Skip directly to: Main page content

Interview Collage
Giving Presentations

On this page you will find...
Preparation for Presentation
The Presentation
Introduction of your Presentation
Body of your Presentation
Conclusion of your Presentation
Tips on Giving Presentations
Using PowerPoint, Projectors, or Flipcharts
Relaxing before a Presentation
After the Presentation
arrowBack to "Interview Resources"
Next Steps...
Learn how to Dress for Success
Dining, Second, Advanced Interviewing
Networking for Jobs and Internships

Presentations during interviews are not just about the topic or content of your message; presentations are also about how you deliver your message. An outstanding presentation will have style, a decent message, and an excellent delivery vehicle – you! It all begins with the preparation. Below are some tips to help you give an outstanding presentation.

Preparation


  1. First, decide on a topic. Chances are a topic related to the position will be given to you. If one is not, look for one related to the position or one you feel very comfortable in presenting. Read below for examples of possible topics based on position:

    Position
    Possible Presentation Topic
    Marketing Assistant
    Marketing plan for a new web site or project
    Environmental Education Specialist
    The value of recycling for a K-6 audience
    Engineer
    A project or your research
    Scientist/Researcher 
    Your research
    Legislative Aide/Lobbyist
    The merits of an issue

  2. Determine who your audience will be (it’s quite possible that your interviewers will take on the identity of another group to see how you will present to them).
  3. Consider the points you want to convey.
  4. Ascertain how much time you have and how much time you think you will need to get your main points across (and leave time for questions and discussion).
  5. See what visual aids are available: PowerPoint projector, flip chart, white/chalk boards.
  6. Take this seriously – for you it may be a presentation, but for them, it may be considered as a project to implement.

The Presentation


The best outline for giving presentations can be summed up with the following advice: “Tell them what you will tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them.” Have a structure: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.

The Introduction
  1. Start your presentation by welcoming the audience and thanking them for coming.
  2. Introduce your presentation including your goals and objectives.
  3. Make your introduction an attention grabber; perhaps a stimulating and thought-provoking statement or an anecdote:
    “Internships are a necessity in making yourself competitive for the job market”
    “Some very fishy things occurred on the first day of my new job; that’s when I knew my summer on a tuna boat would be very interesting.”
The Body
  1. The body should outline your argument or fully develop your story
  2. The rule of three: You will only have a short amount of time (usually five to ten minutes). Having three main points is a good idea because you can easily get through them in a short presentation, and people easily remember things in threes (this is called the rule of three). Everything else in the presentation should support these points.
  3. List your main headings along with key phrases you will use to describe them. Your key phrases should be memorable and easy to recite.
  4. Use a visual presentation instead of bullet points whenever possible. A visual presentation is five times more likely to be remembered and is twice as likely to achieve your presentation objectives.
  5. Don’t include a significant amount of text in your presentation. Too much text shows a lack of creativity and can easily overwhelm or bore an audience. A large amount of text can also be very difficult to read – whether using flipcharts or a projector.

The Conclusion
  1. Briefly summarize your main points.
  2. Allow the audience to ask questions.
  3. End on a strong or positive note, not a weak or fading one.  Saying “Well that's all I have to say. Thank you very much for listening” is underwhelming and can give a lackluster conclusion to what could be a very exciting presentation. On the other hand, something like the following leaves the audience more energized.
    “In this job market of high unemployment; career services at universities are not only important, they are crucial to maintaining university rankings and alumni relations” or “The threat is there but acting now can prevent it!”
  4. Thank the audience for listening.

Tips on Giving a Presentation


  • Have a plan and stick to it. Once you’ve created your structure, don’t deviate from it. Changing your presentation in the middle of a slide can throw you off and make it difficult to recover. This doesn’t mean you won’t have to make adjustments (and you should definitely plan on making adjustments); it means you should stick to your structure.
  • Dress professionally (this is a must for any interview).
  • Wear a wristwatch or bring a timepiece to help you keep track of time. It is okay to take it off and place it on the table during your presentation.
  • Greet the audience and smile: they will probably smile back.
  • Keep good eye contact. Look at everyone in the audience and be engaging.
  • Try to smile and appear friendly during your presentation. People often get caught up in their “down-to-business” look and forget to smile and be friendly. Smiling tends to engage the audience and yield better responses from them.
  • Appear confident and enthusiastic.
  • Speak clearly and confidently; and be careful not to speak too fast. People often speed up and raise the pitch of their voice when they get nervous. Being aware of this will help you control your tone.
  • If you’re not sure about your volume, ask the people in the back if they can hear you.
  • Use silence to emphasize points. Pausing before a key point tells the audience that something important is coming. It's also the sign of an experienced and confident speaker.
  • Stay within the allotted time (no exceptions). If an interviewer cuts you off, don’t take it as a sign of a bad presentation. It may merely mean they need to move on.
  • Involve the audience by asking questions (have a good idea of what they may say or where you will go with their responses).
  • Don't read your points from a screen or your notes. Reading your points is a sign of inexperience and also shows a lack of confidence. It also prevents you from making good eye contact with your audience.
  • It’s okay to use humor in moderation and suitability, but be careful (and make sure you are funny).  
  • Build variety into your presentation and break it up into sections.
  • Be prepared for interruptions. The audience may ask for clarification. If you aren’t prepared for it, it may throw you or your presentation off. Practice interruptions when you practice your presentation.
  • Don’t dwell on mistakes – make amends and move on. Inevitably you will make mistakes (even the best presenters do): you might mispronounce a name, get your tongue twisted around tough words, or have a Freudian slip. Don’t let this rattle you. Apologize if necessary, correct the error, and move on. You can even make a joke out of it; but don’t dwell on it or let it ruin the rest of your presentation.
  • If you get asked a question that you don’t understand, it’s okay to say, “I don’t understand your question. Could you please repeat it?” If you aren’t sure what the answer is, say, “I don’t know the answer at this point but will get back to you as soon as I can.” Being honest about not knowing can be seen as a sign of experience and maturity.
  • Practice at home in front of a mirror. If you can, record your presentation and play it back. Look for areas of improvement.
  • Time how long your presentation takes. Run through the presentation a few times with a friend.
  • Take a few deep breaths before your presentation and remember to breathe normally.
  • Don’t apologize for being nervous. For the most part, nervousness isn’t seen by the audience (though you may feel like everyone can see it). Apologizing for it just draws attention to it (by you and by the audience). Also, remember that your interviewers have been in your shoes before and understand what you are feeling. Think of them as your colleagues who want you to be successful, not as interviewers assessing you.

