Do you remember Bobby Riggs? The famous tennis player who very late in life played Billie Jean King in the Battle of the Sexes? Bobby was a hustler, and he played for money after his pro career. He’d take on local tennis pro’s with his shoe laces tied together. Or they could hit in the doubles alleys and he could only hit to their forehand side. And only get one serve. Without being able to toss with his left hand. You get the picture. He’d take the most improbably bets and win. When asked the most difficult bet he ever won, without hesitation he described the time he played a friend while leading a standard poodle on a leash. Why was this so tough? “The guy wasn’t really all that good, but that damn dog never knew where to go.”

I’ve given presentations with that dog so many times I still unconsciously yell “heel!”  between slides. You’ve spent weeks grinding a Power Point deck down so that it works perfectly. It tells a story. It takes the audience from here to there. And as you get ready to head to the airport, you learn the boss is joining you. And will be giving the presentation with you. Oh Lord, why hast thou saddled me with the poodle? Again?

Standing up in front of a room and delivering a powerful presentation isn’t really very hard. If you read my post a few weeks ago regarding my talk with Robert McKee, story development and Power Point, you have a good idea of what it means to deliver the goods to the board. But doing a presentation when there are two presenters is an art form. Done well, it’s more powerful than any one person could ever pull off. Done poorly – which happens the other 99% of the time – it’s awful. Here’s how to hit the 1%.

Al Michaels, meet John Madden. Role management determines success or failure in a 2 person presentation. Without clearly laying out who does what and how, it’s a scrum of comic proportions. There are many ways to do this, and only one way works. One person does “play by play” while the other does “color commentary.” Your play by play guy is responsible for keeping the meeting moving forward and for laying out the facts. This is Al Michaels. His job is to say what is happening.  Color commentary fills in the context. Stories work because they give us context around the facts. You need both, and this process fulfills this need.

When they ask a question, go to color commentary first. This helps a lot in unexpected ways. Your color commentary person should step to the fore when a question comes in for two reasons. First, questions are most often a request for context, so the questioner expects more detail and your color commentary person is usually in the best position to do this. More importantly, the questioner psychologically expects the context from the context person. It feels more natural.

If you want to reverse the polarity and have the other person take the microphone, say so. When the color commentary person fields a question that the play by play person is in a better position to answer, interview them live, on microphone. You look at your partner and say, “You and I talked about this the other day – the thing about the guy with the dog – why don’t you tell that story?” And play by play steps up and answers the question. When he’s done, color commentary can segue in, just like always, and add to the story if it helps.

No one steps on anyone’s feet, no one is interrupting anyone and best of all – one that will earn you a sharp “heel!” every time – no one jumps in with a non sequitir interruption in the midst of the construction of an important point. Roles are clear and flow is uninterrupted.

This is the best and only way to do two person presentations. Go get ‘em.