By Hannah Watson
It’s that time of year when you may be getting called to assessment centres and interviews. What if someone asks you to give a presentation?
In my Psychology degree I didn’t deliver presentations often. In three years I gave two presentations as part of coursework modules to a few classmates and tutors.
A year later, in my MGP role at the Careers Service, the day arrived – I was asked to create and deliver an hour long presentation to an audience of 40 students (yikes!!!). This was a little larger than what I was used to.
I thought I’d share this experience with you and give my top tips for your next presentation – whether at university, in an interview or in a workplace.
No matter what size your audience is or who is in it, you will more than likely suffer from nerves. I definitely felt nervous beforehand and especially when I stood up in front of 40 people. I saw my nerves as a good thing! I took a deep breath to relax. I used my nerves to make my hand gestures, body language and voice energetic. Turning my negative fear into positive power really helped me combat my nerves and deliver a good presentation.
Prepare, prepare, prepare
Remember that famous saying? Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Cliché but it’s true. So if you can prepare in advance, do it. I repeatedly read the slides to learn the content and rehearsed my delivery to colleagues. Practicing in advance steadied my nerves on the day and helped me get my message across to the audience. I was careful not to practice too much to avoid delivering a rehearsed script – I really didn’t want to switch off my audience.
When you’re given little information about an interview or assessment centre, be prepared as they may surprise you with a presentation. They may ask you to present on yourself, industry trends, an aspect of the job description etc. You can prepare in advance by thinking about how you would present these topics. If you’re given little time to prepare on the day, practice the key points of your structure in your head to make sure you deliver a structured, clear message.
Delivery – ooze confidence
Here’s a handy checklist I followed:
- Speak louder than feels natural – I ensured my audience could hear me at the back. Avoid speaking too fast and pausing too often.
- Body language – I used my hands when I was speaking to be open and approachable. Avoid touching your hair or fiddling with a pen.
- Eye contact – I looked at the audience, not over them. Avoid focussing on individuals for too long that they feel uncomfortable.
- Have a glass of water – it helped me to relax and project my voice.
- Only use the slide as a reference – the majority of us will have attended lectures where the slides are just read out word for word. The audience will disengage if you simply read off the slide.
Involve the audience
It was appropriate in my presentation to get the audience involved. I asked them questions and designed three tasks that got them thinking about my content – the tasks even got them out of their seats!
We all have limited attention spans. By asking the audience to participate, I gave them a break from just listening to my voice. It also allowed me to take the focus off myself for a few minutes to re-gather my thoughts. Note: this might not always be appropriate.
Asking for feedback
Feedback is important to improve your presentation skills for next time. Nobody’s perfect right? I was thrilled with the positive feedback I received – my presentation was delivered confidently and engaged the audience. My voice was a little quiet at the start so to improve in future presentations I will take note to project my voice. Ask for feedback at appropriate opportunities.
Hopefully my experience has given you an idea of what to expect for your presentation. After mine, I felt elated and wanted to jump straight into doing another… I’m sure you will too!
For lots more top tips on coping with nerves, structure and delivery read our Presentations Skills guide.
Got a presentation coming up as part of an interview or assessment centre?
Have a chat to the careers information team for some tips or book a Guidance Appointment with us to practice and receive feedback.