What to present about when it can be a presentation about anything!

3D-Women-Darn-03You’ve possibly been there… you’re going for an interview and they tell you to make a presentation.  Perhaps the bottom drops out of your world and you thing “Oh God! What shall I talk about?!”  And then you read the bit that says “about a topic which interests you”. So some relief there, at least! How long do you have to talk for? Five minutes!  The longest five minutes of your life, you fear.
The only times I’ve ever been asked to give a presentation about anything is either when:
  • they were trying to find out if I could make a presentation (well… errr… yes… I like to think I can :) )
  • they wanted to find out something about me as a person.
Both of those sound like job interviews or something similar.  So here’s the deal: there’s going to be a lot of competition, so the key thing is to stand out (for the good reasons – falling off the stage would do it, but that’s for the wrong reasons). And as everyone else is going to be talking about whatever interests them, you can be different very easily.
Instead of talking about yourself and what interests you, consider talking about the audience’s interests.
Firstly, you’ll be different. Secondly, you’ll be genuinely helpful. Both increase your chances of standing out from the rest.
Simple, really. Of course that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily easy (just ask anyone who’s tried to lose weight – eat less and move more are simple rules but not easy ones to stick to!)
That brings you to the question of what to talk about, of course.
If you know the people in your audience, it’s not hard: even if all you’ve got is their names and organisation you can find huge amounts online (potentially). Start with Linked-In for their professional background: see if they’ve got a FaceBook account with open security settings; try their twitter feed if they’ve got one. It can take a little time, but it’s not hard!
If you don’t know names and things you can at least start off with the organisation’s website. Read up on what the organisation is trying to do – particularly their blog posts. Read around in the press for what challenges that kind of organisation is facing…
With a bit of luck, it shouldn’t be hard to find something that overlaps between
  • what they need to know about
  • what you can sensibly talk about.
After that it’s just a question of creating the presentation. ;)
Yellow blank post-it notes isolated on white

Your best tool for almost anything! :)

In all seriousness, I suggest the following simple exercise… As you do your online research, keep a pile of post-it notes next to you – and use them. Every time you see something while peaks your interest, jot the idea down on that pile. When you’re done (or more likely when you run out of time!), grab yourself a drink and then go through those cards one at a time, arranging them in order of how much you can talk about that topic.

Then take a break and come back fresh to make the final decision! :)
I know that sounds like really obvious advice, but you’ll be amazed how few people go for it – most people simply take their instructions at face value and talk about whatever they think they know most about or get most excited about.

Simon is one of the UK's most highly regarded presentation skills trainers and professional speakers in the fields of presenting, confidence and emotional resilience.

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