An interview presentation isn’t something that most of us look forward to giving. In fact, I don’t believe I know anyone who actually enjoys being interviewed.
Each year as we enter summer, even though it still feels like autumn in the UK, universities up and down the entire country prepare to say congratulations and farewell to the class of that year. (This article was originally published in 2016 and as I review it in 2021 it is still raining)
After years of intense study, young people everywhere are sighing breaths of enormous relief as they finally get to shutdown their laptops.
Or do they?
Perhaps not, as for those who haven’t yet had the good fortune of securing a job the journey isn’t quite over; in fact, for many its just beginning.
Regardless of the position you are applying for it’s more than likely that the interview and selection process will require you to make some form of presentation to your prospective employers, often in a graduate assessment centre. This summer, just to add to the challenge, it’s likely to be a virtual experience.
Assessment centres are a major cause of anxiety for most candidates. That said, by far the greatest cause of sleepless nights and acute nail biting is the call to give a presentation.
These 7 powerful tips will not only contribute enormously to relieving your anxiety but will ensure you give an unforgettable presentation and really stand out from the crowd.
1. Play detective
Don’t make the mistake that so many experienced presenters do which is to immediately turn on their laptops and start dumping everything they know on the topic into an uninspiring PowerPoint template that every one else is using.
– The exact nature of the topic you will be speaking on: The headline, the objective and your brief. If you are in any doubt about any aspect of the brief or need clarity about the topic headline don’t be afraid to ask. Most people are and that’s often not only a significant source of their anxiety but why they end up ‘winging it’.
– How long you have to present and whether that allows time for questions.
– What you can and cannot use and the facilities available to you you i.e. presentation software, flip-charts, laptops with internet access, props, etc.
– What they are looking for and will be assessing you on:
The effective use of visual aids
Clarity of your message
Attention to details and evidence of planning and research
Confidence and persuasion skills
How well you managed and answered questions
How articulate, fluent and engaging you were
How you structure your approach and how creative you are
If for some reason you are unable to establish exactly what it is they are looking for then be sure to give them everything. In fact, give it to them regardless.
2. Be ARMED
Despite what you may be feeling in the run up to your presentation you and your audience already have a great deal in common.
– You both want to feel safe and secure.
– You both want to know where you are going and how you are going to get there.
– Your audience want you to succeed as much as you do.
– Your audience want you to stand out from the crowd and so do you.
By far the best way to achieve those goals is to work with a creative, robust and compelling structure:
Attention – Make it your absolute first priority to capture your audience’s interest. Don’t start by introducing yourself and thanking them for the opportunity. They already know who you are and will assume your gratitude as a given.
Tell them a short, powerful and relevant story.
Open with a thought provoking, fact, statement or question.
Use a prop
Relevance – Make certain that everything you say and share with them is completely relevant to the subject they have asked you to speak on. Consider this; if you were to say something and one of your audience responded by asking, ‘So what? Why are you telling us this?’, you need to have a good answer otherwise its irrelevant.
Message – The value in any presentation regardless of the topic lays in the clarity, impact and the memorability of the message you wish to leave with your audience. Make sure that yours is crystal clear.
Example – Delivering information is relatively easy, anyone can do so with varying levels of confidence. What your audience needs to help bring the information and ideas you are sharing to life are examples of what you mean. Give them specific examples, analogies, metaphors or similes; something the audience can relate to.
Do – Having taken up so much of their valuable time now its really important that you tell them exactly what it is you want them to do with the information you’ve just shared.
3. Don’t be a comedian
In other words, don’t go out of your way to try to be funny and make them laugh, it generally doesn’t work.
More importantly, don’t save the ‘punchline’ for the very end of your presentation. The one thing that most audiences are short on is time so if you have something important to say don’t wait until the end of your presentation to say it, do so early.
4. Be a gardener instead
Too many presentations are far too long, largely because they contain superfluous content designed to impress the audience and show them how much the presenter knows and how hard they have worked. Don’t be one of those presenters who dumps everything into your audience’s lap and expect them to ‘get it’.
Be ruthless with your content and just as a good gardener would prune their plants to remove all of the deadwood and to give them shape be sure to do the same with your presentation.
