Public Speaking Success: Tips for Working with Multiple Presenters

public speakingHave you ever done a presentation with other people? In school, these are often known as group presentations but they also happen frequently in adulthood – a handful of people give a talk with each one doing a part of the presentation.

Multiple presenters are used for a variety of reasons. In the most appropriate cases, each presenter has expertise in a certain area and is therefore the best person to speak about that particular point. This happens frequently in sales presentations: someone with sales skills handles the pitch while someone in product development or support will explain the features, details, etc… In other cases, people that worked as part of a team are each given something to talk about in order to get face time in front of the audience as a form of recognition – and given the fact that most people are terrified of public speaking, this concept is nice in theory but can sometimes result in a negative reward.

Regardless of why there are multiple presenters, here are some tips to help things go more smoothly:

Pair up people with the parts that match their strengths:

This is pretty obvious, pair up people with the parts of the talk that they have the most knowledge or expertise in. This will make them more comfortable and more confident when they talk. Another tip along the same lines is to give people who are comfortable speaking more speaking time than those who are nervous. You can let them handle things like the introduction, conclusion and question and answer session.

Speak to the audience, not each other:

A common mistake with multiple presenters is that they interact with each other a lot during the presentation. I believe that this happens mainly because of nervousness – it’s more comfortable for a speaker to address someone they’re familiar with than someone they don’t know. In the worst cases, I’ve seen presenters have lengthy conversations with each other and have seen them share inside jokes and stories that kept the audience in the dark.

Remember that your job is to speak to the audience, not to each other. Focus on the wants and needs of the audience and give them your attention.

Do not interrupt other presenters:

Yes, it’s very tempting to jump in when someone forgets a key point or misspeaks, but don’t do it. You’ll only make things worse. The audience doesn’t have a transcript of your talk so chances are, they won’t notice any omission. If another presenter makes a mistake, you generally don’t want to call attention to it because it will embarrass the presenter and make them nervous. If it’s a minor thing, ignore it. If it’s relatively small, you can correct it during your part of the talk or the Q&A session. If it’s an obvious mistake, the audience might catch it and ask about it.

One thing you can do is have each presenter pause for questions after their portion of the talk. That would be the ideal time for you to add your two cents to the discussion and include any omitted points and correct mistakes. But remember, don’t do anything to embarrass a fellow presenter – you’re a team and you’re all responsible for the success of your presentation.

Bail out fellow presenters when they get into trouble:

If another presenter freezes, can’t remember a point, is going off on a tangent or struggling to answer a question, jump in and help them. “Help” is the key word here – you’re not there to upstage them, just help them get unstuck.

A lot of these things happen because a speaker is nervous so be especially conscious of this with fellow presenters that admit a fear of public speaking. If they can see you but the audience can’t, you can provide visual cues to help them when they’re stuck or confused. Otherwise, you can jump in by offering to help them with a point or question. Say something like “What he’s saying is…” or “what she meant was…” Avoid using the word “trying” as it implies the speaker can’t communicate effectively with the audience – even though this may be the case, you shouldn’t point it out.

Practice together:

Each person can practice their parts on their own, but your actual presentation to a live audience shouldn’t be the first time your group runs through your routine. Seeing the entire presentation from start to finish shows you how it flows, if there’s any repeating or contradictory points and familiarizes all presenters with the entire presentation. Do this at least two times before getting up in front of your live audience. Surprises are great for birthdays and holidays, but they typically don’t work well with group presentations.

So these are just a few tips to help your group presentations go smoother. Share advice and help each other. The more of a team you are during your speech preparation, the better your talk will be.


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