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Career Futures Series


Giving Presentations Preparing and delivering knockout presentations at interview

The advice in this publication is designed to help you plan your strategy. Think about what you have read, turn it into action points and implement them. Good luck!

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© Copyright licensed to the University of Central Lancashire To request permission to reproduce any text from this booklet for commercial purposes contact: Futures Team University of Central Lancashire Revised 2011/Version 5

Introduction Some basic observations about presentations… How to prepare… and How to improve. On attendance at a job interview or at an assessment centre you may be asked to give a presentation, usually to a mixed group of other candidates and assessors. This will either be a solo effort or you will join others in a group presentation. The presentation is, without doubt, the chief cause of anxiety for most candidates. And giving presentations, you won’t be shocked to hear, is an activity that even the most experienced manager finds daunting. So here are a few ground rules.

Students with disabilities will have to inform the employer if adjustments are needed e.g. alternative equipment, services of an interpreter or lip speaker. It is a good idea to let the interpreter/lip speaker see the presentation before the interview. It will be helpful to you and the employer to make the employer aware that the use of interpreter or lip speaker will affect the length of the presentation because of the time lag. This is especially important where the length of the presentation is part of the assessment criteria.

Every presentation needs a structure On the day, you’ll be nervous. Your mind might go a little blank. The last thing you need is the insecurity of having a presentation without a structure. A structure is helpful to the audience too. They know where they are and what’s to come. The two most common structures are as follows:   

A beginning - where you tell them what you intend to cover A middle - where you go ahead and tell them An end - where you summarise what you’ve told them.

Allow 10 per cent of the time for the introduction, 70 per cent for the middle and 20 per cent for the summary at the end.   

Situation - where you explain what the issue is Complication - where you explain the factors behind the issue and what will happen if various courses of action are taken Resolution - where you explain your proposals for a happy ending.

Having a structure is like performing with a safety net. It’s always there for you if you lose your way, or your mind goes blank. Even if you haven’t given a presentation before, having a structure will carry you through. Once you have a structure, you can decide what kind of notes you will use. Never read from a script. It will make you sound as natural as a speaking clock. It is also unwise to have the talk written out in detail as a prompt sheet - the chances are you will not locate the thing you want to say amongst all the other text. You should know most of what you want to say - if you don't then you should not be giving the talk! So prepare cue cards which have key words and phrase. Postcards are ideal for this. If you have a tendency to speak too quickly, write “SLOW DOWN” at the start of each section. And don't forget to number the cards in case you drop them.

Be ruthless with the content Inevitably, planning a presentation will involve you in collecting too much information. Five minutes in front of an audience is only enough time for, say, four big ideas or messages. Remember what it feels like to listen to a speaker. Too much information and people will begin to switch off. So be ruthless. Prune down your talk to the essentials. Keep to the time allowed. If you can, keep it short. It's better to under-run than over-run. Stick to the plan for the presentation, don't be tempted to digress - you will run out of time before you have got to your summary.

Your body language can make a huge difference to your presentation The actual message of your talk is transmitted partly, of course, through the words you speak. But research has shown that most of the message is transmitted nonverbally, by the way you present.


Nerves almost always make you speak faster. Force yourself to slow down and pause between sections of your talk. Avoid mumbling; get some inflection into your voice.


Communication is always easier with eye contact. Sometimes it’s difficult to look at the audience but you must try. Not only will they listen more attentively but you

will be able to judge how well you are coming across. individuals and share your presentation with all of them.

Try to speak to them as


You don’t have to wander around when you give a presentation. Unnecessary movement will distract the audience’s attention. If you do move, move for a purpose and move purposefully. Beware the repetitive and half-unconscious movements that are the product of nerves - playing with the keys in the pocket or pacing up and down.


Don’t be self-conscious about your hands. Use them naturally. If you make gestures when you talk to your friends, use the same gestures in your presentation. Keep your hands away from your face, though, and resist the temptation to fiddle with your pen.

Don’t start until you are ready If you’re nervous, your body will be screaming at you to begin and get it over with. What tends to happen next is that you start when neither you nor the audience is ready. Take your time. Before you say anything, pause and look round the audience. Sense their attention. When they are settled and ready, you can begin. You may even feel a sense of power as all eyes gradually turn to you.

Master the visual aids You may be invited to use a flipchart or PowerPoint to support your presentation. Without being too dogmatic, there are certain things to bear in mind when using visual aids:

They must be visual 

Don’t put too much written information on your visual aids. They should contain the minimum information necessary. To do otherwise risks making the slide unreadable or will divert your audience's attention so that they spend time reading the slide rather than listening to you.

