Presentations can be the most terrifying part of an assessment centre. Many people are nervous about speaking in public (glossophobia, if you want the technical term for it), but with plenty of preparation, you should be able to nail that assessment centre presentation.
What will the presentation be about?
So what will they ask you to talk about? This will vary from company to company. Some will set topics along the lines of: “Why should we employ you?”, “Why do you want to work for this company?” or something else related to the specific role or the industry.
They might give you the theme in advance. For instance, you might be given the topic on the day of the assessment centre and then be given half an hour or fifteen minutes to prepare. Alternatively, you might be given the theme the night before the second day of the assessment centre.
What will the employer be looking for?
Some people get so nervous about the presentation that they forget to think about what the employer will want them to demonstrate, such as:
– Evidence of strong communication skills;
– The ability to process, organise and prioritise key information;
– Commercial awareness;
– Enthusiasm and a genuine interest in the industry, the company and the job.
How should I prepare for my assessment centre presentation?
First of all, you’ll want to do plenty of research into the topic. Gather together useful information, facts, statistics and read around the subject. Once you’ve done your research, pinpoint your key points or the most important information you want to highlight. You’ll only have a short time to give your presentation, so you might want to prioritise which information is vital to your presentation and which bits are less important. Most people will only include a fraction of their research in the presentation.
It’s a good idea to find out what kind of facilities will be available for your presentation and what format it will take. Who will you be presenting to? Will you be allowed to use a projector, flip chart or PowerPoint presentation? Make sure you know how long the presentation will be and what they will be expecting from it. You can usually get an indication from the topic; for instance, if they ask you to tell them why you would be good for the role, it won’t just be about selling your skills, but assessing the company’s needs and how your skills will fulfil them.
What should I include in my assessment centre presentation?
Next you’ll need to structure the content of the presentation. Like a good story, you should have a beginning, a middle and an end. Planning is essential. Often you’ll only have a limited time, say ten minutes, to give your presentation, so you’ll need to focus your presentation on two or three key points.
First of all, you’ll need to have an introduction. That means welcoming your audience, giving them a taste of what your presentation will be about and maybe even throwing in a bit of humour to build a rapport with the audience. No cheesy jokes though! Anecdotal humour always works best, or, failing that, smiling is always a good substitute. Your introduction should only take about a minute.
Your middle part comes next. This is where you explain your main points in a logical order. Run through each point, embellishing each one with relevant evidence and information. You don’t want to blast them with a deluge of information though; instead, pick out the most important material that will support your key points most effectively.
Finish your presentation off by summarising your main points, thanking the audience and asking if anyone has any questions. Don’t let your presentation tail off as you run out of things to say; give it a definitive and snappy ending.
Practice makes perfect…
Once you’ve decided on the structure and content of your presentation, practise it. Start off by practising in front of a mirror or video camera. Be critical and highlight the parts of the presentation that need more work; revise your presentation, then try it again. Practise it on other people and get honest feedback. If they look bored, then you’ll need to spice up your presentation.
Always time yourself when practising the presentation. Make sure you’ve given the right amount of time for each section. It’s also a good idea to wear a watch when it comes to the real thing. After all, there might not be a clock in the room.
Tips for delivering your assessment centre presentation…
– Don’t use a script at the presentation; you don’t want to be reading off a piece of paper. Swap your script for small cards, with short bullet points or headings to prompt you.
– Instead of looking at a piece of paper, you should maintain eye contact with the audience. Look around to engage everyone and project your voice. Speak clearly and at a moderate pace. If you start to gabble nervously, take a deep breath and slow down.
– Pay attention to your body language. Throw those shoulders back and flash those pearly whites. Stand up straight and try not to fidget. It’s all about looking confident, even if you’re shaking like a leaf on the inside.
– Project your enthusiasm through your body language and your voice. Show them that you’re passionate about what you are talking about. The more connected and interested you seem in the topic, the more engaged the audience will feel. If they see that you’re happy to be there, they will relax and enjoy your presentation too.
– Use silence to your advantage. Take a leaf out of Barack Obama’s book and pause before making killer points. Believe us, it’s far better to punctuate your presentation with pauses than gabble away in a desperate attempt to fill silences.
– Try to build rapport with your audience. Saying hello, smiling and using a smattering of anecdotal humour is a good tactic. You might want to ask them a question, hand out something or encourage a bit of audience participation.
– If you start to panic, take some slow deep breaths. If you make a mistake, don’t dwell on it. Briefly acknowledge it and then move on.
– Put some variety into the presentation. Break it up by varying the time you spend on points or by using visual aids. Don’t just drone on at them; use short snappy sentences to grab their attention.
Using visual aids & props in your assessment centre presentation…
There’s something about PowerPoint that makes the best of us go a bit trigger happy. Swirling crazy transitions? Multi-coloured flashing text? Clip Art pictures littering each page? Slide upon slide of dense bullet pointed text? We’ve all been guilty of this at some point.
If you’re going to use PowerPoint in your presentation, the first thing to remember is that it isn’t the most important thing in your presentation. Your communication skills and what you say ranks much higher. Visual aids shouldn’t be something to hide behind either; they should inform and support your presentation, but ultimately, if your computer was to crash, you should be able to get along just fine without them.
The function of visual aids, whether it’s handouts, slides or a flip chart, should be to help the audience understand what you’re saying, or to clarify a point. They should be laid out clearly and simply. If you’re using slides, use a large font size and bullet points for your text. Simple formatting, such as using bold, can be adopted to make key words or phrases stand out.
Your visual aids shouldn’t be too text heavy. Use pictures, charts, graphs or tables to break up the text. These are good for keeping the audience’s attention and offering relief from a verbal/text onslaught.
You don’t want to use too many visual aids. A PowerPoint consisting of around four slides and a short handout should do the trick. Handouts are useful, as they give the audience something to take away and write notes on.
In fact, you don’t have to use visual aids in your presentation at all, unless they specifically ask you to do so. A well-delivered, concisely argued and tightly constructed oral presentation trumps a boring, clunky presentation with flashy slides any day.
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