By completing the other three levels of coordination, the group will have decided on the key message, thoroughly researched the supporting material, developed logical conclusions, and created realistic recommendations. Therefore all that stands between you and success is the actual presentation—the vehicle that carries the facts and the ideas to your audience. Here it is important to recognize that if an assignment required both a written document and an oral presentation then be sure one effectively complements the other. Although you can reference the written document during the oral presentation, the oral presentation should be planned with the thought in mind that not everyone is given the written document. Therefore, the oral presentation may be the only content they receive. Since you will not always know who receives the written document, it is best to coordinate the presentation as if no one has the full written document, which can serve as reference tool for gaining content requiring further explanation or accessibility to detailed information. At the same time, if the entire audience is provided written material keep in mind different decision makers may be in the audience. For example, the creative director may be only interested in your creative concepts, whereas a vice president of finance may be only interested in figures.
The presentation preparation primarily focuses on your group’s ability to develop a clear plan and execution of delivery. A delivery plan includes essential elements such as (1) purpose, (2) oral content, (3) dress, (4) room, (5) visuals, (6) delivery, and (7) rehearsal to ensure that the group presentation is both captivating and useful to your audience, as well as worth their time.
Group members should keep at the forefront of their minds the answer to the question “Was the general purpose—to inform or to persuade— achieved?” As a group, practice keeping the purpose of the presentation explicit for the audience. The purpose should never become hidden during the presentation. Each group member’s awareness of the purpose is important in maintaining the right kind of delivery. It is possible to have great content for a presentation and miss the entire purpose for the presentation. For example, say your group had been asked to do a presentation about Facebook and how it could be used in the financial industry. You could take an informative or persuasive approach. However, if the audience—banking professionals—attends a presentation where the content is focused on Facebook rather than having a focus on its use in the financial industry, then the purpose was not achieved.
The delivery plan will help you evaluate if the purpose of the presentation is clearly aimed at the primary audience. In addition, the group can determine when and how clearly they are articulating the explicit purpose of the presentation. The purpose is complemented by a clear preview, the audience members’ awareness of what decisions are at issue, and the audience’s desire to get important information first.
Up to this point the majority of the group’s engagement with the content has been in terms of reading and writing. It is time to orally interact with the selected content to ensure that it has been developed for this audience, properly structured, and clearly articulated. The delivery plan is a time to evaluate word choice, idioms, and antidotes. When working with this content, make sure that it is suited to the purpose, and that the key message is explicit so the audience remembers it well.
The introduction of group members, transitions, and internal summaries are all important elements of the delivery plan. A proper introduction of group members and content will not happen automatically. Therefore, it is important to practice it to determine if introductions fit better at the beginning of the presentation, if names need to be emphasized through the wearing of name tags, or if names are better used as a part of transition content. The use of name only may not be effective in some speaking situations. Therefore, it is important for the group to determine what a proper group member introduction includes beyond the name.
Plus, be consistent; that is, determine if everyone is using first name only or full name, do they need to know your positions, some background, or can you simply state it in a written format such as a team resume. Speech content is not useful if the audience does not accept your credibility.
I dress to kill, but tastefully.
As in all presentations, an awareness of your physical appearance is an important element in complementing the content of your speech. Do not hesitate to talk about and practice appropriate dress as a group. It is important to look like a group. Really consider defining a group’s speaking uniform by deciding how formal or informal the dress code.
As a group, the overall question you want to be able to answer is: Did our dress provide an accurate first impression not distracting from the content? So what kinds of things can be distracting? The most common are colors, busy patterns, clothing that can be interpreted as seductive, and large or clinking jewelry. As a group determine what type of dress is effective in coordinating your group’s credibility. It is important to take into consideration cultural, occupational and regional norms. In addition, it is important to think about branding choices. Often groups want to brand themselves for the audience. It is not necessary to mimic your audience. For example, a sales presentation to cranberry association members may entice a group to wear red. However, the cranberry association may not be the only sale your group needs to make so you will be forced to ask the question: Will each sales presentation audience determine the color we accent in dress? In short, do not let the speaking occasion brand you. Simply know what is considered professional for this presentation. You have spent a lot of time on preparing the content for this audience so do not detract from it.
