Learn how to stand out from the crowd and guarantee success with your next interview PowerPoint presentation.
The job market is becoming more competitive than a family game of monopoly on Boxing Day. Between updating your CV, earning a reputation as an expert within the LinkedIn community, sending a stand-out cover letter and blowing them away over a dodgy line during the preliminary phone call, finding a new job is a job in itself.
That’s all before they end that call with a blasé “Just bring yourself… and a ten to fifteen-minute PowerPoint presentation to convince the board that you’re the best fit for the role. Bye.”
To separate the wheat from the chaff, candidates are increasingly required to demonstrate they know what they’re talking about by delivering an interview PowerPoint presentation. The exercise tests your ability to communicate effectively under pressure and also offers the prospective employer a live demonstration of your abilities.
In a recent study we conducted of over 1,000 office workers, 77% said they are expected to deliver presentations as part of their role. So, it’s no wonder that potential employers want to assess whether or not you’re up for the task.
Communicating your ideas in an exciting and engaging way is easier said than done, but you needn’t break into a cold sweat at the thought of a bit of public speaking. Just follow the practical steps from our team of experts below, and you’ll be able to get your points across to impress the interviewers, whatever industry and role you’re applying for.
Chris says relax
Our Storytelling and Discover Director, Chris Tomlin, is no stranger to the spotlight, having to prove his expertise in front of potential new clients, industry experts, and the team at Buffalo 7 most days. He finds that nerves can be crippling to your ability to both write and deliver your interview PowerPoint presentation, so putting aside some time to work on controlling those natural nerves, before you even open your laptop, will help the entire process.
“Have you ever noticed how nervous energy and excited energy have the same symptoms? Your heart pounds, your pulse quickens, and your hands get clammy. The only difference between these two states is your perception of the situation, and the thoughts running through your brain.
By ignoring the negative thoughts and focusing on the positive, you can learn to control your emotions.”
Exercise can also be a big help when it comes to channelling your nervous energy. The night before your interview, set your alarm for an hour earlier than you usually would, and get a quick sweat in. This will focus that nervous energy, alleviate anxiety and create a positive interview presentation persona.
Strip it back
The urge to get pen to paper, or fingertips to keyboard, straight away is completely natural, but if you just start writing whatever is whirring round in your head, the final product will read just like you feel: scatty and confused.
James Robinson, Marketing Manager at Buffalo 7, says to start from the end.
“Think about the result first. If you want the interviewers to leave remembering just one or two ideas, what would they be? You don’t have long to convince them that you’re the one for the job, so identify these core messages – your achievement highlights – and make sure all content is in support of these.”
Once you know what your core messaging is, you can edit all your thoughts down and remove anything that doesn’t point to these ideas.
The fairytale interview
You know what you want to say, but you can’t just stand in front of the interviewers and recite a list of facts and figures. You’re not being interviewed by robots, it will be real humans in that room, with real emotions, so aim right for the heart. By structuring your interview PowerPoint presentation as a story, with a clear beginning, middle, and end, obstacles you came up against and the solutions you implemented to overcome them, you will increase engagement and appeal to the emotional, decision-making area of the brain. Senior Creative Storyteller, Lauren Garforth, puts it like this:
“Have you ever done something simply because it ‘felt’ right? Likelihood is, you actually do this every day. Even those who claim to be entirely logical form decisions based on previous experience, recalling the feelings attached to these experiences and then convincing themselves it’s the right solution through logic. By telling stories that incorporate our key messages, we can form instant connections with others, leading them to trust us, then seal the deal by backing these stories up with logical evidence.”
Your narrative should provide opportunities to connect your experience and expertise with the employer’s challenges: explain your own insights, recommendations and proposed methodologies.
Stories also help you to be remembered at the end of a long day, when they’ve seen eight different candidates and all the interview presentations are merging into one. Research shows that structuring presentation content into a story makes audiences up to 40% better at retaining the messages you worked so hard to craft.
