Presentation exercises and how they work
Presentation exercises are a selection tool, often utilised for graduate level recruitment and for graduate schemes. These exercises are often used for positions requiring high levels of customer facing work and/or presenting information such as sales, finance and management consulting. How candidates are provided with a topic for their presentation will vary depending on the format. Candidates may be asked to give a presentation based on a prior case study exercise, or on a group/role play exercise they had previously undertaken. Similarly, candidates may be given information regarding a topic, and given a set amount of time (usually about 30 minutes) to prepare, or candidates may be given a topic in advance of the assessment centre date. These presentations will typically last 10-20 minutes and you may be allowed to use PowerPoint, flip charts or other presentational tools provided by the organisation.
What does a presentation exercise assess?
Presentation exercises primarily test a candidate's communication skills. Knowledge and understanding of the topic will also be taken into account, but are not the primary skill tested. Typical factors assessed in presentation exercises include:
- Communication and interpersonal skills
- Public speaking ability
- Persuasion and influence
- Confidence and ability to remain calm under pressure
- Clarity of speech and verbal ability
- Ability to interpret and relay information
- Ability to structure and design effective presentations
- Timing and ability to pace
What should you know before a presentation exercise
Presentation exercises are almost always used in conjunction with other exercises, such as group exercises, case study exercises, interviews and role play exercises, and therefore a decision will be made based on all these abilities, not just the presentation. If you are required to give a presentation based on a topic in advance of your assessment centre day, you will be told the topic in sufficient time to design a presentation, rather than the night before. If you are not told beforehand the topic of the presentation, you will not be expected to use prior knowledge when preparing and presenting your presentation.
General presentation exercise advice
Here are some tips and recommendations to help you design and deliver your presentation and help ensure you are ready:
1. Remain calm: Presentations are notorious for inducing performance anxiety and stage fright, therefore staying as calm as possible is a necessity. It is important to remember that recruiters know just how nerve racking presentations will be, and will give leeway to candidates who seem nervous, but not at the expense of performance. If presentations are a serious issue for you and arouse serious anxiety then anxiety reducing techniques such as breathing techniques, progressive relation and taking your time when presenting can help boost your nerves, and help you perform to your maximal ability.
2. Take your time: During your presentation it is important not to rush through the information, this could make you appear nervous or convey a lack of confidence. A moderate pace is recommended, as this will keep your audience interested while demonstrating to recruiters that you are confident in your abilities.
Tips on preparing the presentation
Writing and designing a presentation can be a difficult process, particularly when you have a limited amount of time to do so. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when writing and structuring a presentation:
1. The rule of three: As a rule of thumb, audiences of presentations will remember three key topics from your presentation. As a result it is important to decide which three messages you want to convey to your audience, and highlight them. Similarly it is recommended that you structure your presentation into three distinct parts, an introduction, the middle and the conclusion.
2. Less is more: Particularly when giving presentations with short time limits, condensing information and summarizing can be an essential method of saving time without sacrificing content. The use of bullet points, short snappy sentences and figures can trim down the length of a presentation, helping the audience remember the key issues presented. Long and nebulous presentations with large amounts of unnecessary waffle are sure to be rated badly by recruiters.
3. Be prepared for questions: As part of the exercise you should expect to be asked questions based on the material presented. If there is information which could not be fitted into the presentation, then familiarise yourself with it and be ready to answer questions on it at the end, or even during the presentation by fellow candidates or recruiters. This will show the recruiters that you have made yourself familiar with the information, and have shown prioritisation when it comes to the content of the presentation.
Tips on giving the presentation
Once you have designed your presentation, giving it is a whole different experience, and can be very hit or miss. Here are some helpful tips to remember when giving your presentation:
1. When you are presenting, you are in charge: It is an important point to remember, that when you are giving a presentation, you are and must be in charge of the room. You are in the position of power as the audience has to respect your authority on the subject and pay attention. realising this fact will help build confidence, and help the candidate maintain control of the presentation, whilst keeping the audience under their control.
2. Volume: Ensuring that you are loud enough to get everyone's attention is critical, but being too loud is also as serious an issue. Consider the volume of your voice before the assessment centre to gage how loud you are, and how loud you should be when giving presentations. Obviously the volume needed will depend on the size and acoustics of the room, but with practice you can gage an understanding of the volume needed.
3. Use of humour: Fitting humour into a presentation can be a useful exercise, but it is not always appropriate or necessary. If the topic is one that allows the use of humour, then an occupational joke or humourous illustration can be warranted, and can demonstrate interpersonal skills.
How AssessmentDay can help
AssessmentDay offers a specialised, assessment centre pack offering myriad practice assessment centre exercises, along with guidance on exercise performance. Our pack contains a presentation exercise, which can be used to form the basis of a mock presentation and/or provide individual insight into the structure, format and scoring of a presentation exercises. Similarly, our assessment centre pack provides candidates with examples, and recommendations, for the other top assessment centre exercises, including group exercises, analysis exercises, role-play exercises etc. We are also more than happy to answer any questions you have, so please, feel free to drop us an email for some advice.
Along with interviews, presentations are some of the more nerve racking and anxiety provoking assessment tools. However, if done well, presentations can be a really good method of impressing recruiters.
Having reached the assessment centre stage of the process, recruiters must consider you a strong and viable candidate for the role, and therefore have confidence in your ability. As with all assessment exercises, practice is extremely valuable and successful or not, the experience of these procedures will improve your performance next time round.