If you are a little nervous, don’t worry, it's normal. This can be good thing – especially if you channel that energy into a good presentation. Many people have fears of public speaking. Practicing can allay those fears and make sure that you are not too anxious. Practicing also helps with interruptions; you will find it much easier to get back on track if you’ve been through your presentation several times.

Using PowerPoint, Projectors and Other Devices


  • Check the equipment before you start your presentation. Make sure all the equipment works the way you expect it to work. Also, make sure the lighting level is sufficient and there are no bright lights interfering with your presentation or casting a glare on the screen.
  • Stand to one side of the projector/flip chart and face your audience, not the screen.
  • Minimize the text on your slides/sheets to 30 - 40 words in a large font size (20 – 24 point). Sans Serif fonts are more identifiable and easily read; so you may want to consider using something like Arial, Tahoma or Verdana. Make sure all slides are easy to read from a distance.  
  • Whenever possible, use bullets rather than full sentences – they help minimize words on a slide/sheet. Don’t use more than five bullets per slide, and don’t have more than five or six words per bullet.
  • Pictures, tables, diagrams and charts significantly enhance a presentation. Try to use them instead of text or bullet points.
  • Using color on PowerPoint or on slides is fine, but stay away from bright colors (like yellow and possibly orange) because they don’t always display properly and are hard to see. You can use bright colors if they are contrasted against a dark background (like yellow text on a blue background).
  • Slides can contain speaking prompts or questions to remind you or help you engage the audience. Prompts can consist of graphics or text.
  • Each slide should last about 1.5 - 2 minutes.
  • Have printed copies or your presentation as a back-up to equipment failures.
  • Write down your main points on index cards and use them as prompts and as a backup in case of equipment failure.
  • Have a back up way of accessing your PowerPoint presentation: e-mail the presentation to the selection committee before the interview and bring it on a USB drive.
  • Have a variety of slides to make sure your presentation is balanced: some with images and charts, some with bullets, etc.
  • For a 10-minute presentation, you should use three to five slides. Eight or nine slides is good for a 15-minute presentation. More than that can be overwhelming or distracting to the audience.

Relaxing Before a Presentation


Relaxing before a presentation is essential for success. Here are some tips to help you relax.
  • First and foremost, get the proper amount of sleep the night before your presentation. Nothing knocks you off your game quicker than a lack of sleep; and coffee is not a good substitute for sleep; sleep is the only good substitute for sleep.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink a lot of water (but not so much that you constantly have to run to the bathroom). You may want to avoid stimulants like coffee and tea. Also, eat something but don’t stray from your norm. If you normally have oatmeal for breakfast, stick to it.
  • Get a good sense of the room. Since this is an interview, you probably won’t have the opportunity to tour the room before your interview, so make note of the room before your presentation. This will help you feel more comfortable in an unfamiliar setting.
  • Remember that the audience is on your side. Whether they are interviewers deciding on a candidate, colleagues listening to you at a convention, or any number of other possibilities; they are there because they want to hear what you have to say. Realizing this and knowing that they want you to succeed will put you in a better mindset for the presentation.
  • Visualize yourself giving the presentation: walking to the podium or front of the room, speaking clearly and concisely, giving a successful presentation, answering all questions, and ending on a strong and confident note.
  • When you are prompted to give your presentation, take a few deep breaths and count to 5 (or 8, 10 or whatever reasonable number you like). This puts you in control of the situation and helps you get into your presentation mindset. It also allows the audience to settle in before you start.

After the Presentation


Pat yourself on the back after your presentation. For interviews that require presentations, you will most likely begin with the presentation; so a good pat on the back can launch you into a successful interview. Also, realize that making presentations is a skill – one that improves every time you give one. You are well on your way to being a successful presenter.


Return to Top