Dress to impress
You wouldn’t let yourself walk into that interview room looking a mess, so don’t present slides that are messy either. Unless you’re interviewing for the role of PowerPoint Presentation Designer at Buffalo 7, you don’t need to worry about over-complicating your visuals, just keep it simple. Pick out the key message for each slide and allow the text on screen to support what you’re saying, rather than distract from it. Aid comprehension by adding an image or icon that represents the message and keep all clutter off the screen.
Hannah Tyson, Senior Designer at Buffalo 7, has this extra little tip for you:
“Try to be on brand. Show you’ve done your research by looking at the fonts and colours your potential new employer uses on their website and reflect this in your slides.”
Not only will this show you’ve gone the extra mile in preparation for this presentation, it will let the interviewers see your place in their business, before you’ve even got the job. Sneaky.
Finally, make sure you double-check your slides. Then, check them again. A small mistake will distract from your interview presentation and it’s likely that’s all they’ll remember.
PowerPoint can be a fickle creature, behaving perfectly on your computer at home and then playing up in a strange environment, in front of all those judging eyes. Don’t look unprepared when it matters most, plan for every eventuality. Jaz Isherwood, Head of User Experience at Buffalo 7, explains how thinking ahead can help you to impress, even when you’re feeling stressed.
“Even though you have speaker notes carefully crafted into your file, cue cards with key phrases can also be a great help, in case of technical disaster on the day. As well as having a backup plan, a little extra preparation can mitigate having to use the cue cards at all. Make sure to ask about the room set up in advance. Will you be presenting your interview PowerPoint presentation from their computer, or should you bring your own? If you’re expected to use theirs, which version of PowerPoint are they running? If you’ll be using yours, how will you be connecting to the screen? What are the screen dimensions? These little details will allow you to craft the perfect presentation for the situation and avoid any issues on the day.”
Practice, not perfect
Ultimately, becoming comfortable speaking in front of any audience comes down to practice. It’s the same as exercising a muscle. The more presentations you give, the more confident you’ll feel the next time you’re in that situation.
Felicity Chivers, Account Director at Buffalo 7, has this advice for prospective team members:
“If you focus on becoming knowledgeable about the topic, instead of the exact wording in your speaker notes, not only will you feel like you can take on any situation that arises, you’ll also be able to do your interview presentation without even having to glance at the cue cards you’ve prepared. This gives you the freedom to move around, react to the audience, and improvise.”
Sir Ken Robinson is a creativity expert who holds the accolade of ‘most-viewed TED talk of all time’. Throughout his twenty-minute presentation about rethinking the way we educate our children, Robinson doesn’t look at a script once. Knowing the topic inside out allows him to be truly present and interact with the audience without losing his train of thought.
Be comfortable with your messages, but beware of being over rehearsed. Rehearsing every word, every gesture and mapping out your steps can lead to a robotic performance. And if it doesn’t go exactly to plan, you’ll freak out because it’s not what you rehearsed.
Being perfect isn’t natural. Audiences will connect with an authentic speaker, over a perfect one. Know your subject matter, speak with genuine passion, and don’t worry if you trip up. Just acknowledge the mistake and move on.
Open for questions
By the end of your perfectly imperfect interview PowerPoint presentation, you may feel as though you deserve a sit down and perhaps a roaring round of applause from an appreciative audience, but your work isn’t done yet. Having the time to carefully craft a persuasive narrative is one thing, but your interviewers will likely want to test your ability to think on your feet as well.
Richard Barnes, Managing Director of Buffalo 7, interviews every potential Buffalo that walks through our studio doors and places as much importance on how they handle questions as he does their skills at presenting.
“By reviewing your presentation content carefully, you should be able to predict key questions your interviewers will ask – so have some intelligent responses at the ready. You may be asked why you recommend one course of action as opposed to another, how you think your ideas fit in with the company’s vision, and how you would mitigate any risks associated with your suggested changes.”
Remember that questions actually allow you to talk about all the ideas you edited out of your main presentation, so relish the opportunity to show some more expertise.
Interviews are scary, presentations are scary, and interview PowerPoint presentations are probably up there in the scary ranks, somewhere near clowns. They’re designed to test you and see how well you perform under pressure. By making sure you check off each of these 7 tips ahead of your next interview, you’ll be able to walk into that room feeling as though you’ve already got the job.