If you have time, try to use diagrams, charts or graphs to illustrate your points - they are inevitably more visual than words.

Try to limit words per slide to a maximum of 10. Use a reasonable size font and a typeface which will enlarge well. Typically use a minimum 18pt Times Roman on OHPs, and preferably larger. A guideline is: if you can read the OHP from a distance of 2 metres (without projection) then it's probably OK.

Use colour on your slides but avoid orange and yellow which do not show up very well when projected. For text only, white or yellow on blue is pleasant to look at and easy to read.

They must be a support not a crutch 

Having a lot of visual aid slides might make you feel more secure but you will probably bore the pants off the audience and, more seriously, make them concentrate on the visuals rather than on you.

Only use enough visual aids to clarify what you are saying. They must never take over. As a rule of thumb, allow no more than 2 minutes for each PowerPoint slide you use.

Feel comfortable with visual aids 

If possible, have a run through your visual aids before the presentation or find an empty lecture room at university.

Make sure you know how to turn the equipment on and off

This graduate’s experience of delivering a presentation provides some useful learning points:

“Six of us had to give a presentation - dissecting one of the company‟s products and explaining how we would do it better. One confident chap volunteered to go first. To get it out of the way? No, to blind us with his work. He had prepared graphs, charts, handouts, the whole nine yards, while the rest of use relied on a few scribbled notes on the back of a postcard. „Is this how it‟s done?‟ I wondered. But then he came to rely completely on his handout, reading from them, repeating what we already had in front of us. Nowhere had the company specified this sort of treatment was necessary, and as the others took their turn and used their cards as mental reminders rather than as auto cues, the more convinced I became that our approach was the best one. „Mr. Handout‟ didn‟t get the job, but neither did I...... they decided I was overqualified and would I be interested in a new position they were creating?”

Visual aids shouldn’t conflict with what you’re saying

Never leave a visual aid showing if you are talking about something else. It’s very confusing for the audience. This is particularly important with an OHP because of the size of the image. Turning it off will re-focus the audience’s attention on you, where it belongs.

Don’t talk to visual aids Talk to the audience and not to the flipchart or the screen. This may seem like obvious advice but visual aids exert a strange influence on presenters and even the most experienced can be seen, their back to the audience, talking to the screen.

How to prepare And finally, unless you’re almost unique, you will not be able to give a decent presentation unless you have recently practised one. Everybody improves the more they present. If you are given the presentation topic in advance, in addition to preparing what you are going to say, you must actually give the presentation too. If the first time you present is in front of a critical audience, you will not really know how long it is or how it comes across. Overrunning is a capital crime and you will be marked down for it. If you can’t practise in front of others, do it in front of the mirror. Or you could use a digital recorder, set it up to record whilst you are rehearsing the presentation. You can then play it back section by section and listen to how you have presented, this can be a way to hear any repetition, negative use of language or how slow or fast you deliver the presentation. You can anticipate the nightmare of having a presentation sprung on you without warning in an assessment centre by preparing a short presentation on just about any topic before you arrive. You might never need it but the practice will have done you no harm. Don’t forget to prepare also for the possibility of questions at the end.

Tips on handling questions arising from your presentation: 

Try to anticipate what they will ask you and prepare some example answers. Remember it is unlikely that you will be asked exactly the same question so do not memorise a scripted answer – rather think of the key points you’d like to get across if asked a question around a particular theme.

If you are presenting to a larger group, repeat the question so that everyone can hear what was asked.

If you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s best to be honest. Tell the person who asked the question that you will try to find the answer and make arrangements for getting back to them.

Do try to relax and view the question session as positive! After all this is your chance to clarify your message or to reinforce a point.

Summary Golden Rules 

Remember to smile and show enthusiasm for your subject

Be interesting

Have a logical structure-beginning, middle and end.

Make notes, do not read from a script

Use words that you are comfortable with

Practise giving presentations before the real thing

Keep close attention to timing

End on a high note, don’t fade away

Don’t...! 

Read from a script

Mumble the message

Be too long

Too many slides (death by PowerPoint)

Apologise for yourself


Use distracting body language – pacing, fiddling with paper etc

Some web links The Futures website contains a range of careers booklets, offering advice and tips to help you at You can also find information on about relevant events, elective modules and the Futures Award. You might also want to check out the recorded online events, covering a number of topics, at

If you would like further help or want to speak to a careers adviser please call at Futures Reception, ring us or use our e-guidance system on the Futures website to email us with queries.


6. Preparing and delivering knockout presentations at interview C C a a r r e e e e r r F F u u t t u u r r e e s s S S e e r r i i e e s s