We know how it can feel. You open your email and feel a rush of exultation at the fact you’ve been invited to an interview. Then as you scroll down, that elation quickly turns to dread: you’ve been asked to deliver an interview presentation.
As if interviews weren’t nerve-wracking enough already, candidates are increasingly required to demonstrate they know what they’re talking about by delivering a presentation at their interview. The exercise tests your ability to communicate effectively under pressure and also offers the prospective employer a live demonstration of your abilities.
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 PowerPoint design experts below and you’ll be able to get your points across to impress the interviewers, whatever industry and role you’re applying for.
Turn your nerves into a positive
Presentation anxiety affects us all and is perfectly natural, but it doesn’t need to get in the way of a convincing presentation and a successful interview.
Don’t let your nerves internalise: if you tell yourself you’re nervous, then that will be reflected in your behaviour as you present. Instead, consciously focus on how excited you are to share your presentation ideas with your audience.
Your deliberate enthusiasm will manifest while you present, making you a much more engaging speaker.
Structure your messaging
Don’t rely on a flaky presentation based around a few vague concepts. Ask yourself, if you could have your interviewers take away just one or two ideas, what would they be?
Think hard about this and boil your content down to a few core messages, stripping away any superfluous information; you probably won’t have more than 10-15 minutes in which to deliver your interview presentation, so you need to be succinct and impactful.
Your presentation should be constructed as a story to maximise interest and engagement – forget dry lists of facts and figures. Use a classic three-act structure with beginning, middle and end: outline the current state of affairs, detail the challenges that drive conflict for your employer, then work towards a resolution that reinforces your points and highlights your value as a candidate – end with a brighter, better vision of the future that benefits from what you can offer the company and department.
You’re not going to get stuck remembering what comes next when your presentation’s laid out as a story – and research shows that structuring presentation content in a meaningful way like this makes audiences up to 40% better at retaining it.
Think of your prospective employer as your customer and your skillset as the product: use the presentation to sell your mastery of the topic. Your narrative should provide opportunities to connect your experience and expertise with the employer’s challenges: explain your own insights, recommendations and proposed methodologies.
Dress your slides for success
You’ll be dressing your best for your interview, and the same should go for your slides. Now’s not the time for walls of bullet points and tasteless stock imagery.
Plan each slide visual out on post-it notes beforehand: the space restrictions should help you limit each slide to one point that can be understood at a glance.
Your audience want to watch you and listen to you speak, so keep text on slides to a minimum; treat them as visual aids that reinforces and enhance what you’re saying. Let powerful, relevant imagery lead the way and employ subtle animation to help things flow along.
Follow the core PowerPoint design rules of contrast, repetition, alignment and proximity to lend your slides balance and uniformity.
Don’t get lost in jargon
Keep the language in your presentation simple to avoid waffling and tangents. Corporate jargon has never done anyone any favours and only serves to erect barriers between you and your interviewers.
The best presentations benefit from clarity and a personal, conversational tone that builds trust and credibility. So avoid obtuse acronyms and old-school business speak clichés. A good litmus test of whether you should include a term of phrase is to consider whether you’d say it in every day speech: if you would then it’s fine, if you wouldn’t then it’s probably a good idea to get rid.
Focus on authenticity
Of course you should practice and test-drive your presentation, but don’t overthink it or you’ll be reciting a script word-for-word. This isn’t a great recipe for authenticity, and your interviewers will notice.
Familiarise yourself with your material so that you can deliver it in a natural, conversational way. Maintain good eye contact with your interviewers and address them by name when they have queries. Also make use of your hands when presenting – we’re not recommending hapless gesticulations, but showing them is a non-verbal way of establishing trust and deliberate, controlled movements can help you reinforce your points.
You don’t want to come off as incredibly cocksure during your interview presentation, nor do you want to appear timid and hesitant. Focus on engaging your prospective employers in a collaborative discussion. Involving them as much as possible will make you appear more genuine and will help you strike comfortable middle ground with your presenting behaviour.
Prepare for questions
You don’t want to deliver an outstanding presentation interview, only to be caught out by difficult questions.
If you review your presentation content carefully, you’ll likely 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 aims, and how you would mitigate any risks.
Remember that questions actually provide an opportunity for you to talk about ideas and points you couldn’t fit into your main presentation.
When you have to give an interview presentation, you’ll inevitably feel nervous at first. But following the above steps will help you structure, craft and deliver an effective presentation that lands you the job.
Try to remain calm, take your time and above all, try to enjoy the experience. Once you’re in the room and you hit your presenting stride, you’ll feel your anxiety melting away.