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Tips for creating great presentations

Careers Advice

Presentations may seem daunting but you should view them as a great chance to control how you come across in an interview, away from the more formal question and answer process.

You may be given a topic to present or you may have to pick one yourself but either way, think hard about what your audience will want to hear and how you want to be perceived.

Presentations: how to prepare

No matter how confident you are in your presentation skills, one thing you’re in complete control of is how well you prepare for presentations.

  • Do your research and make plenty of notes before you start writing presentations.
  • You should know as much as possible around the topic of your presentations. This is because you will need to be ready to answer questions when they have finished. If you’re confident that you know your subject, this will come across in all your presentations and so help you relax.

Presentations: the right structure

A clear structure to presentations is important if you want to keep your audience’s attention.

A basic simple to follow template is a three-stage structure of

  1. Introduction
  2. Explanation
  3. Summary or conclusion.

While you should by no means ignore the middle part, it is worthwhile remembering that the beginning and end of presentations are when an audience is at its most receptive. Your most important points should be made during these sections.

Think about ending your presentations with a call to action. Your aim should be to leave your audience inspired, wanting to take action and wanting to employ you to help them do it.

Do I have to use a Powerpoint?

People who know what they are talking about don’t need PowerPoint – Steve Jobs

Don’t feel that you have to use a slideshow to accompany your presentations. Too many slides can be boring, confusing or take attention away from you and what you’re saying.

However, some visual aspect to presentations can help capture your audience’s attention.

Consider using a brief Powerpoint presentation or printed handouts to emphasise your points.

If you’re using a slideshow, pause briefly after switching slides so the audience can take in the visual material before you continue talking again.

Presentations: beating delivery nerves

It can be quite nerve-wracking being the centre of attention, especially when you’re feeling under pressure to perform at your best but there are a number of things you can do to make presentations engaging.

  1. Rehearse. By the time you present at interview, you should be in double figures for the number of times you have performed your presentation. Practise in the mirror, then in front of family and friends. Ask for their feedback and take it on board.
  2. Learn it by heart. There are no scripts or cues in the workplace and it will impress your audience if you can deliver your presentations without either. Practise and practise until you know presentations word-for-word.
  3. Don’t rush. If you want your audience to remember what you’re saying, pronounce words properly and go at a slow pace. The slower you talk, the less likely you are to make mistakes.
  4. Emphasise with eye contact. While you should present to everyone in the room by moving your body to face different people in the audience, eye contact at the end of sentences will help emphasise what you are saying. Looking away at the end of sentences will have the opposite effect. You should also try and avoid looking down at your feet or above your audience’s head.
  5. Smile like you mean it. Be confident and try and enjoy your chance to prove yourself to a potential employer. The more you smile and are enthusiastic, the more likable you come across.