The U.S. women's gymnastics team soared, flipped and vaulted their way to the top of the medal stand at the London Olympics. They delivered the most resounding win in modern gymnastics and marked the first time a U.S. women's team has clinched gold outside of the United States.
What you may not know is that these five teenagers also provided a winning template for any group who delivers presentations.
Think about the last group presentation you attended. I’ll bet it felt disjointed and sloppy. There was overlap or, even worse, conflicting information. At least one person in the group seemed terribly unprepared and may have offered an apology, saying something like, “Sorry - we’ve been too busy to get together.”
They wasted your time delivering a half-baked presentation. More importantly, they blew an opportunity to influence you to take action on their idea.
Let’s fix that for your next group presentation. Here are five ways the Fab Five can make your team more successful at the front of the room. (Minus the sparkly red leotards, of course!)
1. Create a Schedule. The U.S. gymnastics program became wildly successful after it created a semi-centralized system. Here’s how it works: Each athlete trains with her personal coach in her home gym; the team then joins together regularly for a group training session. You can use the same approach. Make it a priority to meet regularly prior to your group presentation. No excuses. Even if your team members are in different cities or halfway around the world, create a schedule to meet via telepresence or telephone. Don’t allow each other to blow it off.
2. Think Bouquet. Bela Karolyi, who coached the gold medal team in 1996, called the team "a beautiful bouquet of individuals." That's how your audience experiences you. Each one of you is a different flower. Perhaps there’s a rose, a daisy – and maybe even a thorn. But together, you're a bouquet. If possible, appear together as a team at the beginning. After all members are introduced, the first presenter remains front and center to open the presentation. Which brings me to the next point…
3. Start Strong. In the Olympics, the notoriously difficult vault came first. This was the Fab Five’s secret weapon. Their strategy was to rocket down the runway and rack up high numbers to create a cushion in their score. It worked. They built a buffer going into their weakest event, the uneven bars. You can use this strategy with your group presentation. Lead off with your strongest element. Frontload your presentation with the material – and the team member – that resonates best. Today’s audiences are impatient, demanding and quick to tune out. Nail the open so they don’t start fiddling with their electronics.
4. Own Your Role. Only one member of the Fab Five, Gabby Douglas, performed in all four events. Three of them, Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman and Kyla Ross, performed in two events. McKayla Maroney performed in only one. Her role was to make it the best vault of her career in order to rack up a huge lead. Perhaps you noticed that team captain Aly Raisman sat idle for the first hour because her two events were last. Each member of your team should play to their own strengths, which in turn fuels the other members. Don’t make the mistake of divvying up delivery as if it’s equal slices of a pie. You might as well stick a banana peel on the balance beam if that’s your approach. Some of you will have bigger delivery roles than others, depending upon your specialty and the audience’s needs. One member may be there only to handle technical Q&A, for example.
5. Stick the Landing. Captain Ali Raisman’s floor routine was the team’s exclamation mark. She nailed it and cemented a very plump five point margin. You can do the same thing. End with a bang, not a whimper. Most presentations end with Q&A – that’s where hearts and minds are won or lost. Plan how you’re going to stick this landing. Know who will handle what kind of questions. But don’t end there. After Q&A, your team captain should re-close the presentation with a specific call to action.
If you’ll do these five things, you’ll be flying high. While your team may not end with medals around your necks, you will influence your audience and make things happen. And that is pure gold.