Everything you learned about giving speeches in Core 102 and 201 apply; refresh your memory and read those sections of the handbook again.
1. How is my group’s presentation different from an individual speech?
When you give an individual speech, you are in control of your entire message and can organize it however you choose as long as you stay within the context of the assignment. In a group presentation, you have to work with your team to put together a coherent whole. You and your team will not successfully present as a group if each individually simply gives a separate speech with a vague tie-in to a shared theme. Instead, for a group presentation you and your fellow team members need to work together closely to figure out what each member can contribute. The finished product should involve interaction between members and their contributions, and it is should be a presentation that would be incomplete if any one member weren’t there.
2. How can my group’s presentation seem cohesive?
An effective group presentation feels seamless. When possible, avoid the temptation to break up the speech by speaker: Dave gives the introduction, Jamal discusses point A, Natasha discusses point B, Sonya discusses point C, and Sunil provides the conclusion. Instead, mix it up; perhaps everyone can introduce themselves during the opening so Dave’s not the only one speaking for five minutes. Maybe point A is meaty enough that Jamal and Natasha can talk about it together. Brainstorm with your group ways to spread out the speaking so it doesn’t feel completely predictable.
If you are using a visual aid like PowerPoint, make sure the final slides match. Often, groups will divide up the PowerPoint, assigning a certain number of slides to each member. That can be effective- as long as you take the time to consolidate and edit the slides into a cohesive final presentation. Are they all using the same template? The same font (face and size)? Are images all cited in a similar fashion? Do the slides all have the same balance of text and graphics? If the answer to any of these is “no”, your slides will be jarring to your audience and take away from your message.
It’s probably not necessary for everyone in your group to dress identically, but talk beforehand about your clothing choices. If one member wears a suit and another is in shorts and old t-shirt during the presentation, it will distract from the cohesion. Arrange instead for everyone to wear similar outfits, such as jeans and black shirts. Depending on your presentation topic, you may also be able to use clothing as a visual aid. One Core 202 group wore workout clothes to give a presentation about exercise.
3. How does my group transition between speakers?
Effective transitions are one key to creating coherence in a group presentation. The same kind of transitions between ideas that work in an individual speech will usually work in a group speech, so you and your team should begin by reviewing What is a transition? and How can I make an effective transition? under the Personal Essay assignment in CORE 101 and What are some types of transitions? under the Informative Speech assignment in CORE 102.
In a group presentation your team has the additional challenge of transitioning from one speaker to another. It is usually a good idea to combine transitions between ideas and transitions between speakers by having each group member talk about the key idea she knows the most about. Each time you and your team introduce and change speakers, you will signal to your audience that you are moving to another key idea. If the team has more speakers than it has key ideas, one or more group members could deliver the introduction and conclusion or be responsible for the transitions.
Example of a transition in an individual speech:
Now that I’ve talked about the problem posed by burying radioactive waste underground, let me tell you about some better ways we could dispose of radioactive waste.
Example of a transition in a group presentation:
Now that Natasha has talked about the problem posed by burying radioactive waste, Sunil will tell you about some better ways we could dispose of radioactive waste.
4. How does my group play to the strengths of individual speakers?
Different people have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to public speaking, and it is important to give each person the role in which she will be most effective in the presentation. If one group member has a particularly dynamic speaking style, he might be the best person to deliver the introduction so that his charisma will draw the audience into the speech. If one group member is really good at accurately reporting and explaining statistics, she might be the person your group would assign to deliver a section of the speech that is heavy on numbers. If one person has personal experiences that are relevant to one aspect of the topic, the group should make certain to assign that person a role that will allow him to take advantage of those experiences.
5. What is appropriate behavior for the people who aren’t currently speaking?
One major challenge during a group presentation may be knowing what to do while your fellow group members are speaking. It can be awkward to stand in front of your audience with nothing to do. The most important guideline is to avoid doing anything that will distract your audience from the speech. Fiddling with your hair or jewelry, yawning, pacing back and forth, flipping through you note cards, and whispering to others are the types of actions you want to avoid. It is also important to demonstrate that you are interested in what your teammates are saying. Remember that the person speaking is representing you and your group. If you are not interested in your own group’s presentation, you really can’t expect classmates not in the group to be interested.
It is even better if your team finds something constructive for group members to do while they aren’t speaking, such as managing visual aids. Whatever you do, make certain the group plans ahead so that everyone knows what she should be doing and is helpful rather than in the way while other group members are talking.
6. Should we plan to rehearse our presentation?
Definitely! Most teams break up the work ahead of time but then need to work together to make this additive process lead to a cohesive final project. The practice session will help you smooth out transitions, confirm that team members are contributing equally, and review your content. If everyone in your group comes to the rehearsal with his or her work done, expect it to take an average of 1-2 hours of rehearsal time for a 10 minute final presentation. If your group is planning to work together conjunctively on the content, you’ll need to schedule additional time.
Also, many instructors will have a time requirement for your presentation, and you won’t really know if you are meeting it until your entire group assembles and practices the presentation.