep the client focused by changing the speaking voice and forcing them to look up and down the team. But this doesn't mean change the speaker every minute either.

Indeed, if it's a specialised area, it may be that one person may need to speak at length. If this is so, agree a point during that part of the pitch where another team member can spend 1-2 minutes providing an example or reiterating a point. Not only does this give the client a new voice to listen to, it gives the main speaker time to have a drink of water, collect their thoughts and refresh themselves.

Good offense needs good defense.
If the client is "arguing" a point and you can see that your team member had gotten caught up in the moment and isn't backing down, jump in and defuse the situation. Sometimes, even very experienced presenters can get too focused on making their point at all costs.

Go with the flow.
Respect your team members. In improvised comedy or stage acting, they teach you not to block your fellow actors. If one of them forgets the script and quickly improvises an alternative, it works much better if you just accept that and work with it. If you block it or say "No", it will generally leave the other actor floundering. The same concept applies in a team presentation.

If a team member makes a statement that you don't agree with, I would advise against saying "Jim, I think that's wrong" or "Jim, I don't agree with that". It makes the other team member look foolish and will almost certainly be detrimental to any team dynamic you have established. Consider alternatives:

* "Jim, I might just add to that…."
* "Jim, that's an interesting point. An alternative might also be…."
* "Jim, you might be forgetting that those are last year's figures. You are generally correct, but I think that this year's figures…."

Note the soft language - "might be", "generally", "I think".

Play to the crowd.
Use humour - sparingly. Its so much easier to use humour in team presentations. Chances are, at least your team will laugh at your joke! Assuming they do laugh - well, once two or three people start laughing, pretty much everyone else in the room will join in.

Related Tags: sales skills, pitching, presentation tips

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