How to Give a Great Group Presentation

A Little Preparation Can Go a Long Way

Man giving a presentation
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No matter how much you plan (or hope) otherwise, it's nearly impossible to make it through your college career without having to do some kind of group presentation. Whether it's for an introductory course or your senior seminar, group presentations are part of everyone's college experience. And nearly everyone has had a bad experience working and presenting as a group. So just what you can do to make sure that your required group presentation is one to remember -- in a good way, of course?

Step One: Make Sure Everyone Carries Their Own Weight

Easier said than done, though, right? This step is the most critical but also the most challenging. From the beginning, however, it can be helpful to outline what everyone will do from start to finish. That way, if someone starts to slack off, it's clear what's happening and you can discuss it with the group member, discuss it with the rest of the group or, if necessary, discuss it with the professor.

Unfortunately, too, even if people try to pick up someone else's slack in a group, that discrepancy inevitably becomes apparent during a group presentation. And the last thing you want is someone's laziness sabotaging your entire group's work, from start to finish.

Step Two: Schedule Deadlines and Rehearsals in Advance

As a college student, it can be incredibly difficult to manage your time. And no matter how hard you might try, things inevitably end up happening that prevent you from planning well in advance. However, since you know the unexpected always threatens to happen, plan as much as possible as early as possible.

At your first group meeting, set a timeline for when things will be done. Schedule group meetings, deadlines, and rehearsals well in advance. In essence: don't plan to cram by scheduling an all-night stress fest the night before. Even if everything goes smoothly during your work session, everyone will be exhausted the next day. And tired group members are much more like to make errors and otherwise self-sabotage the group presentation everyone worked so hard to put together.

Step Three: Present Together and Cohesively

If you've been assigned to deliver a group presentation, make sure you're having different people present one main presentation, not having different people present different presentation. (And no, having everyone split going through the Power Point slides doesn't count as "cohesive.") How can your group's material best be delivered? What presentation strengths do your group members have? What goals must you meet during your presentation? What's the best way for everyone to come together to make sure those goals are met?

Step Four: Have back-up (like an understudy) for each part of the presentation.

If you're putting in the effort to have a great group presentation, don't let fate get in the way of all of your efforts. Even if you're dividing up your presentation, make sure at least one other person can serve as a backup presenter for every part of your delivery.

Even if everyone is carrying their own weight, you never know who is going to get unexpectedly sick or face a family emergency. If you, as a group, can all sub in for each other, you'll not only work to prevent unexpected disaster when it comes to your grade, but you'll reinforce your own mastery of the material (and its delivery).

Step Five: Do at Least One Rehearsal

You may think you can just briefly mention what you're going to cover in the presentation and then be good to go. And while this can be helpful, you might surprise yourself by realizing what you can learn by doing an actual run-through. Even if you think you're being clear, your fellow group members can provide positive, constructive feedback about where and how you can improve. And while that may seem temporarily uncomfortable, it's a lot easier to deal with than the permanence of a bad grade. (Side note: When doing your rehearsal, talk about what each person will be wearing. You don't want some members showing up in formal clothes while others show up in shorts and flip-flops.)

Step Six: Remember that Everyone is Presenting the Entire Time

The main aspect of a group presentation is that the group is presenting the entire time. This means that, even if your "part" is over, you don't get to just sit back, secretly check your phone, and stop paying attention. Everyone in your group needs to remain attentive, alert and engaged during the entire delivery. In addition to making your overall presentation look better (your professor, after all, will inevitably notice if your entire group stops paying attention by the time the last presenter is up), you'll be better equipped to step in if someone is struggling or to answer questions if and when they arise.

Step Seven: Celebrate Afterward!

Group presentations are such a pain because, well, they're such a pain. They take a lot of hard work, effort, coordination, and teamwork. Consequently, celebrating afterward is most definitely in order. Rewarding yourself as a team can be a great way to make sure your group presentation experience is one to remember in the positive way you'd hoped.