Top Tips for Assessment Centre Presentations
I’m not sure that I’m qualified to write anything about being boring, given I am writing this on a Friday evening when I really should be getting out. However I’ve had a few emails this week from people about graduate assessment centres. I’ve also noticed that over the last few weeks people have been Googling the terms NAB and Westpac assessment centres, and have hooked into the piece I wrote on how to behave (and behave yourself) in the graduate assessment centre group exercises. For anyone who wants to read them, you’ll find them here.
Anyway, a couple of days ago I received an email from someone wanting tips on how to prepare for that mini-presentation that you’re often asked to do in an assessment centre, where you are given say 20 minutes to prepare, and say 10 minutes to deliver. My emailer wanted to know if he should read a prepared script.
The short answer is, please don’t. Here are a few long reasons why:
- You only have 20 minutes to prepare. It takes a long time to write out a perfect script. If you do this, you won’t have enough time to read the material and pull out the pertinent points
- You are being judged on your communication skills. Good communication requires eye contact to read the reactions of your audience and just to engage their attention. If they’re nodding off, you’ll want to do something to wake them up
- Communication is a so much more than the words that you use. Your audience interprets much of what you say through your tone. If you read your script, you lose that tone
- You will sound stilted and false. Nobody talks like they write
So what should you do?
I once interviewed the Head Master of a private boys’ boarding school about presentation skills, partly because I thought someone who can keep teenage boys awake mid morning must know their stuff. He suggested that you structure your presentation, with a “hook, book and took.” That is: tell the audience what you are going to tell them in a kind of catchy way; tell them; then tell them what you told them.
So unless you are asked in these exercises to deliver a written report along with the presentation, my tip would be make sure you fully understand the material, then just use some bullet points that you can refer to while you are talking. That will stop you reading what you have written, and an assessor like me, nodding off.
My other big tip would be prepare and practice for a few days leading up. Pull out a report for example, prepare a summary then talk about it using bullet points and the structure I’ve described. Time yourself, so you are simulating the conditions of an assessment centre. Practice in front of a mirror if you need to or even scare your friends. It’s frightening, but it works.
Best of luck everyone.