Group Presentations

Sometimes, you will be required to deliver a group presentation. How big can a group be? I have seen groups as big as ten. Please don’t give presentations in groups of ten. At any given time, nine out of ten people are standing in front of the audience doing nothing, looking awkward, scratching parts of themselves they should not be scratching in front of an audience, while the tension builds up until it’s their time to talk. Often, because a teacher has read somewhere that they should keep their hands locked in a particular position, they look like the Von Trapp Family Singers, which is highly amusing maybe, but for the wrong reasons.

Preparing a presentation for ten people is hell. You will need a pet dictator to make it work. He or she will have to make sure that everybody is contributing material, decide on a lay-out, sequence and number of slides, correct the language mistakes, etc etc. This person will probably have no friends left after the presentation, nevertheless they should be given large quantities of coffee before, and inebriants after it.

Me, I like groups of two or three. Groups of two or three can take turns a couple of times, which is nice and dynamic. If they are given five minutes speaking time each they will fill ten to fifteen minutes in total, which is quite audience-friendly. They will be able to coach each other through the difficult bits. They will have a small audience to practice on. They can look interested while the other person is talking. They can decide who of them is going to answer what kinds of questions. They can be expected to know what the other two are talking about.

Actually, That last one holds a bit of a snag. It means that all speakers are collectively responsible for the content of the entire presentation and not just the bit they have prepared themselves. Their nonsense is your nonsense, as it were.

So make sure you prepare the presentation together. In the same room. And together decide on content, structure and all the other issues you face, including the number of turns all speakers take.

Here are a couple of different ways to take turns.

  • Q&A (Tom, I have heard that this system has a couple of drawbacks with respect to …. Could you tell us how that affects …)? Works really well, but make sure you don’t look like a news show with two hosts.
  • Announcements (That concludes my part on the batteries. Now Dick will fill you in on ….) Most people use this one, because it is quite businesslike and clear. Make sure somehow it doesn’t get boring.
  • Interruptions (Hang on, hang on, Harry. Before we …, let me first explain why we …).  Funny, but a bit too glib, if you ask me.
  • And the one where the next speaker simply continues where the previous one has stopped. Looks simple. It isn’t.

Group presentations can be a pain. After all, you are only as good as your weakest link. But then, if you know that, you should make sure that this weakest link is as strong as it can be. It will be a lot stronger with a bit of help from the rest of the team.

Author: Bob

Bob’s teaching career started at Nijenrode University, where he taught business English to students dressed either in expensive suits or track gear, who would literally jump in and out of his classroom through the window. Thankfully, it was located on the ground floor. After two years, the quickly growing Netherlands Institute of Tourism and Transport Studies employed him, first as a teacher of English, later as head of the English department. Nine years later, Delft University of Technology, which was dealing with more and more international students, was looking for a skills teacher who could teach in Dutch and in English. Since then, Bob has had the best job a skills teacher can have. He teaches students from all faculties: from Aerospace Engineering to Architecture and everything in between. Bob is head of the English department, he teaches Academic Skills, Intercultural Communication and English as a Foreign Language and he is co-author of Presentation Techniques (isbn 978 90 469 03650), available at https://shop.coutinho.nl/store_en/presentation-techniques.html?___from_store=store_nl

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