Group presentations are logical and easy to follow when everyone is in the same room. On video, though, it can be hard for the audience to follow more than one speaker—especially when everyone stares at one big screen share.
But having a partner share presentation responsibilities can make pitches, updates, and webinars more informative and engaging. That’s why mmhmm allows more than one speaker to be on screen at a time. With mmhmm, anyone can pair up with a knowledgeable colleague and co-present on the same screen with the same background and slides. And they can do it all in live or recorded video.
Renowned pitch coach Martin Barnes is keenly aware of how video introduces complexity to group presentations. During our conversation on the challenges of co-presenting on video, he explained, “You’ve still got to operate as a team. And you’re trying to do it in this little box on a laptop with a screen and a camera.” To address this, Barnes suggests making your joint presentation plan as simple as possible because, as he puts it, “Well-executed simplicity is far superior and preferable to half-baked complexity.”
With so many factors to consider, we’ve created this guide to shed light on why you might want to co-present, when to present with a partner, and how to do it successfully on video.
Why group presentations can be more effective
Teaming up for video presentations offers different benefits depending on the circumstances. Here are a few clear upsides we think will apply to most would-be co-presenters:
Fewer check-ins: If you’re planning to give an update for a project with a lot of contributors, you could meet individually with every single one of them and internalize a ton of info about their work, but…ugh. Instead, consider inviting at least some of them to speak to their work in the presentation. Your audience will get the relevant details and you’ll get some time back.
Conversational flow: A co-presentation is more than the sum of its parts. It’s you, your partner, and your interaction. The natural back-and-forth between you and your fellow presenter can spark insights and humor, helping your audience stay engaged. This is especially useful for live video because it can be easier for others to contribute ideas once you and your co-presenter have kicked off the conversation.
Live support: When you present alone, you’re solely responsible for every talking point. Any awkward pauses are yours to fill. Any technical glitches are yours to fix. A good co-presenter can swoop in when the unexpected happens—killing dead space with helpful commentary and handling technical mishaps while you keep the presentation moving forward.
When to join forces (and with whom)
Most presentations are either meant to inform, persuade, or inspire. If your goal is to inform, ask yourself who has direct experience with the topic at hand. If you’re trying to persuade or inspire, think of who might have a compelling story that gets at your central message.
There are also specific cases where co-presenting is a particularly good idea. Here are a few occasions where joint presentations are a no-brainer:
Partnerships: If you’re combining with other parties, teams, or organizations, invite a member of each group to help announce the partnership. This conveys a sense of unity and gives each representative the chance to demonstrate their alignment on a core message. And if you present in mmhmm, all presenters can appear together over a single background instead of being cordoned off in separate boxes.
Pitches: Here each presenter might tackle different facets of the pitch. This does more than hold the audience’s attention. It’s easier to get someone to back an idea if multiple people are advocating for it. Presenting as a group sends the message that different people are willing to go to bat for a shared vision.
Project updates: The more people are involved with a particular project, the more work it’ll take to figure out the project’s overall status. Make things easier on yourself by inviting some of the individual contributors to share updates with you. You don’t need to co-present with everyone involved, just one or two teammates who can speak to key details.
How to share the presentation spotlight
Define roles and responsibilities. Avoid confusion over who’s doing what by making sure everyone involved has a clear lane—and agrees to stick to it. Martin Barnes suggests delegating a leader and what he calls a “conductor.” The leader has final say over the project as a whole, while the conductor manages the presentation to keep things moving and to help everyone stick to the agenda. Any other roles you’ll need to assign will depend on the needs of your presentation, but be careful not to wear too many hats. According to Barnes, “You can play multiple roles, but you can’t play too many. And if you haven’t done this before, just do one.”
Decide whether you’ll record or go live. Here’s our rule of thumb: If you need to explain new or complex information, it’s better to record. This allows your audience to absorb the information at the time and place that works best for them. If you and your audience need to have a conversation, give feedback, or make a decision, we suggest holding a live call. For more on this topic, read Hybrid video practices: When to record or go live.
Keep it simple. There are many ways unnecessary complexity can creep into your presentation: too many speakers, lengthy agendas, and overly elaborate demos to name a few. Barnes also recommends against switching between speakers too often, as it creates more cues that the presenters have to nail. Remember, each hand-off is an opportunity to drop the ball.
Nail the transitions. When presenting as a group, it can be easy to focus only on what you’re saying. Nowhere is this more apparent than when you’re handing off the talking baton to your partner. Avoid unnecessary hiccups by making sure both of you know when one person will stop talking and where the other will start. Try to make the last thing you say flow into the first thing your partner will say, and vice versa. This can be as simple as literally stating what will happen next. For example, you might say “Okay, now Linda is going to walk us through the numbers.” And just like that, Linda is clear for take-off.
Rehearse. And by this we mean actually speaking your presentation out loud together with your co-presenter. According to leadership consultant and avid public speaker Alain Hunkins, “The point of rehearsal is to connect the ideas in your brain to the muscles of your mouth.” He recommends rehearsing your entire presentation at least six times. This is especially important if you’re going to present on a live call, but even if you’re recording it’s helpful to run your presentation before you capture it on video, as it’ll help you see where things sound clunky or confusing, giving you a chance to refine your presentation before the camera starts rolling.
Anticipate audience reactions. When responding to your audience, the more you and your partner can stay on the same page and avoid talking over each other, the better. Work with your co-presenter to list questions or comments you might expect from the audience. Then talk through both how you will respond and who will respond. It also helps if you can show your audience helpful slides on the fly. mmhmm helps you keep key slides at your fingertips, so you don’t have to hunt them down while you’re on a call.
Co-presenting lets you tap into your team’s brainpower to make your presentations more helpful and engaging. There’s some added complexity, but with a little attention to detail and a carefully chosen partner, you’ll be on your way to delivering more effective and dynamic presentations.
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