Preparing for impromptu presentations

Yes, we agree, this sounds like a mad title, but you can prepare for impromptu presentations, which is great news if you have an aviation interview coming up.  In more and more interview situations, both in the aviation industry and other sectors, candidates are being asked to make impromptu presentations.  Impromptu presentations might be asked of you on your own in an interview setting, or at an assessment centre may be a group task.  Either way, by preparing ahead, you have the chance to really shine at this task.

Employers like to test how effectively you can think on your feet as well as seeing how you express yourself in a situation where you might have only limited time to gather your thoughts.  This is why impromptu presentations are so commonly used as an evaluation method.  Unfortunately, many candidates go into interview unprepared for this important assessment tool and let themselves down as a result. 

In this article, we’d like to share some great tricks that you can learn well ahead of time so you can truly stand out from the crowd, no matter whether your impromptu presentation involves flying solo or playing part of a team.

Trick 1: Beef up your vocabulary. 

One thing that you can prepare well ahead of any impromptu presentation is your vocabulary.  While we all have a pretty sound professional vocabulary and get by well enough in life, there are words that we mightn’t necessarily use as second nature that can give a great impression at interview.  If you are someone who’s a natural story-teller, you mightn’t need to work on this area; but if you’re not, testing a wider vocabulary in your day-to-day life will help you draw on your resources when the big day comes.

Trick 2: Feel the fear and do it anyway.

If you’re someone who gets sweaty palms just at the thought of standing up in front of an audience, don’t leave it until interview to make your first presentation.  Ahead of time, take any opportunity you can to present and if possible join a speakers club where you will have support and encouragement.  If you don’t have a formal opportunity to present, create an opportunity and ask for feedback.  Often presenting to people you know can be even harder than presenting under pressure in an interview situation.

Trick 3: Get a great style and structure.

If you can develop a style of presenting around a simple structure, you will be able to work much more effectively and efficiently on the day.  You might choose an option whereby you make a point; give a reason for that point, with an example and then re-summarise your point.  Alternatively you may prefer to address an issue by giving the pros and cons of surrounding that issue in a specific way and leading up to a conclusion.  Or you might want to talk about the who, the what, the when, the where and the why of a certain topic?  Either way, test out different styles and structures ahead of time and find the one that fits you best.

Trick 4: Develop your note-making method.

Great impromptu presentations always sound like they’re off the cuff and certainly not ‘read out’ to the audience.  The secret to making this work for you is ensuring you have no possibility to ‘read’ from your notes.  No matter whether you use single words, bullet points or mind-maps, make sure that your notes are robust enough to get you through a blank moment, but not so detailed that you’re tempted to read them to your interviewers.

Trick 5: Practice on people who matter less.

It goes without saying really, but let’s say it anyway.  Making presentations is a bit like riding a bike.  The more you do it the better you get at it.  In the run-up to your interview, take every opportunity you can to practice in front of a live audience.  That way you can get all your mistakes out of the way on people who don’t matter quite so much.

Trick 6: Use your voice.

Once again, it may sound obvious, but when we’re nervous we can forget to use our voice properly all too easily.  In order to get your voice working at its best, make sure your throat is clear and that you’re breathing properly and deeply.  During your preparation time plan where you need emphasis in your voice and where you want to use intonation for effect.  If possible mark these points in colour in your notes.  This will remind you to use your voice to the full if nerves get the better of you during your presentation.

Trick 7: Use your eyes.

Whatever you do on the day, don’t be tempted to either stare in a fixed fashion at your notes, at the floor or at the wall in front of you.  Use your eyes and your body to reinforce your message.  Look directly into the eyes of your audience; lean in when making a point and if appropriate use your hands to add interest.

Trick 8: Remember the power of the pause.

While nerves might tempt you to speak fast and dread the thought of a quiet moment in your presentation, you need to work through this fear well before your interview.  Pauses can be as effective as powerful words and used appropriately will show confidence and authority.

Trick 9: Respect the clock.

If you’ve been asked to speak for 3 minutes, make sure you speak for 3 minutes.  While no one will penalise you for finishing 10 or maximum 15 seconds over or under, but it will be frowned upon if you’re still speaking after 4 minutes or finished after 2!

Trick 10: Work up to a memorable close.

While you needn’t create a verbal ‘drum roll’ for the end of your presentation, finishing with a strong statement or even a question can be really powerful when used in context.  As a result, when you’re planning your presentation, make sure everything leads to a great close.

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