Come on, I’m too old for a group presentation!

We thought it at 16 in high school, and we think it again at 20 in college. At least in college, it’s mostly true. We will never know why professors torture us with group presentations throughout our college education, but they do. And if you want an A in the class, you’re going to have to find a way to whip your group into shape, or at least provide minimal participation in the task at hand. For those of you who dread group presentations, here are a few tips for getting through them.

First step: proactively choose your group. College professors like to act like we’re adults, despite the forced group project, and often release us to choose our groups. If you’ve got friends in the class, this is easy for you. Otherwise, you might have to pick based on what students have contributed to the lecture. Nobody wants to be with the know-it-all, right? Wrong. YOU want to be with the know-it-all. She may be insufferable, but she’s going to want a good grade, and that’s the person you want on your side. If you wait around for the groups to form, you might end up with the students who are only taking the class to get a passing grade, and they’re no help at all.

After you’ve figured out exactly who plays a part in your grade, make sure you exchange contact information. Cell phone numbers and email addresses are both vital means of communication. Share this information before you leave each other’s presence.

Next: make sure there’s a schedule or an outline for your group to stick to. With this outline, you can divvy out tasks and sections of the presentation, making it easier for each person to be held accountable for his or her contributions to the group. Prepare the outline within the first week of receiving the assignment. This way nothing will sneak up on you.

At your first meeting, manage expectation for yourself and your group members. If someone is super excited to go above and beyond, that’s fine, unless they’re going to bog you down with way more work than the assignment requires. If you’re working on things like cultures, bringing food in can be a great way to keep your audience’s attention and show your teacher that you really put some work into it. However, if your all-star group member wants to bring a six-course meal, with each member handling two courses, you might want to manage those expectations. On the same token, someone might think they can get by with merely showing up on the day of the presentation, but you want to make sure they understand right away that they have to play a role in the preparation as well.

Collaborate: we’re talking Group Messaging, Google Docs, DropBox, you name it, anything that gets everyone on the same page. This way, no group member has an excuse for not participating. They can’t lose the folder of notes and information and they can’t have trouble downloading a spreadsheet if everything is shared online. These cloud collaboration methods are a lifesaver when someone forgets to bring a printed part of the presentation!

The most important part of any group presentation is working together. It sounds like a cliché, but it’s the truth. If you assume member A doesn’t want to do anything, member B wants to do everything, and member C is out to get you, your presentation will be a disaster, and so will your grade. Work on communication and cooperation, even if you can’t stand your other group members. You’ll be so glad you did.

[Image credit: bjornmeansbear on Flickr]