Academic journal article Organization Development Journal

Reframing Presentation Skills Development for Knowledge Teams

Academic journal article Organization Development Journal

Reframing Presentation Skills Development for Knowledge Teams

Article excerpt


Cross-functional knowledge teams exist in many kinds organizations and their numbers are growing. The primary work of such teams is to find, develop, analyze, and provide information and knowledge to others. Therefore, the ability of such teams to communicate effectively is critical to their overall performance. A formal and frequent way this occurs is through creating and delivering presentations. This article examines a team development program for improving presentation performance that is specific to knowledge teams. This model hinges on development of five learning areas, or frames: 1) presentation process; 2) anxiety management; 3) interpersonal connection; 4) whole spectrum communication; and 5) story and structure. The manner in which this model has been used to develop five knowledge teams is discussed. The results suggest that utilizing this refrained approach to presentation skills development not only improves knowledge team presentations but also can enhance financial, technical, and psychosocial dimensions of knowledge team performance.


To keep pace with the information age and burgeoning service economy, the work of an increasing number of teams has come to consist primarily of knowledge and information management (Katzenbach, 1998; Mohrman, Mohrman, & Cohen, 1995). Indeed it is the exclusive province of some teams to find, analyze, and deliver information. Such teams have been referred to as knowledge work teams or simply knowledge teams (Fisher & Fisher, 1998; Mohrman, Mohrman, & Cohen, 1995; Opie, 2001).

Indeed, wherever organizations rely on teams rather than individuals as the fundamental working unit, and when their work is information and expertise intensive, one is likely to find knowledge teams.

For instance, most professional service businesses harbor them including advertising, architecture, consulting, design, engineering, information technology, and systems integration firms (Light, 2006). Knowledge teams also are common in non-profit and public sector organizations wherein different specialists work across functions to develop and deliver programs and services (Opie, 2001).

Increasingly, strategic planning in organizations has come to rely on formal and informal knowledge teams for providing information, making decisions and successfully implementing them (Fogg, 1994). The same is true for marketing and business development teams and for boards, councils, and leadership or management teams engaged in strategy making. These are just a few examples of knowledge teams. However, there is little doubt that their numbers are growing, especially in organizations whose effectiveness hinges on knowledge management and learning (Argyris, 1991; Fisher & Fisher, 1998; Mohrman, Mohrman, & Cohen, 1995; Senge, 1994).

The ability of such teams to communicate, within their own ranks and to external groups, may be the best indicator of their overall performance (Donnelon, 1996; Sales & Fiore, 2004). A frequent and formal way this occurs is through presentations. Indeed knowledge team members seem to be preparing for one presentation or another almost all the time. As such, presentation effectiveness is critical to performance. After all, the best data finding and analysis can go for naught if it is poorly delivered. Despite this fact, quite a few knowledge teams admit their presentation skills are sorely lacking; they believe that bolstering them will significantly improve team performance. To this end, some teams engage presentation skills consultants or attend traditional presentation skills workshops.

This paper examines whether traditional presentation skills training is actually well suited for improving knowledge team presentation performance. Further, the traditional model is contrasted with a reframed presentation skills development approach. The latter has been designed specifically for knowledge teams, because these teams deliver presentations in specialized contexts and, therefore, have unique development needs. …

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