Presentation skills are essential in the workplace, so expect graduate recruiters to test yours during assessment centres. If the thought of speaking in front of an audience fills you with dread, you might want to start preparing early to deliver your best performance during the big day.
Presentations at assessment centres may come in different formats (read about the different types of assessment centre presentations), but the methods by which you can prepare for them remain the same. Read on for some tips on how you can set yourself up to give an amazing presentation.
Read the Brief or Instructions Carefully
With any presentation, it’s important to be clear on what to present and then package your content accordingly. You most likely will get marks for fulfilling the brief/instruction as well as how well you present.
For planned presentations, you’ll receive a presentation brief before the assessment day. Read carefully and take the time to plan out your content so that it fulfils all the requirements. It’s no use having an incredible-looking presentation that does not ultimately address the presentation topic(s)! It shows that you do not understand the instructions given.
If you don’t have the luxury of a planned presentation and are asked to give one on-the-spot during the assessment day, then don’t panic. Read the instructions carefully and discuss key talking points with your team, and feel free to clarify the instructions with recruiters if you need to.
Either way, keep your focus on the main presentation topic and take care not to fall into the trap of over-preparing. A good indicator of this is if your presentation contains too much secondary information which takes away the focus from the main topic of the presentation. Remember that you only have a limited time to pitch your ideas, so keep the content short and relevant.
Beware of IT Issues
This tip doesn’t apply so much to on-the-spot presentations, since the recruiter will likely provide you with an in-house device for you to work on your slides.
On the other hand, planned presentations require you to prepare your materials at home with your own personal devices. Remember that slide visuals, formatting, and fonts may not translate well over to other devices when moving your presentation files around. Keep the format and template of your slides simple, use basic fonts, and avoid any complicated plug-ins, animations, or graphics.
If you have access to it, we suggest using Microsoft Powerpoint to build your slides as it is more universally compatible. Avoid cloud-based presentation builders like Canva. Those don’t always convert well to other presentation software. The employer may also have firewalls on their office Wi-Fi which block access to various sites, so it is not a wise idea to rely on an online-only presentation on the day itself!
Present Your Slides, Not Read off Them
Remember that the point of slides is to be a visual aid for your audience to follow along with what you’re saying. Don’t read off them like notes! Do your best to convey your points in your own words.
Remember that you want the recruiters’ attention on you, not the slides. The best use of slides is for graphically presenting information that is difficult to describe orally (e.g. through graphs, charts, illustrations, etc.), not for showing blocks of text.
Another common mistake you may make at your assessment centre is to use too many slides. As a rule of thumb, use no more than one slide per two minutes of presenting, and keep the slides sparse!
Practice Out Loud
Take the time to practice your presentation out loud. You’ll be surprised by how differently it comes out compared to simply running through it in your head. Record yourself or get a family member to listen to your presentation. This is a great way to see where you could add intonation, pauses or emphasis.
Furthermore, practising out loud will also give you an accurate estimate of how long it takes. If you feel more secure having cue cards in hand, write them on envelope-sized cards, not A4 paper which can distract from your presentation.
Let’s not forget on-the-spot presentations! Before assessment day, do mock presentations to practice as well as get a feel of the presentation planning process. Give yourself 10 – 15 minutes to prepare content and slides for a random topic and then time your presentation. That way, you won’t go into the assessment centre unprepared.
When Giving Your Presentation…
… remember to follow these suggested tips to make your presentation clear and digestible for the audience:
- Use simple, clear language. Break down what you are saying into simple sentences. It’s a good idea to start your presentation with an agenda and end with a summary. Tell them what you’re going to say beforehand, then remind them what you said after the fact.
- Look at the audience, not the slides. We know you’re nervous! But try your best to make eye contact with the audience and take your cue from your note cards.
- Save questions for the end of the presentation. Setting aside time for audience questions after your presentation is over helps you focus on the presentation itself, instead of having to constantly switch between presenting and answering questions on the spot.