Whether you’re asked to do a presentation as part of a job interview or as part of a team meeting, here is our advice on how to ace it.
1. Confirm the brief
Make sure you understand what you’ve been asked to do, how long it should be, what format it should be in (should you have a PowerPoint presentation? Handouts?), whether you need to take a memory stick or laptop and how many people you will be presenting to (if you have handouts, you will need to know how many to print).
2. Do your research
Research into the topic you’ve been asked to present thoroughly. If applicable look at current news and events linked to the topic. If you’re doing a presentation on the company you’re interviewing for, thoroughly examine their website and if they have an annual report that’s accessible, read that.
3. Structure it well
Have a clear structure. Presentations are a platform for expressing your ideas so structure them in a way that is easy to follow. Have a short introduction, specific sections/themes (potentially one slide per section) and a clear conclusion.
4. Make it pretty
Keep it concise and avoid being too text heavy; we recommend only spending up to two minutes per slide when presenting. Summarise in bullet points the content for that slide and then elaborate and expand whilst you’re talking. Include diagrams or images and make it look professional and visually appealing so it helps engage your audience.
5. Practise Practise Practise
Practise presenting to friends, family, the dog and time yourself to make sure you don’t run over. Some companies won’t be lenient on time they have allocated as it is also a test of your time management skills. If you’re running over, cut down the content rather than talk faster as the audience may otherwise find it difficult to keep up. The more you practise the more confident and comfortable you will feel with your presentation.
6. Create cue cards
Don’t just read off the slides as you will end up speaking in a fairly monotonous manner. Have cue cards for each slide and stand facing forward; your presentation is for the audience to read not you. Keep looking up and make eye contact with the people you are presenting to.
7. Conquer those nerves
Being nervous can often cause people to talk faster as they want to get the presentation over with as soon as possible. Even when you feel nervous you have to try to act confidently so interviewers will have faith in you as a potential employee. Take a deep breath before you start to try and calm your nerves, smile at your audience as it will encourage them to smile back and make you feel more relaxed. Pause between each point you make to allow the audience to take it in, whilst also allowing you to remind yourself of your next point.
8. Predict the worst
Have a back-up plan if technology fails you. Put your presentation on two memory sticks, email it to yourself and print out plenty of handouts in case the computer isn’t working. This will also highlight top notch organisational skills and your ability to work under pressure – key skills employers often seek!
9. Prepare potential questions
The audience will most likely leave a few minutes at the end for some follow-up questions so try and predict what these may be; are there any sections which may need further explanation? Are there any particularly interesting sections that you haven’t had the time to fully explore which may interest the audience?
10. Dress the part
Make sure you dress professionally as all eyes will be on you as you present. Arrive early so you can set up and have time to interact and engage with your audience before you begin presenting; this will “break the ice” and help you relax.