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It’s All in the Presentation
July 17, 2013
Work-life balance

As an intern, there are a number of things you will learn on the job. For example, one DC-based think tank requires their interns to complete a study about something specifically related to the organization, then present their findings to everyone. It’s part of the educational requirement of the internship, but it’s more than that. It’s on-the-job training and more importantly, a great way to present yourself as someone that’s a good fit for the job.

That being said, here are some quick ways to help you knock it out of the park when you have your moment to shine.

First Things First: Be Prepared

Being prepared means knowing your material and talking points. It means putting yourself in a position that allows you to say what you need to say with as little hesitation as possible. Be brief. Keep your sentences short: about 10-20 words is ideal because this is the way people usually talk. Tell a story. Stick to the key concepts. It also goes without saying (although we’re saying it anyway) to do your research and collect data that relates to the topic. And above all, strive for clarity.

Be Human

Practice your delivery, but don’t be too polished. Sir Ken Robinson of Presentation Zen advises that while it’s important to know your material, there’s a danger in over-rehearsing it. “It is possible to seem too rehearsed when you present. That is, we may seem too perfect, too inflexible, too unnatural, and though technically perfect, we may lose the ever important natural connection with the audience.” Put it this way: try and think back to that one class you had with that one professor who droned on and on creating an epic (and losing) struggle against boredom. Don’t be that person. Be relaxed, be accessible, and be conversational. As Sir Robinson says, “…if there is no connection, there is no communication.”

If you’re presenting in a group, the same rules apply. Make sure everyone has clearly defined roles, knows what they are talking about, and that there’s a natural flow from one speaker to the next. The more prepared you are, the more spontaneous you can be.

Avoiding “Death by Power Point”

According to Social Media Chimps, a community of social media experts, “Humans are very visual creatures. Our ability to quickly interpret visual information is far greater than that of written words. By speaking with pictures you can make complex information easier to understand.” Which brings us to the actual PowerPoint deck. A picture (or in this case a slide) can say a thousand words so that, thankfully, you don’t have to. Let the graphics tell the story and minimize the use of text. Don’t overload your slides with too much data, it kills the fun and puts your audience to sleep.

People should be focusing on you, not just your presentation. If they are reading the slides they won’t be listening to you. Slideshows should simply back up what you’re saying, not overshadow it. Steve Jobs was a master of the minimalist slide. He did all the talking.

Some other things to keep in mind about your presentation:

  • Number your slides and give them a title.
  • Prepare an Agenda or Table of Contents slide. You can reuse the same slide at the end of the presentation by changing the title to Summary.
  • Tell a story. People love stories.
  • Prepare a company logo slide for your presentation.
  • You can add a logo and other graphics to every slide using the slide master feature or by adding them to the footer.
  • Proofread everything, 3 times, including visuals and numbers.
  • Keep “like” topics together.
  • Strive for similar line lengths for text.

Some companies may also have a required template that all employees must use when putting a deck together as far as font size and format goes. So be sure to know what they are before putting your presentation together.

Presenting in front of a room can be intimidating and a bit daunting. While being well prepared and rehearsed can greatly reduce the tension, there’s one really important thing you should always keep in mind: yourself. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. The presentation is not just about the topic, it’s also about YOU. And it’s what’s in that presentation that will make all the difference in the world. Show them that you belong there.