How To Deliver A Killer Presentation At Your Assessment Centre Or Interview
Delivering an assessment centre presentation can be tough, but this guide will show you how to create, display and deliver a world class presentation at your job interview or assessment centre. Let’s get started!
2 important starting point resources
- Get hold of my Ultimate Interview & Assessment Day Guide – it’s filled with tips, tricks & insider-secrets that will help you succeed on the big day.
- Listen to my podcast episode on how to deliver successful presenations here.
Give yourself an advantage & prepare perfectly
This free success guide is split into 3 parts
- Part 1: Create (Planning and building your presentation.)
- Part 2: Display (How to connect a projector, iPad etc.)
- Part 3: Deliver (Expert tips for actually presenting your presentation.)
Assessment centre interview presentation: A dark art
Giving a presentation at your interview or assessment centre is a very worthwhile test. Presenting is a skill that is highly valued in the modern business environment and it’s easy to see why:
- A good presentation is an incredibly powerful and effective way to communicate. It’s a great way to deliver an idea/message/story and being a strong presenter will greatly enhance your reputation and personal ‘brand’.
- Few things are more tedious than a bad presentation. Being boring, long-winded or overwhelming your audience with information are cardinal sins and few things will stain your profile as quickly and memorably as a poor presentation.
Let’s start with the basics…
What is a presentation?
Typically a presentation is a group of slides created with Microsoft’s ‘Powerpoint’ program or Apple’s equivalent which is called ‘Keynote’. Having previously created the slides the author displays them to the audience in a ‘slideshow’ format. Hey presto, a presentation is born.
Assessment Centre Presentation Part 1: Create
A presentation that is effective and genuinely impactful must have two things:
The secret to achieving this is in your planning. It’s vital that your presentation structure has a logical, natural flow. If it does your audience will feel they are moving seamlessly along with you and there is an exponentially greater chance they will feel engaged/convinced/impressed by what you have to say.
‘I hate planning, let’s start making the presentation!’
Woah there cowboy. It is vital that you plan your presentation. Having a clear idea of what your presentation structure will be not only makes the presentation much more effective, coherent and persuasive, but it makes it so, so much easier to actually build. (Which saves you time and lowers stress.)
PRO TIP: Spending 1 hour to correctly plan your assessment day presentation saves you many hours later in the process and turbocharges the impact your presentation will make on the audience.
If you don’t have a clear structure in mind before you begin building your presentation you will just keep creating slide after slide in a scattergun fashion as fresh ideas pop into your mind.
This results in an unbalanced hodgepodge of ideas that don’t have a logical flow and aren’t weighted correctly in importance/relevance. (It also becomes incredibly time-consuming and difficult to edit and shape the presentation when it’s in this messy format.)
With a clear skeleton structure in place you can build your slides in confidence knowing that you’re hitting all the important points and there is a clear and transparent way to track your progress.
How to structure an interview or assessment day presentation in 7 easy steps
You need to have clarity on what your presentation is going to be about before you begin. (If you don’t have a clear brief or title in mind then consider what your desired outcome is and work back from there. It will usually become apparent very quickly.)
[Note: For most interviews and assessment centres you will be given a brief beforehand. Often something like ‘prepare a 15 minute presentation entitled “the greatest achievement of my life”‘ or ‘tell us about the most enlightening experience of your life’.]
Assessment Centre Presentation: Planning Step 1
Sit down in a quiet room with a pen and a blank piece of paper. (We strongly recommend you don’t use a PC or laptop for this stage.)
Assessment Centre Presentation: Planning Step 2
Write your central subject, title, theme or question in the middle and draw a circle around it.
Assessment Centre Presentation: Planning Step 3
Now let your mind run crazy while you brainstorm potential sub-topics and related themes. What could you include that is relevant/interesting/compelling to your central theme?
Don’t worry about which ones are best right now, or what order they should be in, just get a ton of ideas down on the page.
You should now have a piece of paper that looks something like this:
Assessment Centre Presentation: Planning Step 4
When you’re satisfied you have plenty of ideas and sub-topics on the page, write brief notes underneath each one covering the main things you would talk about in each area.
Can you see how our plan is beginning to take shape?
Assessment Centre Presentation: Planning Step 5
The next step is to review your ideas. We need to trim this list down as there are currently far too many ideas to cover. (Unless you want the presentation to last all day!)
Use a different coloured pen and mark the areas/ideas that are strongest, the most relavent & the most compelling. Cross out the weaker ideas.
