John Wayne and Interview Presentations - 1st June 2017

Usually towards the end of the recruitment process, you may be asked to do a presentation. The level, length and depth of presentation will depend on the type of role at stake but, safe to say, if you’ve been asked to present, it’s good news. It means you’re in with a good shot of landing the role. So, what can you do to avoid falling at the last hurdle?

The best advice came from John Wayne, Hollywood’s favourite cowboy. When asked the secret of his acting success he said: “Talk low. Talk slow. And don’t say too much.”

OK, so maybe John Wayne didn’t have to use PowerPoint but follow these simple rules and you won’t go too far wrong.

  1. Prepare thoroughly – You can say too much but it’s unlikely you can prepare too much. Map out your content and know it well. It shouldn’t read like a script but a clear structure is essential. Practise it a few times.
  1. Keep it simple – Keeping it simple becomes the most complicated thing for many people! 3 main points should be your aim. If you find 3 impossible, try 3 main headlines with sub-sections below each.
  1. Have end in mind – Always begin with the end in mind. What will the interviewing panel or person think about you and feel about you at the end of your presentation? Everything you do and say is about creating that feeling.
  1. Focus on delivery – It’s unlikely you’ll come up with ideas or strategies they haven’t already considered. It’s the way you prepare and present that they’re really assessing, not your brilliant ideas. Delivery is everything. Make sure you make eye contact with all the interviewers and remember to smile sometimes.

Traps on how your presentation can unravel and how you can come unstuck include:

Talking for too long. People have short attention spans. The default in presentations (made worse by nerves) is to talk too much, and to think that content and information are the key. No, engagement is the key. Keep it short and, if possible, make it interactive.

Going overboard with slides. Making slides the strongest part of your presentation won’t work! They want to listen, not read a screen. Slides tend to make you talk to a screen, a real no-no. When you are nervous, the more you have to fiddle with the more that can go wrong – especially if you’ve been given equipment to use on the day that you’re not used to.

Getting tongue-tied. Going blank is the fear for most people and it’s a rational fear. You minimise this by two factors: keeping it simple and practising in advance. Very brief notes (headlines only) will help you too.

Motormouth. I know it’s easier said than done but try to enjoy the presentation. It’s your moment to shine after all. Remember it’s not a race to finish. Under pressure, we all talk too quickly. Having a structure helps, especially if you consciously pause for a second or two between each part. Breathe, relax and as said earlier keep eye contact. Don’t talk to your feet.

Going Flat. I’m not sure which is worse, people with verbal diarrhoea when they give a presentation or people who become very, very monotone. Going flat can be excruciating. Few things kill your chance of a job offer more than boring people! The longer you talk, the more likely that you’ll lose energy. Mix it up. Make it upbeat. Keep points short. Sentences too. Interact. Ok?