Careers Insight: It’s all in the presentation

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Presentations often form part of a firm’s recruitment process, so how can candidates bring the material to life? 

We are all too familiar with presentations in this industry, whether to external audiences or colleagues within a firm. But presentations can also be used as a selection tool in a recruitment process, with criteria being evaluated based on the needs of the role. So what does it take to make a winning one?

Certain levels of subject knowledge and industry insight will be assessed, as will the actual delivery. Was it well planned and structured, with a logical flow? The format of slides, the use of colours and animation, and the content itself will be scored. For sales roles, in particular, feedback will focus heavily on the presenting style and what it says of the ability to manage pressured situations.

Natural flow

Of course, time should be invested in the preparation of the content and how to bring the material to life with a natural flow. The core elements of a presentation are the introduction, development and conclusion stages.

You must focus on relevant and engaging information tailored to the audience’s level of knowledge. And, as most presentations are time conditioned, you have to scrutinise what is worth including.

The litmus test should be this: will I grab and hold attention? Do I inspire confidence through my understanding and belief in my content? Does it fit the time allowed?

That said, you need more than a well-written presentation to make an impact. You need to have worked out a schedule that allows emphasis and detail where it is warranted to convey the importance of what you have to say throughout. The more familiar you are with your material the more you will be able to inspire your audience’s trust and confidence.

It goes without saying you should rehearse your presentation, familiarising yourself with the thrust of your argument and how all the elements piece together. Remember that facts do not always speak for themselves; sometimes they have to be brought to life by your explanation of why they are important.

Directly addressing your audience is much more engaging than reading straight from extended notes. Use index cards with visual prompts to guide you through and connect these with a tag so they cannot get out of order.

Body language

Feedback shows it is easier to ‘buy’ someone who uses body language and voice inflection to underscore the importance of words, and who shows confidence through eye contact. Shift your focus around the room to involve as many people as possible. Accomplished speakers use rhetorical questions, such as “So, what does this prove?” or “How did we arrive at this conclusion?”, which involve the audience more than simply asking them to sit and listen.

Preparation and practice are vital to give yourself the best chance of succeeding. How a presentation brief is managed by a candidate tells an employer a lot about the level of desire for the role.

What is more, the time investment gives you self-belief. This should not only give you more command in your tone but also mean less fear of movement and eye contact, all of which helps to avoid speaking too quickly or regimentally.

Peter Gwilliam is owner of Virtus Search