Most people at some point in their lives face a daunting moment when their presentation skills will be tested as never before: a job interview.
This is not ‘public speaking’ in the normal sense, but all the same principles and techniques apply. Being clear and convincing. Maybe a bit firm too: showing flexibility, but also a certain steely determination. And striking tricky balances. Sounding confident but not annoying. Knowing the issues and priorities, but not getting bogged down in detail. Having experience but not being predictable. Not having experience but showing a fresh touch. Indicating ideas for change without disrespecting what’s already being done.
The trick is to stand out in a positive way, leaving a warm glow so that when all the candidates have gone away the panel thinks of you before the others.
In short? More please. And when in doubt, less is more – light touch aways impresses.
So, how to prepare? There is nothing like a private hour or so of tough-love mock questions in front of a video camera. You need to see to see for yourself how and when you’re waffling, or slipping into jargon, or smiling, or giving sharp examples, or coming over as boring. What exactly comes over as strong and interesting, and how are you achieving that result? What looks a bit lame or irrelevant? When to expand on a question. When to shut up. How to use silence. And so on. Lots of details that add up to an interesting and persuasive outcome.
If they have asked you to do a presentation, work out what everyone else is likely to do, then do something else. For example, if they have asked to talk about How I’ll Approach This Job, most people will break it down into a simple logical scheme: something like Basic Objectives –> Likely Challenges –> Measuring Success –> What Next?
Fine. But that’s what most people will do. You need to stand out from ‘most people’.
Hmmm – how about doing the presentation as if in 2020, looking back on what you achieved and where some things went awry? That allows you cover all the obvious bases, but it also lets you present the issues in an unexpected amusing way and thereby projects subliminal confidence and ‘grip’.
Above all, don’t forget that as well as wanting all the earnest job specification check-boxes duly ticked, they are looking at you as a future colleague. At the back of their minds is a quiet question: is this person going to make our hearts sink or leap when we see her/him at the start of a working week on a rainy Monday morning? Make sure that they get the right answer.
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