Preparing your interview presentation

Now it's time to seal the deal...

If you have succeeded in getting to final interview for a professional role within the rail or engineering sectors, the chances are that you will be asked to deliver a short presentation to the panel. 

You will usually be given a specific topic to prepare: typically this might be to address a business problem and make recommendations on how you would tackle this when in post.

Remember upon delivering a presentation the panel will be judging the quality of your ideas, the clarity of your thinking and your verbal communication skills. 


Know your audience

The most important thing is to know who you’re going to be speaking to. This will inevitably influence what you say and how you pitch your presentation. Find out how many people will be on the panel, their status, their expertise and any knowledge levels you can safely assume. Do your research on the company to get a good understanding of the corporate style and culture.

This information is vital in helping you pull together the right amount of material and pitching it at the right level. Once you’ve established these details, you can get to work on the all-important structure.


Getting the right structure

Make sure from the offset you have a clear understanding of each of the relevant sections of the presentation in line with the question, scenario or briefing document.

Your presentation should follow a clear structure – with a strong opening, main body and ending – as this will help you stay focused and avoid losing track of your thoughts if you are nervous.

Develop a powerful introduction and close, as these are the times when your audience will be most attentive. Ensure that your ideas are clear and come in a logical sequence, using sentences that are short and to the point.


Timing is everything

Most of us have experienced ‘death by PowerPoint’ at some time -that sinking feeling that comes from seeing ‘slide 1 of 60’ pop up on the screen, or staring at densely-packed slides as the presenter reads the text out word-for-word.

AVOID this presentation style at all costs! Remember, a PowerPoint presentation should act as a visual aid, not a script for the presenter. It’s also worth noting that the more text that is included on slides, the more distracting this becomes for the interview panel. They may miss an important element of the verbal presentation whilst trying to read the content on the slides.


The importance of content

The maximum content should be a headline and perhaps three or four bullets per slide with graphs and diagrams where appropriate. It should be there to help emphasise what you’re saying, not to take the focus away.

Use SmartArt graphics to illustrate processes, relationships, matrices or lists. When giving case study examples of your experience, use images as a visual aid and to support key statements.

Flashy animations may show your technical expertise, but can cause major problems in distracting your audience and confusing you when it comes to pressing the button in the right places.


Taking questions

Dealing with questions gives you the opportunity to further demonstrate your knowledge of your subject. Let your audience know in advance that you will be willing to take questions at the end so they don’t disrupt the flow of you presentation.

Take your time to answer, be ready to defend yourself and don’t argue with a questioner. If you do come up against a conflict of opinions, don’t try to win the battle -search for a good compromise position. Inviting other questions or views from the other members of the audience may help you diffuse a potentially prickly situation