Clear your mind and ask yourself:
- “What are the most important ideas/areas/sub-topics that I have on this piece of paper?”
- “Does this sub-topic strongly contribute to the main theme/idea of this presentation? Is it absolutely vital I include it?”
- “Can I group any of these sub-topics into 3-5 larger subject areas? What could I call those areas? How can I put my best ideas/points into a logical structure?”
- “Will I be comfortable talking about and answering questions on this topic in front of a group of strangers?”
- “What could I talk about naturally and confidently?”
What overarching themes or messages are there that your presentation could follow?
Slowly you will start to whittle down your list of sub-topics and what remains will be the strongest and most relevant areas that you should cover. Your paper should now look something like this:
Stop worrying! Download a 12-step assessment day cheatsheet & be perfectly prepared.
Assessment Centre Presentation: Planning Step 6
Now we need to decide on the order that we’ll present the ideas and sub-topics that made the cut.
- Which topic would make for the strongest opening to your presentation?
- Are there two topics that sit together or flow into one another well?
- Is there a narrative tale you can tell with these topics?
- Is there a natural order that suggests itself?
- What order would make the most impact to your audience and communicate your message in the clearest way?
Grab a different coloured pen and number each one.
Assessment Centre Presentation: Planning Step 7
Now it’s time to tidy this up a little and draft your final plan. (This will be the plan you will work to while actually building the presentation.)
Jot down a new plan that reflects the changes and running order we made in the previous steps. It should look something like this:
You will notice that we’ve added the following elements to the above plan:
- A ‘wow’ slide – it’s important to grab your audience’s attention at the beginning. (Why should they listen to the rest of the presentation? Why are they going to enjoy this? Startle them at the beginning – it will get them interested in what’s coming next.)
- A conclusion – it’s vital that you bring the key elements of your presentation together at the end. This reinforces all the great points you’ve made in your presentation and ensures you leave your audience with the messages/ideas/points that you want them to take from your presentation.
Time for a break, phew!
We now have our final structure. It’s packed with strong and relevant content that you are comfortable talking about and the presentation has an impactful and compelling running order.
You have made an excellent start and now have a fantastic foundation to deliver a successful presentation, well done!
Now would be a great time to go and grab a drink and clear your head. When you get back we’ll move on to building and delivering your presentation.
How To Create A Presentation Using Powerpoint
There’s several pieces of software you can use to build a presentation. The most common ones are:
- Microsoft’s ‘Powerpoint’ – This is the industry standard for presentations
- Apple’s ‘Keynote’ – Stylish, quality presentation software for Mac users
- Google Docs – Free cloud-based software from from Google
We’re going to focus on Powerpoint here as it enjoys a 95% share of the presentation market, has over 500 million users worldwide and over 30 million presentations are created with it every day. (Source: BBC)
Mac users (skip this bit if you use a PC)
NOTE: If you have a Mac with Keynote you can save Keynote presentations in Powerpoint’s ‘PPT’ file format by going to file>export and selecting the ‘PPT’ option. Unfortunately any transitions that you created in Keynote won’t be available when opened in Powerpoint.
‘Ok how do I actually create slides?’
Powerpoint is a really simple program to use and you can master the basics of giving a presentation incredibly quickly. This 5 minute tutorial video by Microsoft will get you up to speed.
If you’d like some further guidance then run through this additional tutorial from Microsoft.
Example slide structure
Feel free to experiment and play around with your slide structure, but here’s a proven structure that you can use:
- Slide 1: A title slide with a slick background image and powerful title
- Slide 2: An ‘impact’ slide, that asks a profound question or highlights a startling statistic or benefit.
- Slide 3: (OPTIONAL) A ‘contents’ slide, that outlines the bare structure of your presentation. Never, ever have more than 5 topics or sub-branches. You should move heaven and earth in your planning stage to get to 3 if possible.
(NOTE: A ‘contents’ slide isn’t always appropriate when giving a presentation. In a business or more formal setting it’s very common, but most marketing-focused and more conceptual presentations will leave this out. Some presentations work better if they appear to have a more organic flow.
If in doubt, include a contents slide as it lets your audience know what to expect and helps them orientate themselves.)
- Slides 4-6: Take your audience through ‘sub-topic 1’. Now we’re into the meat of the presentation.
- Slides 7-9: Sub-topic 2
- Slides 10-12: Sub-topic 3
- Slides 13-15: Sub-topic 4
- Slides 16-18: Sub-topic 5
- Slides 19-20: ‘Conclusion slides’ that pull together the key messages and themes of your presentation. This is your chance to hammer home your big idea / primary message / big benefit / key points.
