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Lessons from Team USA for a winning presentation


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Team USA dominated the FIFA World Cup Soccer Championship and showed us what truly great team work looks like by making it possible for captain Carli Lloyd to score three out of the five winning goals. Team USA made it look easy, but like most winning team efforts, it involved tireless practice, clearly defined roles, a shared vision, and a strong game plan.

“We executed the game plan and we got it done." Carli Lloyd, Team USA Captain

While you may not be competing for a world championship, team presentations often mean big dollars at stake as well as a significant investment of time and company resources. To win, it's critical that like Team USA, your team has a clear game plan and comes across as a well-cast ensemble with consistent messaging and seamless transitions. After all, the way you interact together as a team gives your prospect a preview of what it will be like to work with your company. Sloppy transitions, disconnected messages, and discord among team members can make your prospect feel more like they’re working with a dysfunctional family than a valued business partner.

You want your presentation to come across as a cohesive message – not several disparate parts strung together, but team members are often spread across the country, involved in other projects, and have varying levels of knowledge, skill, and motivation. How can you ensure you’re all on the same page? How do you communicate effectively as a team? How do you support each other in the presentation during Q&A or objections? Following are some winning team strategies from Team USA:

Agree on the objective:

“We all believed in one thing - making it to the final and winning the final." Carli Lloyd, Team USA

Mixed messages can weaken even the strongest presentations. Getting your team involved in defining the presentation’s objective as well as key messages will ensure that you have everyone’s buy in. If you’re the lead salesperson, guide the conversation and aim for selecting a specific definable outcome from the presentation. Of course, the overall objective is to win the business, but you need to know what that next step is. For example, Team USA advanced one game at a time to make it to the finals.  In the same way, make sure your team is focused on that next clear objective.

Assign clear roles:

“It took all 23 players to get this done." Carli Lloyd, Team USA

All team members should have a clearly defined role in preparing the presentation – whether it’s providing expertise, doing discovery, or contributing ideas -- and delivering the presentation. Everyone attending the presentation should have a speaking role during the presentation – even if it’s short – and that includes managers and directors. That way it doesn’t look like some of your team members are just there to satisfy a weight requirement. You want your customer to feel like  everyone on your team is invested in the opportunity. The following questions can help you determine presentation roles:

  • Who will open? Just like the opening of the finals set the tone and created momentum for a Team USA win, the opening of your presentation is critical.  Typically this is done by a salesperson or manager but whoever does open should understand the objectives that must be met in those first few minutes.
  • Who will close? Typically this is done by the same person that opens, but it doesn't have to be. Team captain Carli Lloyd gave closing honors to teammate Abby Wambach when she handed her the yellow armband at the end of the match. Part of being a good team leader is knowing who can shine in each role and sharing both responsibilities and honors.
  • Who will kick it off? This is not the same as your presentation opening, but a short (less than one minute) pre-opening statement by an executive to show support for the project.
  • How will you handle transitions? This is where many teams show their weakness. Practice transitions and keep them quick and seamless.
  • How will you handle introductions? Skip the long list of participants up front and have the previous presenter give a very brief introduction of the next presenter.
  • How will you manage Q&A? Just as Carli Lloyd quickly became the spokesperson for Team USA with the media, it's important to appoint one person to handle questions or assign team members by subject or type of question to keep messaging consistent. But whatever you decide, you must agree upon a question-handling strategy as a team and practice it in your rehearsal if you want to shine as a true ensemble.

Proper planning can put your team in a winning position, but like Team USA proved, it’s how you apply and execute that plan that will help you score the winning goal. Stay tuned for tips on how to rehearse and deliver a winning team presentation.

For more advanced presentation tips get my FREE e-book: Take Your Sales Presentation to the Next Level!

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Julie Hansen

Julie Hansen, author of Sales Presentations for Dummies, helps sales and business executives craft and deliver winning presentations and demos by applying today’s best practices from business, acting, improv, and storytelling. Julie’s techniques for leveraging proven performance skills in presentations have been adopted by Fortune 500 companies across the globe, including IBM and Oracle, as well as local Colorado companies. Learn more about sales workshops and keynotes at  PerformanceSalesandTraining.com, start a sales conversation at Julie@actingforsales.com  or connect with Julie on LinkedIn.

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