When you put “presenting” in perspective, you realize how broad the term really is. I would think that when you hear the word presentation, you immediately picture one person standing in front of an audience with their slides on a screen behind them. But presentations are much more than that, and really, you’re always presenting. When you answer your office phone to help a customer – when you meet a client for lunch – when you share information via social networks – these are all presentations. Even outside of the business world, when you’re at a social event and want to meet that attractive stranger, you’re going to have to present yourself. What do you want them to remember about you? How can you keep their interest? What are your common interests and/or concerns?
So I’m surprised that it’s taken me so long to write a post about the job interview process, because that’s one of the most important presentations you’ll ever give. Friends and colleagues of mine often ask me how they can present themselves effectively to the interviewer. One of the best pieces of job interview-related advice I’ve ever read came from Mark Cenedella, CEO of TheLadders.com. He wrote a blog post about how others ace their interviews, and his advice cuts to the core of presentation effectiveness:
- Pick three points and stick to them
- It’s not about you
- Have great questions
You can read Mark’s post to learn how focusing on these three points will help you ace that interview. However, all three points apply to delivering an effective presentation as well. Let me explain why.
Pick three points and stick to them
Presenters often have so much information they want to convey to the audience that it results in information overload. The audience is so overwhelmed that they leave without a single clear point from the presentation. Pick three (or even just one) clear and concise points for your presentation and stick to them. Make sure every slide is necessary and relates back to one of these three points. If you remain disciplined, you will ensure that the audience remembers these points when they think back on your presentation. In this case, more is not better.
It’s not about you
Your presentation isn’t about you or your product – it’s about your audience’s problems, needs, concerns, and how your product/service can change all that. Just like the job interview isn’t about how you, the potential employee, can benefit from this job – it’s about how the hiring manager’s problems, needs, and concerns will be solved by hiring you. Try your best to put yourself in your audience’s shoes and figure out what concerns them, because if what you’re talking about doesn’t apply to them and doesn’t make their life better then you will immediately be tuned out. It’s all about your audience and how you can offer them something of value, and that does for presenting, marketing, advertising, sales, and the like.
Have great questions
I’m sure you all see how this applies to job interviews, but how does this apply to presenting? A person’s brain needs to constantly be stimulated to keep its attention. Asking questions to your audience, challenging them to think, be creative, and problem solve is one way to engage them. They’ll feel like they're part of the presentation and more involved than if they simply listened to you speak for God knows how long. I’m not challenging you to stump them, but make sure your content gets them thinking, questioning the status-quo and why your product/service is going to revolutionize your category. Even if it’s just rhetorical, having great questions helps you learn about your audience (depending on what you ask) and gets your audience involved, which is always a good thing.
A job interview may provide a different venue and style, but it’s still a presentation – you presenting yourself to the interviewer. If you make sure you practice in advance then you’ll nail that interview just like you nail your standard presentations. Realize that (under normal circumstances) the interviewer wants you to do well because they want to fill this role. Remain positive, stick to your points, and you’ll do great!