You’ve been offered an interview for your dream job, and you are pumped! But as you hear more about your upcoming meeting, you realize you’re expected to deliver a presentation.
Your first instinct may be to panic, especially if you dislike public speaking. But don’t worry. As nerve-wracking as doing a presentation during an interview may sound, it’s also a chance for you to show just how awesome you are. (And if you’ve reached this round, odds are you are awesome!)
These seven steps will help you nail it.
1. Ask Lots of Questions
Before you begin crafting a 40-minute keynote, ask lots of questions about what to expect (like, if they actually only want you to speak for 10). Be sure to cover these:
- How long should the presentation be?
- Is your point of contact looking for you to demonstrate particular skills?
- How many people will be in the room?
- Are there facilities for slides?
- What’s the IT setup?
2. Follow Instructions
If the hiring manager’s asked for a 10-minute presentation where you talk through how you’d plan a communications strategy, that’s exactly what you should give her. Don’t be tempted to go on for 12, 15, or (gasp!) 20 minutes.
Staying on target shows that you can manage your time, that you respect your audience, and that you can follow directions. If you run over, you’ll either be cut off halfway through or you’ll cost yourself time to discuss your other skills. So, stay within the constraints you’re given.
3. Have a Clear Structure
There are two benefits to organizing your presentation according to a specific structure: One, it’ll help you stay on track, and two, it’ll make it easier for the audience to follow along.
For example, if you’re using your presentation to share an app you’ve built, you might break it up into four parts: what you chose to build, why you built it in a particular way, how it works, and what the results were. You can even begin by explaining that that’s how your talk will be structured: This technique is a simple but effective way to help your audience follow (and remember) your presentation.
4. Differentiate Yourself
The presentation section of an interview is the perfect opportunity to let your personality shine. True story: A friend of mine was going for his dream job in tech and had to demonstrate his web development skills. He’d built lots of sophisticated apps at work, but he took a risk and decided to use the presentation section of the interview to demonstrate one of his personal projects. It was a custom animation of the Star Wars character Admiral Ackbar, shouting “It’s a trap!”
The panel loved it. It demonstrated the skills they were looking for, but also my friend’s sense of humor, creativity, and genuine passion for programming. In a competitive market, standing out from the crowd is what’s going to land you the job.
5. Stick to Technology You Know
Things have come a long way from PowerPoint. There’s now a ton of online programs and applications available to help you craft an all-singing, all-dancing presentation. But unless you’re already a pro at using one of these platforms, now is not the moment to spend hours teaching yourself Prezi or slides.com.
Your time is much better spent on the content of your presentation. Once you’re happy with that, you can start planning your slides, using whichever software you’re already comfortable with.
6. Have a Plan (and a Back-up Plan)
Let’s say you’re a Mac user, so you’ve prepared your presentation in Keynote. You’ve checked that the company’s technology is Mac compatible, you save your file to a USB, drop it in your bag and head to your interview. But when you get there, the office is full of PCs, your USB doesn’t work, and all of the beautiful slides you prepared exist only in your head.
It’s a nightmare scenario, but there are many things you can do to prevent it. Firstly, take your laptop. Even if the screen is small, it’s unlikely you’ll be presenting to more than three people, so they should be able to see. Also, if you have your laptop you may be able to save the file to a compatible format and still have your slides up on a big screen. (Pro tip: Don’t forget to pack the charger! Dead battery equals epic fail.)
If you don’t have a laptop always, always make sure you’ve emailed the slides to yourself and saved them as a PDF—which should work on anything. Finally, the one thing that never breaks down? Paper. Print a few copies of your slides and take them with you, just in case.
7. Practice (and Practice Again)
The only way to know whether your presentation is the right length is by practicing. And, rehearsing will also build your confidence and make you more fluent for the real thing. Ideally, perform your talk for someone you trust so you can get some honest feedback. But even if your only audience member is your cat, a trial run is still an essential part of your preparation.
When the day comes, try and remember that you’ve been invited to interview because the company has seen something in you and wants you to succeed. If you get nervous or lose your place, pause, have a sip of water, take a deep breath, check your notes, and get back into it.