As if the prospect of attending a job interview isn’t daunting enough, some employers insist upon including a presentation of some kind in the process as well.
It’s a task which few people relish and can add an increased pressure which, if not properly controlled, can affect the level at which you perform. Ultimately an interview presentation can be the difference between getting the job of your dreams and failing spectacularly.
The tendency can be to view presentations as an unnecessarily intense activity to include within an interview situation, however perhaps this mindset is a little singular given that it can also be a fantastic opportunity to show your potential employers what you can do, when not constrained by the standard interview question and answer procedure. It is a common feature in interviews for roles where presentations will form a significant part of the role and gives you a great opportunity to display your talents.
If you are anything like us, a great deal of prior preparation, practice and a confidence in the presentation you have created will go a long way to ensuring that you are able to perform at your best when it matters the most.
With that in mind, we thought it would be useful for us to compile a little collection of general tips and advice on how to prepare for and navigate this most precarious of interview particulars.
Tips for creating your presentation
Find out who is on the panel
It is very important to find out early on because it will ultimately dictate the tone, formality, level of detail and delivery style of the information which you present. The interviewers will want to see that you have considered your audience in the shaping of your presentation, so you should take into consideration a number of factors including their status within the company and their likely knowledge of the subject. In some cases you will be presented with a hypothetical situation e.g. “Imagine you are delivering this presentation to children aged 8-9” – in cases like this extra effort will be needed make sure that your presentation is appropriate and accessible to the audience.
Be very aware of your time
When talking about something of which you have an extensive knowledge, there is a temptation to dump all of the information that you know in order to establish yourself as an expert on the subject. Remember that more often than not, an interview presentation is equally about demonstrating your ability to synthesise material and deliver it in a way that is clear, concise and easy to take on board. Look at the time which they are giving you to complete your presentation and consider the level of detail which can comfortably be delivered within this time period. If, when you are practising, you feel the need to rush to get through the information on time, you need to cut it down.
Keep a focus
In the vast majority of cases an interview presentation will last for just 10-15 minutes, which can pose problems when it comes to the overall structure. Spend time mulling over the subject of the presentation and identify a clear overriding message on which to build your points around. When putting it together make sure that you can identify 3 main sections within it; introduction, development and summary. There is no scientifically foolproof stratagem of how much time you should dedicate to each of these sections but our advice is that you divide it up thusly; Introduction 10-15%, Development 70-80%, summary 10-15%.
If not correctly used, visual aids (PowerPoint for example) can be excruciating for your audience -we have all been in the situation where the thought of having to read another slide of densely packed text makes us feel physically ill. When creating your presentation always bear in mind that your slideshow is there to support your presentation and should not take centre stage – it should enhance, but not distract… after all the interviewers are assessing you and not the projector.
Avoid technical issues by making sure that you know exactly how you will transfer and display your presentation well in advance of the interview – Nothing will lose your audience (or increase your stress levels) quicker than 5 minutes faffing around with a memory stick.
Never include text on a slideshow that you do not state verbally during your presentation as this may cause a distraction to your audience who will be trying to listen and read at the same time.
General tips for interview presentations
Easier said than done in many cases, but always try to remember that no-one enjoys listening to someone rhyme off a memorized speech in a tedious monotone voice. Modulate your speech, move around the presentation area (although not too much), make your information interesting and compel your audience to sit up and take notice. Try and keep in mind that you want to speak to your audience rather that at them.
Make eye contact with your audience
There is no more certain way of keeping someone’s attention than looking them straight in the eye. It can be a daunting prospect but by making plenty of eye contact with the panel, you will present yourself as confident and truly engaged with you what you are saying.
Dont read from your slideshow
Doing this can make it look as if you are underprepared are are relying on the visuals to prompt you. Of course it is completely acceptable to glance or gesture in the direction of it, to indicate its relevance but make sure that you are delivering the information to them rather than the screen.
Dont be over rehearsed
Of course it is very important that you know your presentation well enough that you don’t get muddled but it is also essential that it still sounds fresh and original.
Use cue cards carefully
There is a massive temptation to rewrite your presentation word-for-word on your cue cards but this is usually a very bad idea because it can prevent you from learning your presentation as well as you should. Instead, write some key points from throughout your presentation which will prompt you and help you to find your place if you get muddled.
Answer questions simply and directly
The panel will probably take the opportunity to ask a few questions once your presentation has finished. Of course they will expect that you have done your research and will be prepared for some of the questions they could ask, but if you do find yourself stumped then say so, its not the end of the world.
To be fair we really could go on and on with this post- there are so many things to take into consideration when it comes to interview presentations but hopefully this quick basic guide will get you off to a great start and well on your way to delivering a killer presentation.