Your firm has responded to the Request for Proposals and now you’ve learned you are one of the finalists for the business. Next up is an interview with the governing board, committee or decision-making entity. They want to meet your team and learn more about your credentials in a presentation setting. Following the presentations, they will make a decision on which finalist to hire. Great news!
It’s unlikely the ultimate decision will be determined solely on the live presentation. However, it can have a strong bearing on the hiring decision. The reality is that those selected to be finalists more than likely meet the essential requirements for the project: size, stability, scope of experience and expertise, track record, etc. At this point in the selection process, those are mostly givens. The live presentation/interview, then, is where the chemistry, cohesion, responsiveness and engagement of the team can be assessed. It is a time when the client can get a sense of your corporate personality and culture. It’s an opportunity for them to develop a comfort level with those to be entrusted with making their vision a reality.
The final interview, then, can be when business is won, or lost. Thus, it is vitally important that your team’s interview presentation be as effective as possible. Team presentations, however, require careful planning and rehearsal if not to “win” the business, then certainly to not “lose” it. There are some essential factors that go into an effective “team presentation.”
Designate a Quarterback – The quarterback should be a comfortable presenter and engage easily with people. In most cases, the quarterback will be a principal or senior member of your firm. The quarterback should make opening remarks and introduce the members of your team. While the quarterback may have a role in the actual presentation, his or her primary role is to keep the presentation flowing and keep the team on track. The QB is also the one to “toss a lifeline” to a team member who might be struggling in their segment. Let’s face it: making a presentation can fluster the best of us! The quarterback should also deliver any closing remarks your firm wants to make and facilitate the Q&A by directing questions to the most appropriate team member.
Plan and Practice “Transitions” – One of the most neglected (and thus least effective) aspects of team presentations are transitions from one segment to the next. Each team member may have their respective parts down pat, but often times are not prepared for handing off to the next team member. Make sure your team knows how and who to hand-off to. An option is to have the quarterback step in and introduce each segment as the interview progresses. But that can eat up valuable time. The best course is to plan and practice for the transitions. And they can be as simple as “And now I’d like to turn it over to John who will discuss the project schedule.” Simple? Yes. Effective? Definitely.
Watch the Clock – Many, if not most, interview presentations have a time limit. When the limit is reached, you’re done as far as many interviewers are concerned. The last thing you want is have them finish listening before you finish talking! This is where rehearsal comes in and in a big way. The fact is presenters really don’t know how long their presentations are until they have gone through at least one dress rehearsal. My observation from years of working with presenters is that if a presenter does not go through a full dress rehearsal, the presentation they thought was 20 minutes becomes 40 minutes. This is especially true in team presentations. Assign someone the task of keeping your team on schedule. Ideally, they would not have a formal role in the presentation itself. This way they can watch the clock and convey prearranged signals to team members as needed.
Defer to the Quarterback – Team members involved in the presentation should look to the quarterback for signals throughout the presentation. If the presentation gets behind schedule, the QB could make a comment such as “As John briefly discusses…” John will want to take that as a cue to move expeditiously through his segment. Or, if a presenter has omitted a key piece of information, it is up to the quarterback to say something along the lines of “Beth, take moment to talk about our procurement process…”
Avoid Over Answering – As noted previously, let the quarterback direct questions to the most appropriate team member. By all means avoid over answering a question. By that I mean don’t feel compelled to add your two cents worth to a response provided by another team member. The quarterback will determine if additional information and elaboration is necessary, and from whom.
Remember that interviewers are assessing not only the specific credentials of your team, but getting a sense of how well team members seem to relate to one another, the chemistry, engagement and overall “personality” of those that will be managing their project. This is the time to separate yourself from the pack and project yet another positive point of difference…and give them yet another reason to say “You’re hired!”
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