Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Speakeasy: Planning Group Presentations in 3 Meetings

Q: Have you ever had to coordinate a speech with a group of people… and then realized that you were doing all of the work?

This is an uncomfortable place to find oneself in. Often the problem in these types of situations is that the fellow team members don’t realize what they are supposed to be doing, and in result, find themselves being labeled as non-contributors. To remedy this before it negatively affects the group’s performance, an organizationally minded individual simply needs to take a few steps during the team meetings that should help to ensure organization throughout the process. Establishing this organizational precedent can help to gain buy-in from team-members, and if led properly, can push members to contribute their best possible resources to the group deliverable. To begin, once the team members have been solidified, come together for a team meeting. Ask members to bring their personal computers, and with the consent of all members, audio record meetings for later review and reference. Below, I have included some valuable tips for improving your group’s presentation.

1)    Meeting # 1: The Preliminary Meeting (a month prior to the presentation)
  • Establish group roles (organizational leader, note-taker, outreach leader, specialized roles, etc.). If you do this early, it will be more likely that your group will maintain cohesiveness throughout the challenges of the process. Ask members what they would like to do? What skills they have? What they think is their most valuable group asset? Assign the roles and role-related duties to team members according to these considerations. Make members aware of the assignment’s or the instructor’s participation policy, and make sure to tell them who will be reporting members’ adherence to this policy.
  • Collect contact info from each member and have each of them create a mailbox group within their email application for easy email creation. Send test emails between members; ensure you have a line of communication with all members before leaving the first group meeting.
  • Create a account for the group, so that documents can be uploaded and shared with all members. Again, make sure everyone can access and use before leaving the first meeting.
  • Create a timeline with due dates, component due dates, etc.
  • Verbally express the project goals and objectives when the group is together
  • Finally, develop an introduction and conclusion to you speech. By doing this early on, your group members will know what they are supposed to be addressing during the research and development process.
  • Schedule the next group meeting to check individual progress; in the mean time, have members upload their completed sections and deliverables to so that all members can be on the same page throughout the process.

2)    Meeting # 2: The Check-up Meeting (a week or two after the preliminary meeting)
  • During this second meeting, it is important that the organizational leader verbally address the flow of communication, the completion of role-related duties, etc. The leader should again make members aware of the assignment’s or the instructor’s participation policy, and who will be reporting adherence of members to this policy. At this point in the process, if people are in danger of being reported for lack of participation, take time after the meeting to speak with them individually to discuss possible solutions for improving the situation.
  • Assign speaking order; people should cover only the aspect(s) of the presentation that they researched or took part in creating.
  • Develop transitions between speakers; remember to have each member restate their name and what they have contributed as they begin to speak.
  • Check supporting materials such as academic sources, media files, clips, etc. Ensure that everyone’s work is cited properly and uniformly throughout the presentation.
  • Remind members of wardrobe theme that the group will be adhering to on the day of the presentation.
  • Book venue(s), seating, signage and refreshments for the presentation.
  • Schedule the final group meeting; in the mean time, have members upload their completed sections and deliverables to so that all members can be on the same page throughout the process.

3)    Meeting # 3: The Dress Rehearsal Meeting (same day of presentation)
  • Rehearse the presentation will all supporting materials and speaking transitions.
  • Review the rubric as a group to help refresh the assignment expectations in the minds of the members; this should also help members to maintain a cohesive message throughout the presentation.
  • Calm pre-presentation nerves by encouraging deep breathing among group members. Chamomile tea can also be calming for some, along with positive visualization exercises on the morning of the presentation.  
  • Collect final materials to turn into the instructor as one.


Coopman, S., & Lull, J. (2011). Public speaking: The evolving art (2nd ed.). Boston, Mass.: Cengage Learning.

Sarah Minnich is the Public Speaking GA for Anderson School of Management and can be contacted here

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