Doesn’t everyone at some point in their career end up working on a team? You’ve probably had to collaborate with your colleagues on a high-stakes meeting or presentation. This process can turn out to be highly rewarding, or utterly painful.
We’ve all been there: Different teams, different priorities, all coming together last-minute with their own slides. It gets combined into a classic “Frankendeck”—a cobbled-together communication with no clear storyline, no united call to action, and often a different look and feel between each person’s contributions. The team delivers their hodge-podge ideas, and it can result in a clunky “stop-start-stop” as different speakers present their respective sections without smooth, pre-planned transitions.
But the truth is, team storytelling doesn’t have to be messy. In fact, team collaboration can be incredibly powerful when it draws on the varied talents of multiple people – a “brain trust” – who all contribute in their own way.
To avoid a rambling, audience-confusing presentation, your team just needs a plan (and a process) for building and delivering a communal story. And the best part? Excelling at this will not only help you move business goals forward, but it can help advance your career, too.
So, how do you choreograph building and delivering a seamless, cohesive team presentation? Here’s how:
Building together, than apart, then together.
As you begin building your narrative, have the team collaborate on three main components: The “why” of the story (the setting, characters, and conflict), the “what” (your big idea) and a high-level preview of the “how” (the resolution). At this stage, it’s critical for all team members to iterate on the story elements together and ensure everyone is on the same page so that all members are clear on what story they’re collectively trying to tell.
As two, three or more people build a story using the framework, they riff off one another to hammer out the building blocks of the story. When they all stick to a common framework, they can align quickly.
Once your team agrees on the “why” and the “what,” you can move on to the preview of the “how.” This preview is where you introduce the different paths you will take to solve the conflict. Think of it like the 30,000-foot view (or navigational directory) of your resolution.
This preview can be accomplished with a landing page that visually “bucketizes” each part of the resolution and lets each speaker drill into their content (and hand off to the next speaker without losing flow). In a business presentation, three to five “buckets” is a good rule of thumb to not overwhelm your audience.
At this point, the team can split up and individually build out their portion of the story’s resolution. In particular, having collaborated on the conflict of the story gives everyone a target to aim for in their part of the resolution, and being mindful of the big idea helps everyone carry it through until the end.
So how do you wrap up the story build? Always together. The team must reassemble to join their pieces and make sure they all lead back to the (oft-repeated) big idea.
Now, it’s time to present … or “dance,” because delivering a team story requires a bit of choreography. Here’s how: The delivery of the team story is flipped. Choose one person to act as the host, and have them set up the context, including the “why” (setting, characters and conflict), the big idea and a preview of the “how.”
Then, other members of the team can present their individual “how’s” (the resolution). One tip is to assign portions of the “how” based upon a team member’s role and expertise. This choreographed dance ensures all story elements flow with minimal overlap or distraction between the speakers.
When everyone is finished, have the host who started the story return to recap and close by revisiting the big idea.
Have a plan, set the stage
When done correctly, this technique makes it possible for even large teams to co-build and present a strong, cohesive narrative. As you approach your next big meeting or presentation, always have a plan and a process to guide both the development of your story and the choreography of your delivery. Remember: A coordinated approach to storytelling will always go a long way toward getting your ideas heard (career gold!) and moving business forward.