You’re the presentation – not the slideshow

Your Career, Your Choices

Q: I’ve an interview for manager of a business incubation centre. They want me to present for ten minutes on ‘What I will achieve in the first year’ – but, and here’s the rub, they have stipulated that I can’t use PowerPoint or Prezi. Zero technology. How should I approach this? (EH, email ).

A: With relish, writes Liam Horan, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers.

PowerPoint, and its flashier, younger cousin Prezi, can lead candidates off down the wrong road.

Should I change the background colour?

Is this graphic too trivial?

Does my table look big in this?

A presentation is about you, not the technology. You have the advantage here of not being allowed to use technology so, instead, you’ve simply got to focus on what matters: how you will solve their problem.

Some key points:

Get to the point – start with impact. Don’t spend two minutes giving them a limp overview of what you’re going to tell them. Just tell them.

Have ideas for the role – concrete ideas, actual things you plan to do. Quantify them. “In three months, I will…” I find that many candidates tend to imply things when they should really be explicit.

Don’t hide behind jargon. Tell them in plain language so they see an actual person.

Are you obliged to use up the full ten minutes? I suspect they’ve specified a maximum of ten minutes. If you can capture their attention, and then hold it for six minutes, that might be just about right. Attention spans have shortened. I said, attention spans have shortened.

Don’t try to cover too much. Aim to go a mile deep on a few key elements of what you want to cover, rather than going a mile wide to glance off a whole range of items.

All the other usual ones – eye contact; if you tend to talk with your hands, don’t suppress the tendency; and remember that you are selling yourself as the right candidate for the job, not giving a consultant’s overview of the position. Sleeves up, get stuck in and bring the job to life in front of their eyes.

Backward step can drive you on

Q: I’m going for a job which will see me go backwards to hopefully go forwards. I’m afraid in the interview they will be wondering why I will take a cut in pay, and a reduction in responsibilities. How do I handle this? I’m a software engineer but I need to expand into a different area because my current speciality is dwindling. (EE, email ).

A: I think it’s best to tell them the truth – namely that you realise you need to change to establish new skills in an area that is becoming more and more important in the overall IT sector.

You could point out that any self-respecting IT person must adapt to compete in an ever-changing world. Sometimes the adaptation involves a major leap; in other cases, it is more subtle and less dramatic.

Going backwards to go forwards strikes me as a sign of professionalism in this instance. If you stayed on the old path, you would become irrelevant. The onus is on you to persuade them of the wisdom of your move in the interview.

Sli Nua Careers ( ) have offices in Galway (Patricia Maloney, 091 528883 ), Mayo (Ballinrobe and Claremorris ), Limerick, Tullamore, Sligo, Tralee and Cork. Their services include CV preparation, interview training, job-searching strategies, public speaking and presentation skills, and career direction. For more details, visit


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