The 2014 recruitment round is in full swing and many of you will be celebrating your progression through the various selection phases. Well done! But what if you have to deliver a presentation as part of the assessment centre process? This can be a scary prospect. Here are my top tips for success which should help you keep a cool head “on the day”!
Preparation is key. You will be given a topic and a time limit. If you’re lucky you’ll get that in advance of the assessment centre but sometimes you will have to plan at speed and under pressure on the day. As you work, keep thinking about your audience, you need to pitch at the right level. Jot down your ideas and then group them together into emerging themes under headings. This will help you get the structure of your presentation right.
If you have the topic in advance, here’s where you can really score by showcasing your enthusiasm and knowledge. Dig deep and prepare thoroughly. Illustrate your presentation with relevant data or statistics. Research beyond the company’s webpages. Information can be sourced from a range of different places, be creative! Don’t forget LinkedIn company pages or groups, and databases accessible through our ‘Researching Jobs’ web pages .
Decide which information is relevant. Don’t include basic facts about the company that the panel will already know, (unless you are using this to make a particular point). Keep asking yourself, “Why do they need to know this?” If you don’t have an answer take the section out.
If you know you’re going to have to put the presentation together at the Assessment Centre think through some possible scenarios in advance and have a list of possible section headings in your mind. It’ll help you to structure the presentation effectively and at speed.
3. Visual aids
The key is in the word ‘visual.’ You may be asked to present using PowerPoint or you may be using a flip chart.
Less really is more!
Support your message with images or headline words. It’s not possible for people to read and pay attention to you at the same time. You want people to be listening to you, not trying to read through detailed data or bullet points. Keep the text on your slides or flipchart to a minimum.
4. Make it memorable
Somewhere in your presentation, deploying a brief story or anecdote to illustrate a point can really bring your presentation to life, particularly if it’s amusing. Clearly this must be relevant to your topic (and tasteful), but personal stories are what people remember (an earlier blog post “Tell your career story” contains further insights into the impact of story telling). An authentic illustration will help you to connect emotionally with your audience and enable them to remember your presentation.
Once you have prepared your presentation, you’ll need to practise. If you got the subject in advance, invite friends or family members (whom you can trust to give constructive feedback) to a dummy run. Ask them to judge you on specifics:
- How well did you come across?
- Was the content relevant?
- Did you answer the brief?
- Were the pace and tone about right?
- Were your face and body language positive?
- Did you engage the audience?
- What would improve it?
Take the feedback on board and have another go. Why not film yourself too? It’s a great way to observe what you need to work on and also to note what worked well.
If you only get the title on the day, try to find somewhere to practise at least the beginning aloud. It will make a difference!
6. Body language.
When presenting the way you deliver and how you appear to your audience matters nearly as much as what you say. If your message, tone of delivery and body language are congruent, you will present powerfully. If you’re nervous, then the best advice is to imagine you’re confident and simply act as if you were! If you’re well-prepared, you’ll be in control of your content and you’ll feel more confident. Remember to smile!
7. Mental and physical preparation.
Adopt a ‘power pose’ before you deliver your presentation (you can do this in a lift or the loo). Changing your posture quite literally helps to increase hormones in the brain that enhance your confidence, helping to boost mental performance. See Amy Cuddy’s TED demonstration talk.
8. On the day.
If you’ve been able to prepare in advance, ensure you have paper copies of your presentation to distribute to panel members. It’s much easier for them to make notes and they’ll find it helpful to remember who you are. You probably won’t be the only candidate! It’s also very useful for you to have a paper copy. You never know if the technology is going to let you down. If you’ve had to prepare on the day you might still want to hand over your notes, but only if they’re in reasonably good order!
9. Role models.
It’s helpful to consider presentations you’ve seen and which worked well, or not so well! What can you learn from them? TED provides access to a vast number of inspirational presentations from some of the best speakers in the world. Whilst you won’t be expected to achieve this level of excellence, it’s a great place to pick up tips.
10. Be yourself!
Remember that if you prepare well, are comfortable with your material and follow my advice, then being your authentic self will resonate with, and make you memorable to, your audience.
If (after all this) you’re still really nervous, here’s a thought to make you smile. Jerry Seinfeld:
“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two! Does that seem right? That means to the average person, if you have to go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
Doing that presentation really isn’t “a fate worse than death” and it might help you land the dream job!