Presentations are a common way to test your confidence, communication, time-management skills as well as your ability to revise a topic.
You may be given a brief before your assessment day that you will have to research and prepare an individual presentation for or you will be given a topic on the day that you will then have to do a presentation on either individually, or as part of a group. If you are presenting as part of a group, try to make sure your voice is heard. It’s all well and good contributing to the content but if your recruiters don’t see you play your part in the spoken presentation, it will be picked up on and will reflect badly on yourself.
The biggest thing to prepare for when presenting is any nerves you may face. It’s easier said than done but try to stay as calm as possible. Recruiters are going to understand that presenting can be nerve wracking but try not to let it get in the way of your delivery. Take a deep breath, stand tall and take it nice and steady!
Most presentations are done on PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi and/or flipcharts and usually last 10-15 minutes.
15 useful tips when doing a presentation
- Prior to the Assessment Day, research on the type of presentation you are likely to be tested on, and their structure, format and scoring. Brainstorm as much as you can. Research on LinkedIn, chatrooms, company website and google who the assessors/ interview panel members are; their job titles, interests, and professional backgrounds and interests? Call the employer to ask any questions you are not sure about.
- Use bullet points and short and sweet (concise) sentences/phrases supported with carefully selected visually clear diagrams or pictures. Remember ‘less is more’ and ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’. Some experts use a rule ‘One slide = one message /key point’ to avoid cluttering the slides with too much ‘text-heavy’ poorly structured information, so called ‘Death by PowerPoint’. And remember, slides should never give away the story; they should leave the audience wanting more – and you will use then use your public speaking excellency to talk the ’more’ bit. Some experts say, treat each slide like a sign on the highway—just enough information to catch your attention, but not too much to distract you. Aim for a maximum of 7/8 slides for a 10-minute presentation and around 10 slides or thereabout for a 15-minute presentation.
- Carry a few sets of printed slides to give to the interviewers/assessors – and just in case of any technical glitches! In addition to carrying them on your USB/memory stick, it might be worthwhile to email copies to yourself as a back-up.
- A few days before the day, practice and rehearse doing the presentation in front of friends/family or your mirror and perfect your fluency, confidence, body language and timing. Ask for their feedback and request them to ask you follow-on questions to perfect your responses.
- Show off your ability to clearly structure and design effective presentations. Structure your presentation around the ‘rule of three’ or ‘law of three’ – most presentation experts believe that people are more likely to remember something if it’s said three different times. In your presentation, focus on no more than three key points, and repeat them in different ways throughout the presentation for maximum impact
- Showcase your communication, public speaking and interpersonal skills by keeping the interviewers engaged. Use your passion and enthusiasm to create interest and excitement in your audience. Intrigue them and get them to participate in the story/adventure you are building. Use the 80/20 rule – 80% informative, 20% thought-provoking.
- Maintain your confidence and composure. Prove that you are able to remain calm even under pressure, a highly desirable employability skill. Don’t let stage fright, performance anxiety, fear and panic spoil your presentation. Tips to contain anxiety include:
a. Take a moment to breathe diaphragmatically.
b. Get them involved to drive the fear away – maintain eye contact with the assessors and even try talk to them.
c. Once your nerves are under control, focus on the subject matter you are discussing, but still constantly maintaining eye contact.
d. Be aware that they are expecting and fully accept that you might feel anxious – it’s actually very common. And after all, they want you to succeed, that’s why they shortlisted you. So just keep calm and carry on.
Motivate yourself and boost your confidence by telling yourself, ‘For the next 10/15 minutes I’m in control; I’m the centre of attention, I am in charge of everyone in this room – It’s my time to shine’.
- Maintain a steady pace – Do not go too fast as it might suggest nervousness. A steady pace is normally associated with confidence and allows the audience to fully engage and absorb the message you are trying to put across. Watch out for any body language that suggests boredom, loss of interest or a frowning/disagreeing face – it’s a sign to re-engage them, expand on any points that may lack clarity or simply up the game in terms of energy and enthusiasm.
- Make a judgement on what level of volume to pitch at; not too loud, but not too low. Emphasise on your clarity of speech and verbal abilities, picking the right words and using the right tone to put your point across.
- With thorough practice prior to the day, demonstrate your ability to manage time by being able to pace yourself accordingly. Set yourself some milestones that should be covered in the first 3/5 minutes, second 3/5 minutes and last 3/5 minutes. Stick to the instructions, if it’s 10 minutes, stick to 10 minutes. Don’t be tempted to go over. If possible, carry a watch or clock to aid your time management.
- Use your persuasion and influence to show how valid and well researched your content is. They want to see your ability to sell an idea. The slides are for them to glance and get interested and captivated, and then you verbally into the juicier more compelling depths of the subject matter. All find opportunities to drop in hints of your skills and abilities in the process. Differentiate yourself, if really confident using video clips, animations and other forms of technology – but only if you are really confident of what you are doing.
- Use appropriate body language and facial expressions to ensure the information is clear and well relayed to the audience. Avoid being too animated though. A good sense of ‘safe’, ‘well-conceived’ humour might act in your favour in engaging with the audience. You have to be really cautious as any mistake could backfire. If not 100% confident, avoid it – better safe than sorry!
- Establish rapport by engaging with your audience. Maintaining eye-contact, body language, asking if it’s clear, pausing and smiling at key junctions, addressing the assessors by name and positive facial expressions are all key to establishing rapport and maintaining interest. Avoid overly focusing on the screen or your notes. Prior to the presentation highlight and memorise key phrases to make your pitch more natural with a more conversational tone. Address panel members by name when answering their questions.
- Always expect to answer questions either during or at the end of the presentation. Ensure you have thoroughly researched and understood the subject matter. Predict the likely questions the assessors might ask and ensure you have ready answers, which you should politely and constructive give, supporting your point of view. The typical ones include:
a. Why you came to that conclusion?
b. How will it be implemented?
c. Have you considered the resources/risks/challenges…?
d. Have you considered all the stakeholders?
If you don’t seem to understand the question, don’t hesitate to ask the assessor to clarify. If completely clueless about a question, always acknowledge that it’s a good question, which unfortunately was not fully covered in this presentation but can form a good foundation for further research on the subject. Promise that you are intrigued and will go and dig deeper and maybe offer to provide further information in future, if at all possible.
- Don’t forget to finish on a high note with a memorable conclusion and if brave, a strong catch phrase.
For further resources and examples of presentation exercises check out the following links:
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