Two students facing a whiteboard across a meeting room table

As part of a graduate job interview you’re often asked to deliver a short presentation either to the interview group or to a panel. You’ll either be given a specific topic to prepare, either addressing a current issue, something related to the job you are applying for or something you are interested in. Being able to communicate with clarity directly impacts your career and income, and is necessary for a range of industries including fashion, graphic design, marketing, education and financial services. 

A nerve-wracking experience, it's a great chance to show potential employers your personality and what you can achieve, away from the formal interview question and answers procedure. You'll display skills of time management, persuasion, ability to stay calm under pressure, research and public speaking.

They'll be judging you on: the quality of your ideas; the clarity of your thinking; your verbal communications skills, especially your ability to influence and engage your audience; and your organisation skills including how well you prepared you are beforehand and how you manage your time within the presentation.

As well-developed and delivered presentation can put you at the top of the pile, whilst a poor presentation can have a tremendously damaging effect on your chances of landing the job, how can you make sure you reach the top?

Here are our 5 top tips to for an impactful, memorable and engaging presentation:

1. Research

Make sure that you research and know your topic inside out. Even if you don’t put all the information into your presentation, have relevant facts and figures to hand, which you can mention when taking questions, enhancing your credibility and showing off your impressive levels of preparation. You'll also want to make sure you know what technology you'll have to hand as well as your time limit. 

Also remember to research your panel members and those critiquing you. Using LinkedIn and the company’s website you can find out what their job responsibilities, priorities, professional backgrounds, expertise and interests are. Consider what aspects of your presentation might interest them the most and focus on this, whilst giving some thought to whether the panel members work with one another and how you might deal with the relationship between them.

2. Structure

You need to have a clear message that runs through your presentation with: a short introduction explaining what the presentation is about and what you are going to cover; a development of your argument broken into clear sections or themes (there might be one slide per theme), ensuring your argument has a logical structure; a summary of your arguments; and a clear conclusion with specific recommendations, identifying the resources required to deliver them. sharing her vision for the department she was hoping to lead, complete with ideas for new programs and innovative ways to reach new clients.

You need to make sure that you have a clear understanding of each of the relevant sections and that each section should flow on naturally follow from the other. Make sure your sentences are to the point and develop a powerful introduction and close, as these are the times when your audience will be most attentive. So it feels like a story and you pull in the people hiring you and the others listening. 

3. Presentation

Choose a mode of presentation that works best for the ideas you want to present and the people you are presenting to. You may want to stick to the tried and tested traditional style of PowerPoint, whilst there are different programmes reflect different skills. For example, PowToon is a free animated presentation software that may be best put to the test by animators or graphic designers. Another option is Prezi, an online tool which offers a 3D open canvas for presentations.

Remember to keep your presentation succinct and allow the audience to ask follow-up questions at the end rather than rushing through a mound of information. Make sure your slides are visually clear and not text-heavy; bullet points, graphs and diagrams may be appropriate. Your introduction, summary and concluding remarks should make up 20-30% of your presentation, whilst the other 70-80% should encompass your arguments. If your presentation requires more detail, this can be given as a supporting hard copy handout.

Don’t start the slides before you have addressed the panel members first as you don’t want them to be distracted by what’s on the screen when you are introducing yourself. As you progress through your presentation, give your audience time to digest what’s on each slide before you begin talking again.

4. Practise

Once you’ve written your presentation, run through it with friends and family. You may find that you’ve missed some vital information, or haven’t got the flow up to scratch, and update your presentation accordingly. You can also ask them to give you some follow up questions so that you get the hang of thinking on your feet. 

Familiarise yourself with your presentation so that you’ll talk naturally on the day, getting rid of all those ‘um’s and ‘like’s and nerves. While you don’t have to memorise your presentation, you should run through it enough times so that you’re comfortable with it and don’t have to fumble around with prompt cards or PowerPoint slides.

5. Follow Up Questions

The way that you approach questions demonstrates your knowledge of your subject and preparation. Go through your presentation and work out what questions the panel might ask, especially given their job roles and personal perspectives. Make sure you have an answer ready for these questions. 

When answering questions remember to answer the question actually asked, and not the one you fancy answering. If you are not sure of the question, as the panel member to repeat it and expand on it, and you can take a little time to consider an answer.  

If you don't know the answer to a question it is perfectly fine and even appreciated to say so, and offer to provide further information at a later date.

6. Delivery

Delivery starts before you even enter the room so remember to carry yourself with confidence and smile. Open with a punchy line and don't forget an upbeat, memorable ending. Introduce yourself and the topic before you pull up the first slide and remember that panel members are more than capable of reading the words off your slides, so you need to use them as prompts to elaborate your points. 

With all that practise you’ll be great at pulling off a conversational tone. Think of your presentation as a two-way conversation as your interviewer is following your chain of ideas. Speak with confidence and authority, and if you feel yourself running away or rambling, take deep breaths which will also help you to stay calm.

Remember that regular eye contact with members of your audience makes all the difference and try not to let your gaze to drift vaguely round the room or over their heads. Avoid glancing down at your laptop screen. If possible, move away from it, and step out from behind the podium or a desk, bringing yourself out in front of the audience so they can see you, your gestures, and your stance.

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