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30 SEP 2018

Practice before you preach: Preparing your final interview presentation

In the first of a series of articles supporting APC candidates, APC counsellor, and Chartered Building Surveyor at Copper Seed, Victoria Richardson MRICS explores the final interview case study presentation. How can you get the best out of your 10 minutes and avoid some common pitfalls?

The content, structure and delivery are all key aspects of delivering a successful case study presentation.

Content: Attention to detail

Your panel will read your case study, so there is no need to repeat the contents. Use your 10 minutes to provide new or more detailed information about the subject and your performance.

Try to write your case study with the presentation in mind, leaving yourself opportunities to talk about specific points. With the submission word count, it’s likely you will not have been able to write down all the great things about your case study. Go through it again with your supervisor and counsellor and, as a group, you will be able to highlight some points to expand further.

Your presentation is also an opportunity to update the panel on any changes since your submission. Think about the following:

  • Where did you leave the case study project at the time of submission?
  • Was it finished/almost finished?
  • Have there been any project updates since your last submission?

Your case study and presentation are more than just a piece of work, they are also about you. The panel will want to get an understanding of you as a professional, and how you respond to and learn from challenges.

Put yourself in the position of the panel and ask yourself: "Having heard that presentation, do I think this person is trustworthy and professional?" Consider the following:

  • Did you appraise your performance, both good and bad, in enough detail?
  • With the benefit of reflection, is there anything you can add about your experience and performance?

Structure: Tying it all together

Once you know what you want to say in your presentation, it's time to give it a structure. Your structure should help you deliver a cohesive presentation, that’s easily followed, and fits in all the important information showcasing your knowledge and abilities.

The introduction

Nobody likes surprises in a presentation, so tell your panel what you plan to tell them.
An example would be: "Today I'm going to be talking about Project Fantastic and give you all an update on the project's status as well as going into a bit more detail about the key issues and my involvement."

The middle: The meat in the sandwich

Think about everything you want to tell the panel and set them out in a logical format. Stick to an appropriate level of detail and don’t go off on tangents.

Sign-post language can help to keep you and the panel on track.

An example would be: "Now I'm going to talk about Key Issue one in more detail. To recap, this key issue was about..."

The ending: Drop the mic

All the best stories have a strong ending, so give the closing part of your presentation ample attention.

Reflecting on your performance can be useful, often allowing you to draw a conclusion on the project, your role, and what you’ve learned.

Don’t forget to let the panel know that you’ve finished. For example: "That concludes my presentation and I'd be happy to take your questions now."

Delivery

For most people, the delivery is the toughest part of their presentation. The sooner you nail your content and structure, the sooner you can start practicing the delivery.

Nerves and confidence

Nobody expects you to deliver your presentation like Barack Obama. Nerves are normal and anybody who has ever presented — and your panel have — knows what nerves feel like. Practicing is a great way to manage your nerves by increasing your confidence.

Take every opportunity to have mock interviews with fellow professionals, but don’t forget about other people in your life who you can practice on: your parents, flatmates, your friend Dave. Your phone can also be a handy tool, record yourself and see what you like from somebody else’s perspectives.

The right level of prompts

Start with your full presentation typed out to ensure you have all the necessary content recorded. As you practice, decide what you feel comfortable with in terms of prompts you want to use:

  • Do you like to have the full presentation in front of you with specific words or passages highlighted?
  • Do you prefer to hold prompt cards with just key bullet points?
  • Or do you have total recall and don’t require any prompts? Even if this is you, I’d recommend taking a copy of your presentation just in case.

Practice, pause, reflect

After each run-through, whether in front of your phone or a friend, think about where you can improve. Consider:

  • Adding strategic pauses where you are changing to a new topic. Write 'pause' on your prompt notes if required.
  • Is there a word you are stumbling on? Think about substituting it.
  • How’s your timing? If you are consistently over 10 minutes, take some words out. Consistently under the 10 minutes? Then it’s time to add more meat to the sandwich.

What you get from these run-throughs is a deeper insight into you and how you perform at your best.

Handouts and displays

Handouts and displays aren’t a requirement for your presentation. Whether or not to use these tools can pose a dilemma for some candidates, so it's important to consider them early in the process.

Handouts are a potential distraction. Think about when and how you give them to your panel if you decide to use them. A good handout will have relevant information, but there won’t be too much text to avoid distraction.

If you do decide to use a display, low-tech works best. You can dive straight in with a flipchart or display book and start talking about the fantastic diagrams instantly. Technological alternatives can kill the mood a bit and waste time as you power-up and put in your password. There is also the techno-gremlin risk to consider ... there will be no IT Support in the room with you. Old school rules when it comes to APC presentations.

Common pitfalls

  • Regurgitation: The case study word limit is low when you’re talking about a career-defining project. Your presentation is an opportunity to tell the panel more about the project and yourself so don't waste those 10 minutes regurgitating what they have already read.
  • Timing: You will be stopped if you exceed the 10 minutes as your panel need to stick to the assessment clock. Make sure you practice so you don't lose the chance to say something critical. On the flip side, being substantially under 10 minutes isn't great either. That means there's more time for questions — those things you're dreading.
  • Handouts: If there is too much detail in a handout, your panel might be distracted by it. So, keep it simple and relevant and be clear about when you want them to look at it.

About the author: Victoria Richardson MRICS

Victoria is an RICS professional and works as chartered building surveyor and owner of Copper Seed Ltd in Auckland, New Zealand. She holds a Certificate in Industrial Rope Access (Phase 1) and has broad experience in all building surveying disciplines, as well as working knowledge of various construction methods and techniques.

Connect with Victoria on LinkedIn

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