5. The 2 second start
When you are nervous about presenting, every fibre in you body will be screaming at you to get on with it and get it done. That means that often presenters begin to speak before their audience is settled and ready to listen.
Before you utter a single word take 2 seconds to take a couple of deep breaths, pause, smile and make eye contact with your audience. Have the courage to take a moment to centre and calm yourself and when you’ve smiled and made a little eye contact begin speaking.
6. FLIP it
The reality is that speaking in public doesn’t come easily for most people and that is why so many dread the prospect. It’s completely natural to feel some level of anxiety as you prepare to do so. When you’ve spent several years working and studying so hard to then have to suddenly find yourself facing a panel of assessors that sense of foreboding is completely understandable.
An interview is however a brilliant opportunity to showcase your hard work, commitment and discipline by showing you audience just how good you really are.
Given that we all feel anxious about presenting our ideas in public to others the best way to overcome that anxiety is to FLIP it.
Focus – It’s worth knowing that when we place a considerable amount of focus on ourselves it’s inevitable that we may feel excessively nervous.
‘Will they like me?’
‘What if they ask me a question I can’t answer?’
‘What if I freeze?’
Notice the pattern?
That’s right and its one of the key drivers of that paralysing anxiety – ME.
We can reduce and control our nervousness greatly by switching our focus to our our audience instead.
‘What do my audience want to hear?’
‘What do my audience need?
‘Who are my audience and what are they really like?’
The words we use when talking to ourselves in our minds can serve as our greatest champion or they can of course cripple us. Everything you say to yourself will determine every aspect of the way you craft and deliver your presentation.
Instead of repeatedly asking yourself. ‘what if I mess up?’ tell yourself that this is your opportunity to really shine. You’ve worked and prepared hard so change your language to something far more positive: ‘I’m really excited about this opportunity’, ‘It will be great’.
Most presenters craft their presentation with a clear objective in mind which is of course a great way to start. Your objective is simply what you want your audience to do the moment you have finished speaking. On its own however, it’s never enough. The highly effective presenter sets a very clear intention too.
In other words, they know that the only way they will achieve their objective is by getting their audience to feel something and so their intention is ‘how I want my audience to feel’.
As a graduate your objective may be to get them to offer you that job but as you craft your presentation and deliver it you need to know and keep at the forefront of your mind how you want the interviewer to feel about you and your presentation.
You can be absolutely certain that as well as assessing the way you communicate and present yourself when under pressure, the one critical ingredient they will be looking for is passion.
That can be conveyed through a number of extremely useful gifts you have at your disposal which you may need to practice using and developing.
Verbal – Practice stretching and challenging your voice by playing with and changing your volume, tone, pitch, and pace well before your interview presentation.
Non verbal – Practice making eye contact, using your hands to gesture, smiling and using facial expressions to give meaning and power to your words.
Crucially, tell yourself that you are passionate about the topic you are presenting on, the job opportunity and let that passion shine through. Don’t restrain it.
7. Change the thermostat
The number one request we hear every day in our presentation training workshops at Mindful Presenter is to help our clients to ‘look and feel more confident whilst presenting’.
I work on the basis that when it comes to confidence we all operate in a similar way to a thermostat. If you consider what confidence looks and feels like on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being absolutely no confidence at all and 10 being the highest, I believe we each have our own default ‘thermostatic’ setting’. In other words, we may wake up each morning as a 4, 5 or 6 and as we go about our day someone says something to us or something happens to us and we move up and down the scale all day long.
On the run up to your assessment centre and interview regardless of your default setting its often the case that the very thought of presenting can switch your confidence thermostat down to a 3 or even lower.
Imagine what an 8 in confidence looks and feels like. It may not be our default setting but we each know exactly what an 8 looks, sounds and feels like.
Hold firmly in your mind the idea that your confidence thermostat has been set to 8 and watch what happens.
To this years hardworking and dedicated graduates we wish you every happiness, harmony and success on the next phase of your journey.
Best wishes from us all at Mindful Presenter.
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If this article has inspired you to learn a little more about how effective your presentation skills are you may want to take a look at our presentation training and publics peaking coaching pages to see how we may be able to help you. You will also find a great deal of really helpful ‘free’ information in our Learning Centre.
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