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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Partnering with Another Presenter
by Chris King

Yesterday I attended a presentation describing several new computer software programs. In previous articles, I have bemoaned the fact that so many technology-related-presentations are given by knowledgeable people who have great information to share but are boring. I was doubly delighted. Not only was the presentation lively, informative and exciting, it was orchestrated by not one, but two speakers. This feat in itself offers a huge challenge, and yet, when accomplished as well as the two men I heard, can be an excellent and effective way to present. In this article, I will address some of the ins and outs of partnering for a presentation: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

What makes a presentation given by two people good, along with being worthwhile, not only for them, but also for the audience?

  • Preparation, preparation, preparation. It was extremely evident that the two men who were working together – they bill themselves as "brothers" – were both well prepared for their portion of the program. They were also, however, prepared for the parts they shared. It wasn’t just one person’s show, followed by the other person’s show. They were working together.
  • Timing is more important than ever. When two people are presenting together, they must know exactly how much time to devote to their parts and/or parts of the time allotted. If one goes way over, it will detract from the other’s portion, because the audience will feel they were cheated out of information. A clever way to handle this and keep the audience aware of the time was the way the first “brother” presenting asked the second “brother” to keep track of the time and give him a signal when it was time for him to wind down. As the second “brother” started, the first one unobtrusively switched the connection to the projector from his laptop to his brother’s.
  • Be comfortable with each other. One of the most important factors that made yesterday’s presentation such a complete success was that these two men exhibited such an easy camaraderie with each other. They joked with each other – but not too much. They listened to each other (even though I am sure that they have heard this material many, many times before – they travel the country doing these presentations). And, most of all, they appeared to sincerely like each other. The rapport they had with each other multiplied into establishing an easy rapport with us, the audience.
  • Even if your personalities and presentation styles differ, it is imperative that each of you is a powerful presenter. The two men who were so impressive could be brothers (I have a feeling they aren’t), but they were similar in looks, the way they dressed (appropriately for the type of meeting they were attending), and both were equally excellent presenters. Both had enough pizzazz and polish that neither outshone the other – even though I was more interested in the software programs attacked by the second brother, I still enjoyed the first presentation as much.

Now, let’s tackle the “bad and the ugly.”

  • Remember this is a “partnership.” When working with another speaker and/or speakers, make sure that one doesn’t upstage another. I have witnessed this with panel discussions and, if it is too evident that one presenter is trying to outdo another, it is amazing how quickly the audience will turn against that person. This takes the attention away from the whole presentation and presenters, which is a shame and is counter-productive. One must remember that this is a team effort.
  • Listen intently to what the other presenter is saying. If one of the partners appears to be bored, dazed and/or not interested in what the another is saying, this will also detract from what is being presented. On the other hand, the positive effect of one presenter really taking an active part in listening and learning can’t be emphasized strongly enough. It will become obvious to the audience members that this is important information that they need to hear also.
  • Don’t interrupt, act-up and/or make unpleasant sounds. When two people are on stage together, it is easy for one to feel like speaking up, sharing a joke or a comment, or making a funny or distracting face. Don’t. It certainly won‘t endear you to the audience members. Even though these “brothers” joked around with each other, they knew not to do it while important information was being offered.
  • Pre-determine what will be covered, so there are no unfortunate “surprises.” Even though the two “brothers” gave the impression that they were just easily going along with the flow, it was obvious to me that they were well rehearsed. It was just like an athletic performance that has been practiced, practiced and practiced. They made it look “easy” and that comes from proper preparation. If you have ever presented using a computer and an LCD projector in a strange place, you know that making it all look easy takes a huge amount of preparation and confidence.

If you want to deliver a doubly strong presentation, consider forming a partnership with another speaker. Just make sure that you choose wisely. You can work together well, you respect each other and together you have important and compelling information to share.

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