- Nail down your key message. If you’ve been given a topic, try to sum up your key thoughts in a couple of sentences to get your mind going.
- Expand on these points. Flesh out your presentation with a clear thread or argument running throughout it. Come up with interesting anecdotes from your own experience to illustrate each point.
- Do your research. It helps to have some hard facts to back up your presentation. Read around the subject and incorporate some supporting stats if you can.
- Structure your presentation carefully. Once you have a fair idea of what you want to say, structure it so that it flows well. Introduce your topic, explaining what you’re planning to cover, then move from point to point in a streamlined way. Finish with a conclusion that ties everything together and give recommendations where appropriate.
- Put together a PowerPoint presentation. It’s great to have visual aids to bring your points home and take some of the focus off you. Make sure it’s easy to read, with text broken up using bullet points, charts, graphs and images. Don’t overfill your slides or your interviewers will spend all their time frantically trying to read them rather than listening to what you’re saying. As a rough guide, use three or four slides for a five-minute presentation and five or six for a ten-minute presentation.
- Practise it! This is a really key stage. Not only will it help you feel more confident about the content of your presentation, but it will enable you to get the timing right. If it’s too short, it may appear that you haven’t prepared well. If it’s too long, your interviewers may lose interest or cut you off halfway through. Deliver it at an even pace, not rushing through to get it over with. If you can, present to friends and family in the preparation stage as they may be able to give you valuable feedback. Use good eye contact and positive body language, and don’t be afraid to smile from time to time.
- Prepare for the unexpected. Remember that technology isn’t infallible. Take printouts of your slides just in case and make sure you have a hard copy of your presentation to hand.
- Be ready for questions. It’s likely that your interviewers will ask questions based on your presentation. Try to imagine what they might ask in advance and come up with some relevant responses. The more prepared you are, and the better you know your topic, the more relaxed you’ll feel when you’re under the spotlight.
Remember that the panel will be judging the quality of your ideas, the clarity of your thinking, your verbal and organisation skills, and your formal presentation skills. However, they also want to see that you’re human, so try to be yourself and relax as much as possible.