Why Your Team May be Failing at Presentations

Usually, team presentations are done when the stakes are high and the consequences are critical, requiring subject matter experts to weigh in on their topic. These presentations are most often geared toward complex projects, strategic alliances, acquisitions, etc. Of course, they all have large sums of money involved.

Team presentations have many more challenges than individual ones. Most teams preparing on their own without a speech coach will spend all of their preparation time on the following:

  • Who will say what during which slides
  • The order of presenters
  • Making the time fair/equal, etc.

While those logistics are important, we spend far too much time on those three rather than ensuring the team comes across as cohesive, knowledgeable, and collaborative. The decision-makers listening to and observing the team will be acutely aware of the team’s non-verbal and interpersonal communication. Research shows that more people rely on non-verbal communication than the spoken word.

For example, I had a client who was a well-known architectural firm who brought me in because they started losing projects they should have won. After assessing the team, I realized that one of the members did not get along with the others.

Despite well-planned, streamlined presentations, they still lost and they were dumbfounded. What were they missing? Their subtle nonverbal behaviors revealed team discontent. Despite the polite and professional words, there was discord within the team revealed by their facial expressions, lack of eye contact, awkward transitions, etc.

People believe what they feel and observe over the words they hear. Non-verbal communication can be very subtle via micro-expressions. This client needed an additional kind of coaching to get past the issues plaguing the team. It was much easier for an objective outsider like myself to point this out than someone on the team.

One helpful way to identify these behaviors in your team is to videotape the practice session. I assure you that unless you have analyzed a video of your team presenting, you may never know the subtle nonverbal behaviors that are blocking the successful communication of your message. It will help to watch the film with no sound and take notes.

Here is a list of nonverbal behaviors I have coached teams to improve:

  • The way the team walks into the room and takes seats
  • The way team members treat the furniture and items in the room
  • The way the team walks out of the room
  • The facial expressions, eye contact, and body language of those not presenting
  • The way team members hand the clicker (or other items) to each other
  • How the members address each other- tone-name
  • How the members help each other with questions
  • Tone alteration before and after the presentation – sounding authentic and natural
  • How to handle smooth transitions between speakers

The list could go on and on. When there are high stakes, there are also savvy, intelligent people evaluating your team. Your team may have the most compelling content; however, if your non-verbal communication reveals discord or disconnect, you may be losing without ever knowing why.

It only takes one person to render your team presentation ineffective. A good speech coach can assess your team’s effectiveness objectively and give appropriate coaching techniques that help you with important team presentations.

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