A lot of people are afraid of public speaking. And for good reason. It’s scary! So, when there’s the potential of getting a great job from it, naturally the pressure is high.
The interview presentation is a great way for hiring managers to see how you would react performing a task that you would end up performing at work.
So here’s how to give a killer presentation that’s bound to impress.
It’s all in the planning and preparation
With presentations like this, you’ll always be told in advance, so use that time wisely to prepare as much as you can. The more you prepare, plan and practice your presentation the better.
I tell myself interview presentations are like the old joke:
“I wanted to join the debate club but someone talked me out of it”
Why? Because your ability to communicate your skills, knowledge and expertise is what is being tested here. You want to talk yourself into the role, by debating/arguing/presenting your socks off. This is the TED talk that will define your new career.
So, whatever your topic may be, research and think about it very carefully. Think of all the alternate angles that you could take, arguments for and against.
Researching and thinking like this, with this kind of depth, will give you an edge over the competition as it will show that you have taken the time and consideration before presenting.
Research is important because as you gather the facts you will start to build a narrative in your head. Ideas of how to introduce one point into the next, how to interlink key points and more will form the first draft of your presentation script.
Scripts are Good and Bad
When you’re first writing your presentation, write out all of your points as a script. Make sure it flows well and makes sense.
At this early stage, you’re going to want to script your work as you want to get your points well written and articulated.
On the day you’re going to want a few key bullet points on two index cards (maximum) to help jog your memory. Think of these as signposts to keep you on track, and not crutches to lean on during the talk.
Take a look at any TED talk or even the Apple keynote events where they unveil new products. Do you see them holding notes? Do you see them just reading from the teleprompter? The answer is no.
Because they practiced their scripts again, and again, and again.
The same principle applies here. You want to impress the hiring manager by showing you’re prepared and confident in what you’re saying.
It will also help you time your presentation effectively to make sure it fits into the time limit set by the interviewer.
Slides come after the script
We recommend you don’t touch PowerPoint or Google Slides until you have a script you’re happy with. The reason for this is that you want the hiring manager to listen to you and be captivated by what you say and not just have them read a lot of slides.
Your slides need to compliment, reinforce and add to the points you’re making. How’s that going to happen unless you know exactly what you’re going to say first?
According to several experts, including Google, when it comes to presentations avoid bullet points and text as much as possible.
“Since stories are best told with pictures, bullet points and text-heavy slides are increasingly avoided at Google,” said Google CEO Sundar Pichai.
Contrary to popular belief, we humans are awful at multitasking. Our brains aren’t wired for it so even something as simple as reading and listening at the same time becomes too challenging and we can’t do both effectively.
We want the hiring managers attention on us, not on a screen, so keep your slides as free of text as possible.
Slide design guru Nancy Duarte recommends following a three-second rule. If viewers do not understand the gist of your slide in three seconds, it’s too complicated. “Think of your slides as billboards,” says Duarte. “When people drive, they only briefly take their eyes off their main focus, which is the road, to process a billboard of information. Similarly, your audience should focus intently on what you’re saying, looking only briefly at your slides when you display them.”
So be selective in your images and in your words and ensure the message of the slide matches what you’re talking about.
Practice, Practice, Practice
I cannot stress enough the importance of practicing your presentation. Repeated practice will make sure you’re getting confident at public speaking and help fix issues.
For example, you don’t want to be in the room with your potential new boss and all they can hear is “umm”, “err” or “ah” because you haven’t practiced.
So when you’re practicing your presentation, practice in front of a friend so that they can point out when you’re “umm-ing” and “ah-ing” but can also point out parts of presentation that may not be clear or easy to understand. This will improve your script, your slides and your presentation overall.
Don’t be afraid to do this several times. You want to make sure your presentation is as close to perfect as possible.
Time yourself, make sure it fits into the time frame stated by the hiring manager, but leave room for questions so that you can answer any queries they may have.
Better Save Than Sorry
When you save your presentation save it several times, in several formats, and in several places. You’re going to want to take your laptop or tablet with it saved on there, you want it saved on a memory stick and you’ll want to email it to yourself beforehand. Having these backups will allow the presentation to go ahead should anything go wrong.
It also shows forethought, planning and preparation which is always good.
On The Day
Presentations usually occur at the beginning of your interview. The reason for this is that there’s plenty to unpack and talk about throughout the rest of your interview. So, make sure you’re ready from the moment you walk through the door.
If you have followed the above tips, you’ll feel prepared for your talk so now it’s all about presenting your presentation.
Like a normal interview your body language is very important. There’s still a lot you can do wrong just with your body language.
The classic mistake presenters make is staring. Staring at the floor, your notes, the slides, the table or the interviewer. If you do this, it looks bad and it makes you look awkward. I have to keep reminding myself that I need to look at the audience (the hiring manager in this case) like I was having a conversation.
Yes, you may be doing all the talking, but by keeping eye contact at a good level you engage and come across as more personable.
Another classic mistake is posture. Obviously, you’ll want to be standing for your presentation, but you don’t want to be slouching or have poor posture. The classic advice is “shoulders back, chest out”. This is good advice but remember to not overdo it to the point of discomfort or make yourself look like a cartoon character.
If you don’t feel that advice works for you, my personal favourite is to imagine there’s a solid plank of wood shoved down the back of your shirt.
Imagine resting your head against the plank of wood and know that your back is stuck standing straight because of this plank.
This, for me, makes sure I stand up straight but also makes me feel I’m not puffing my chest out for a more natural look.
Obviously this is a presentation. So it requires some talking. But public speaking can unsettle even the most confident of people.
When you’re up there you’re going to feel nervous, and this can make people do one or more of the following;
Speak too fast
Add fillers such as “umm”, “err”, “ah” and “like”
Forget what to say next
Your earlier practice sessions will help iron out a lot of these mistakes. But, it’s always useful to keep reminding yourself to keep your speech slow and clear. You want to talk at a normal conversational level and speed, with as few filler words as possible.
You also want to talk when you’re looking at the hiring manager and not when you’re looking at the screen. This is so they can clearly hear you at all times.
When you‘ve finished your presentation, make sure you ask if they have any questions. They will most likely have some questions that might need some clarification. Should that be the case answer them thoroughly. This helps reinforce your credibility. You want to remain the obvious choice and the perfect candidate for them.
After all of this you may still have an entire interview to go through with questions referring back to your presentation. If you’re nervous about the main portion of the interview follow all of our tips!
However, now that your presentation is complete you can relax (if only a little) as you know you have followed all of these steps and given the best presentation you can possibly give.
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