- Slide 21: A ‘Q&A slide’ – Your opportunity to welcome questions from your audience.
- Slide 22: (OPTIONAL) The ‘farewell slide’. This is your chance to sign off and direct your audience to other areas of your work. (You may want to highlight other work you’ve done, a portfolio, LinkedIn or social media profiles etc.)
PRO TIP: The golden rule of Powerpoint is ‘less is more’. One of the biggest mistakes inexperienced presenters make is putting too much writing/data in their slides.
Examples of bad slides
Here’s a few examples of bad slides. These images highlight some typical mistakes people make when giving a presentation. Look how ‘busy’ and unappealing they are:
How boring are these slides? They are cluttered and drab and we guarantee the only thing on the audience’s mind here is ‘when will this tedious presentation end?’.
Examples of good slides
How much clearer and impactful are slides like these two?
Don’t be afraid to leave white space on your slides. Your audience will appreciate it.
Remember, your presentation isn’t a script for you to read from, it’s a visual aid to underline the points you make verbally. Your audience should be focused on you, not the screen.
When giving a presentation the screen is merely a visual aid to amplify the points you make as an engaging and intelligent speaker.
(We’ll go into more detail on how to deliver your presentation, later in this article.)
Assessment Centre Presentation Part 2: Display
Slides can be shown in a number of ways:
- Directly from a laptop or tablet (ideal for one-on-one or small group presentations)
- By plugging your laptop or tablet into a TV or external display (good for larger groups of up to 12-15 people)
- Through a projector (a must for large audiences/rooms)
The third of the above options is the most widely used in a business setting and at interviews and assessment centres.
Pro Tip: Even if you’re taking your own laptop to do a presentation always have an additional copy on a USB flash drive as a backup. Technology sometimes fails so it’s wise to take precautions. If it’s a super-important presentation we strongly recommend you also print off a paper copy and email a copy of the file to yourself.
How to connect an iPad to a TV display
Your iPad will have one of the following two types of connection, depending on how old it is. Older iPads (iPad 1,2 and 3) use the ’30-pin’ style and newer iPads (iPad 4 onwards) use the ‘lightning’ style.
Regardless of your iPad connection style, you will also need an HDMi lead which you should definitely buy online as the price markup at retailers like Best Buy and Curry’s is phenomenal: Amazon (UK) | Amazon (USA) .
Assessment Centre Presentation Part 3: Deliver
So you’ve spent hours planning and building a superb presentation that you’re really proud of?
That’s great, but remember: A presentation needs to be delivered well if it is to be received well.
A good presenter delivers their material with:
- Clarity – Makes points in a clear and coherent way
- Conviction – Appears credible and engaging to the audience
- Impact – Makes points in a powerful and convincing way
11 Pro Tips For Delivering A Perfect Presentation
PRO TIP#1 – Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse
Nothing will improve your ability to deliver your presentation more than rehearsing. Over and over and over again.
Do this so much that you know the order of the slides backwards, forwards and inside out. Record yourself doing the presentation and watch it back. Watch yourself in the mirror. How can you improve? This is huge and will help you iron out any tricky points or parts that just don’t work.
Most importantly this will make you comfortable with your presentation and the benefits of that are legion. You will appear knowledgable and credible and you’ll be able to deliver the presentation in a conversational and personal way, which is our ultimate goal.
PRO TIP#2 – Don’t just read exactly what is on the slides
This doesn’t come across well and inhibits the’conversational’ tone that the best presentations all have. Avoid this at all costs!
PRO TIP#3 – Don’t put too much information on your slides
Overloading the slide is the single quickest way to make your audience switch off. It’s like a big meal that will give them indigestion. This is bad. Think ‘breadcrumbs’. Small portions. Feed them in tiny bitesize pieces over 20 slides rather than in 5 jam-packed slides.
Few things are uglier or less appealing than a slide with 17 bullet points and a data heavy graph. It’s hard to understand and looks awful. Avoid this!
PRO TIP#4 – Make eye contact with and smile at your audience
This is hard to do if you’re an inexperienced presenter as you’ll probably prefer to look at the slides, your laptop or even the floor. Again, don’t do it!
Look your audience square in the eye and you’ll find that you feel more relaxed and they become more engaged.
PRO TIP#5 – Forget the animations & the snazzy backgrounds
- Resist the urge to have a funky blue colour as your background.
