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Relating: Team Presentations

“The quality of your life is the quality of your relationships.” Attempting to remember where I had first heard that, I did what you might also do and Googled the sentence. Here’s what came up: “The quality of your life is the quality of your relationships, because that is where emotions are most magnified.”—Tony Robbins. Again, Tony Robbins? Say what you will about him, he’s definitely made an impact on some of us.

Tony Robbins' words ring true for those of us who put top priority on relationships. Not everyone does, of course, but no one would argue that relationships don't matter at all. And team relationships, whether on a playing field, a musical stage, or in business, where many of us spend the majority of our weekday waking hours, certainly have some impact on the quality of our lives. And in business, we are often called upon to make team presentations.

Giving a Team Presentation is a performance. You face an audience just as you would if you were about to sing a song, dance a dance, or perform a cheer in front of your University at halftime. Your sympathetic nervous system engages in the same way, and you may experience “performance anxiety.” Ironically, as Per Bristow (creator of “Perform With Freedom”) points out, performers often experience more, not less, anxiety as they improve their skill. Why? Because the stakes get higher and they put more pressure on themselves.

This is also true of individual presentations, but you deal with those nerves yourself. With a team, everyone’s nerves may be interacting with everyone else’s, and often the stakes are higher: it could be a capital-raising road show, a team sales pitch, or a class where you receive a team grade. Here, the presentation can resemble a band’s performance. And just like a band’s performance, it can be good, bad, or ugly. The worst kind of ugly was after a Kinks concert, when one band member nearly killed another by throwing a cymbal that just missed the drummer’s neck. The worst of a team presentation I witnessed was when one team member sabotaged another by changing key slides at the last minute…for a presentation made in front of company executives.

Since things can go “bad,” and coordination can be hard, many teams simply divide the work into separate, non-overlapping parts, and give what amounts to 3 or 5 (however many team members there are) individual presentations. That’s a choice you can make, but it’s rarely the best.

Better is to decide what the overall goal is of the presentation, by again answering a simple question: “As a result of our presentation, we want (WHO?) to do (WHAT?) because (WHY?). Answer those “3W” questions and then put your material and speakers in an order that generates and keeps interest all the way through. There are no set rules on what will accomplish your goal, but being boring or confusing is a good way to ensure you will NOT accomplish it. Most teams fail to do this, and thus they fail to connect with or engage their audiences effectively. Remember that everyone on your team is presenting, even when they’re not speaking. The audience is evaluating you as a team.

They are also noticing how you relate.

Paul Simon, in an interview with David Letterman back in 1982 and speaking of his fraught relationship with Art Garfunkel said, “In a performance situation, you get on each other’s nerves because your nerves are heightened.”

Get your message down, rehearse, rehearse again, and then you can all focus on the audience and perform as a solid team.

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