It is not always feasible to practice your delivery in the actual room where you will deliver your speech. However, it is extremely important that you actively plan your delivery for the room by recreating the speaking environment. If prior access to the room is not available, then you will need to do your planning by asking a series of questions of the presentation planner. Some common things to find out include the size of the room; if a projector is available and its location within the room; is there a platform and/or a stationary lectern; is there a sound system and how many microphones; where the group will be seated before being introduced; will the presentation be recorded; what is the availability of the room in advance of the presentation; and what is the number of seats and seating arrangement so the group can plan for the zone of interaction.
The term visuals refers to both non-technology visual aids (handouts, posters, charts, etc.) and presentation technology. Visuals should not appear as though several individuals made them but rather as uniform to the group’s presentation. All visuals should blend smoothly into the speech. All group members should be clear on what visuals or documents were pre-requested (so you do not eliminate them as unnecessary during rehearsal). Many times it is better to simply project or display visuals. At other times, visuals may need to be assembled in a presentation packet for all audience members. Bohn & Jabusch (1982) suggest that there are several researched-based reasons why visual aids enhance presentations including (a) enhanced understanding—helps audience comprehend what they hear and see; (b) enhanced memory—serves as a visual reinforcement; (c) enhanced organization—visually displays your organizational strategy; (d) enhanced attention—grabs and maintains audience interest; and (e) enhanced sequencing—shows rather than describes.
The four modes of delivery— memorized, impromptu, manuscript, and extemporaneous—are all valuable in group presentations. However, the most common mode of delivery is extemporaneous. Earlier in the chapter, developing a script was discussed. The step of transforming the script into a delivery outline—an abbreviated version of the preparation outline (DiSanza & Legge, 2012)—is a significant part of planning delivery. The ultimate goal is to figure out how the group can be confident that the entire presentation stays together and does not just exist in pieces. The delivery outline may go as far as to stipulate vocal and gesture instructions. The delivery outline is not created to be read from, therefore, the group also should determine how speaker notes will be used. The delivery outline should be provided to every group member so everyone is familiar with the entire presentation. It is important to set up contingency plans for who will present content if someone is absent on the day of the presentation— the presenter who gets stuck in morning traffic or the professional who had a flight delay.
The key is for all group members to remain conversational in their delivery style. This may be best achieved by utilizing effective delivery strategies such as appropriate gestures, movement and posture; appropriate facial expressions including eye contact; and appropriate vocal delivery— articulation, dialect, pitch, pronunciation, rate, and volume. Group members should evaluate each other on audibility and fluency.
One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.
Rehearsals are for the final polishing of your presentations. It is a time to solidify logistics of how many group members are presenting, where they will stand, and the most appropriate transitions between each speaker. Group members should grow more comfortable with each other through rehearsals. A key aspect of polishing involves identifying gaps in content and gaining feedback on content (oral and visual), style, and delivery. The rehearsals are good time to refine speaker notes and to practice the time limit. The number of scheduled rehearsals is dependent on your group and the amount of preparation time provided. The most important element for the group is to adapt their rehearsal timetable based on an honest evaluation of the speaking skills represented within the group.
The only part of a group presentation that you may not be able to rehearse is responding to the actual audience members’ questions and objections. However, you can anticipate the types of questions and practice a simple strategy of how you will respond— repeating the question, stating who from the group will respond, and answering succinctly. Four of the most common types of questions are follow-up questions; action-oriented questions focused on what would you do if; hypothetical questions focused on different scenarios; and information-seeking questions. A primary way to practice is to think of at least three questions you would like to answer, prepare the answer, and practice it during rehearsal(s).