- Resist the urge to embellish your presentation with complicated animations and swooshy transitions.
Just use a white background and a clear font. Trust me on this!
PRO TIP #6 – Don’t stand rooted to the spot, move around
Don’t stay stood in one spot when giving a presentation. It makes you look uncomfortable and your audience will be more engaged if you’re moving around from place to place, speaking from different locations.
PRO TIP #7 – Speak s.l.o.w.l.y.
Another common mistake from a nervous or inexperienced presenter is to speak too quickly.
It can be really hard, but speak slowly, much more deliberately than you would in everyday conversation and give your audience time to digest what you are saying.
Don’t be afraid to leave pauses. They give the presentation, your audience and you room to breathe. They’re important.
PRO TIP #8 – Use humour
Jokes can be a little risky if you don’t know your audience very well, but it can be a risk worth taking because using humour is a great tool to break down the barrier between you and your audience.
Make them laugh (or even just smile) and you will increase their engagement as well as relaxing yourself.
PRO TIP #9 – Be passionate and energetic
This is a no brainer. Why should your audience care what you have to say if you don’t look like you do? Believe in what your saying, express yourself, gesticulate, be conversational, tell stories and don’t be afraid to digress (just a little).
Giving a presentation should be like telling a great story. Be expressive and colourful.
PRO TIP #10 – Appear relaxed and happy
The more relaxed and happy you appear to be while giving a presentation, the more the audience will enjoy it. They don’t know what you are planning to say, so if something goes wrong just keep going and allow yourself a big smile. They won’t even notice the hiccup.
PRO TIP #11 – Use a pointer & visual aids
One of the most powerful things you can do to enhance the way you are perceived as a presenter is to use a presentation pointer. This allows you to trigger the next slide without having to stand next to your laptop. This is huge because it frees you to move around and gives your presentation a level of professional polish that we guarantee your audience will notice.
You can also use this to draw your audience’s attention to specific points as it has a laser pointer built in. (In our experience this is best used sparingly.)
It’s fine to use flipcharts and handouts as visual aids if you like, but remember to distribute handouts at the end of your presentation. If you hand them out before or during your presentation your audience will start flicking through them and reading ahead. This is distracting for them and you and takes the focus away from your awesome presentation!
Practise, practise, practise
Practising interview and assessment day exercises before the big day will massively improve your performance when it counts. You can practise real exercises and psychometric tests that employers use here and here.
Important! Update your CV before your interview
Lots of candidates make the mistake of thinking they don't need to improve their CV once they've been invited to interview.
Big mistake. Here's why:
1) You should update your CV before the interview event and take a fresh, new-and-improved version with you. (Ideally one that is TAILORED to the role you want.)
2) At interviews and assessment days, your CV will form the basis of your interview. (Whether the interview is competency-based or not.) You'll be expected to answer questions on your CV and usually to walk your interviewer through it.
3) This is the big one: After you've left your interview or assessment day, your CV will be held in the hands of the people who are making the hiring decision. They will literally be looking at your CV while making the hiring decision.
(I've been in this position many times. After spending an entire day meeting and interviewing lots of people, the candidates' CVs are the documents you use to remind yourself which candidate was which and also to revisit the candidates' skills and experience.)
Your CV summarizes the 'professional benefits' of you and is what leaves the last impression. So one last time: Your CV makes your first and last impression; it's a crucial document. Make is as strong as it can be.
Some final questions for you…
- Do you have to take a numerical reasoning test or a verbal reasoning test? If so you may want to check out the aptitude tests section of the site.
- You can find practice tests and tons of free advice on every other type of ‘reasoning test’ too: numerical, verbal, abstract, logical, inductive, diagrammatic, spatial, mechanical comprehension, UKCAT and Watson-Glaser tests.
- Worried about your assessment day? Maybe you’re worried about performing a presentation or preparing for an interview or group exercise or in-tray exercise?
- Be sure to check out my Ultimate Interview & Assessment Day Guide – it’s filled with tips, tricks and insider-secrets that will help you succeed on the big day.
- Perhaps you’d like some guidance on how to deal with nerves & anxiety at your interview?
- Lastly the Tools and Resources page is packed with useful equipment and ‘A’ List recommendations that will make your life easier.
Thanks for reading!
I hope you enjoyed my guide? I’d love to hear your feedback on this article and also to learn how your presentation goes, so please do get in touch and let me know. Thanks and good luck!
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