The first weekend in April saw the 159th Boat Race between crews from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge.
First raced in 1829 The Boat Race is one of the oldest sporting events in the world, and is rowed each spring on the River Thames in London.
The event is held between competing eights, who propel their boats with sweep oars.
Each one is steered by a coxswain, or cox. Every person in the eight has his (or her) specific role to play, and they train strenuously and repeatedly together throughout the year.
The teams would not even dream of practising or competing without the whole crew present. It is only by training together that they are able to gel and work effectively as a winning unit.
But what does all this have to do with giving a winning business presentation?
It is common in many large (and these days not so large) companies, for there to be a bid team that presents at interview to win contracts.
In my experience a small number are very good, some are OK, and most are mediocre or worse.
Because, apart from the very few, they don’t have defined roles within the bid team, don’t have a consistent planning process, and don’t practise enough together.
A while ago I worked with two managers in a large international company who regularly present at interview – usually as part of different bid teams.
I was astonished to learn that they rarely, if ever, practise with the other members of their bid teams.
I couldn’t believe it.
They told me that most of the time, they meet up for the first time just before a presentation, and then simply go in and get on with their own part.
I was shocked that they could regularly compete for contracts in excess of £40 million, but didn't think it was necessary, or were unable to find the time, to practise and give the best presentations they were capable of.
Needless to say, their conversion rate left a lot to be desired.
Imagine what would happen if the Boat Race teams did this!
If you want to be successful in any team – be that a bid team or a rowing team – you need to have clearly defined roles and responsibilities. It's only by working and practising together that you can all perform at your best.
If you do present as a team, and want to increase your conversion rate, then you might want to think about the following:
- What is the role of each person in the team?
- Who will begin the presentation and why?
- Who will end the presentation and why?
- Who will keep the team on track so that your presentation keeps to time?
- How will you transition smoothly from one speaker to the next?
- How will you maintain rapport even when you are not speaking?
- How often will you need to practise?
If you answer and take action on these questions, you will see a huge improvement in your bid team's performance.
It's only when everyone is pulling together, making the most of everyone’s different contributions, that you are able to cross the finishing line first – just like the rowers.