Monday, October 18, 2010 myBiz Blog
Ask the Expert: I have to give a presentation?!? by Kelly Cuene

Okay – I know what you’re thinking. Interviewing is stressful enough and now you have to give a presentation as well? Gross. What if you can’t fill the full amount of time? What if someone asks a question you don’t know the answer to? What if something is stuck in your teeth? What if…  

What if I told you we’re not actually assessing your public speaking skills? Gasp! Okay, well that’s not entirely true… but it’s close. It’s rare that your future job will entail speaking to large groups of individuals on a regular basis, but you will be representing our company and we want to see how you “turn it on”. Here are some tips that are sure to wow us.  

Pick a topic you’re passionate about. Some companies will give you particular guidelines you’ll need to follow, but others will allow you to choose a topic of your choice for your presentation. Take full advantage! Think about something that you are uber comfortable talking about – something that you’re passionate about. Not only will it sound less rehearsed coming out of your mouth, but your passion and interest in the topic will shine through and make you naturally more enthusiastic. Have you backpacked through Europe? Tell me where to go. Love fantasy sports? Explain how they work to me. Use your imagination!  

Prepare. Sounds basic, right? You’d be surprised how many people come in for a final-round interview and either (a) didn’t remember they were supposed to give a presentation or (b) have a few notes scribbled on a piece of paper with the hotel logo on the top. Hmmm… if this is how you prepare for a potential job, how can we expect you to behave when you have the job and a prospective sale is on the line? Take it seriously.  

Practice. Sounds equally basic, yes? Again, if you have practiced your presentation you are one step ahead of the majority of the job seekers I’ve seen. I highly recommend calling in a favor with your roommates and forcing them to listen to your speech. Mirrors are great, but they don’t give you feedback. Remove “uh” and “like” from your repertoire. Don’t read from your notes (remember, you know the topic well enough to not need any notes). Keep fidgeting to a minimum. Be sure you work out the rough spots and have your friends provide valuable insight. They’ll see what we’ll see.  

You’re going to do great. I’m sure that you have so much to offer this employer that confidence will ooze out of your pores. Smile. Be yourself. The rest will take care of itself.


Michelle is an experienced human resources professional and a UW-Madison alum. In her “Ask an Expert” articles she tackles students’ toughest career and recruiting questions, providing an employer’s perspective so students can learn what campus recruiters REALLY think. To learn more about Michelle, view her intro post.