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10 Big Mistakes To Avoid Making When Presenting To The Boss

10 Big Mistakes To Avoid Making When Presenting To The Boss

Presenting to the boss can turn highly talented, intelligent and creative professionals into nervous, jabbering, sleepless messes — but not if you know the key mistakes to avoid.

The strangest analogy I’ve heard was from a former colleague of mine who, after presenting to the CEO for the very first time, left the office looking rather pale. On asking her how it went, she replied by saying, “Well, I’m not too sure. You see, it started off well; he was smiling, attentive, and very polite, but it felt like I was meeting with my gynecologist in that I would soon be leaving the room feeling a little violated.”

Sometimes, a good way to learn is through knowing the mistakes others have made before you. With that in mind, here are my top 10 presentation tips from both my personal and professional experience.

1. Don’t “sit on the fence”

There really is nothing more annoying than listening to someone drone on and on for 20 minutes, drowning you in data and facts, when it’s perfectly clear that they aren’t committed to the topic in terms of making it clear where they stand on it. Take a position, stand by it, and make it clear which side of the fence you are on.

Don’t sit on the fence. Otherwise, you really will get some seriously painful splinters.

2. Lose the attitude

All day long, your boss deals with people who are trying to look good, impress them, or simply suck up to them in some way. It’s not very attractive, and even though it’s the essence of many business presentations, the really good leaders find it tiresome — they don’t need their egos stroked. What your boss wants from you, more than anything, is to see the real you; so tell it as you see it.

Don’t give the “corporate spokesperson” speech. Let them see the real you; that means losing the jargon too.  

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3. Skip the small talk

Your boss doesn’t have time for small talk, so make sure you get straight to the point. Don’t be like a comedian and save the punchline for the end. Deliver your key message straight away and do so with impact.

4. Don’t just present

I really don’t know anyone who actually enjoys the process of being presented to. Most people don’t have the time, attention span, or patience to simply sit there listening to someone read bullet-point slides.

Craft a conversation instead. Get them really thinking. Ask them questions. Help them to use their imagination. If appropriate, challenge their perspective — don’t just accept theirs because they are the boss.

5. Surprise them

I can promise you that for every 10 presentations your boss endures in a week, all 10 of them will be very similar to each other in most respects. You have an amazing opportunity to inspire, enlighten, and engage your boss, so please don’t waste it.

Tell them powerful stories, use props or provocative slides, make them curious, make them laugh. In short, be creative, dare to be different, and surprise them in some way.

6. Help them to feel something

Most business presentations are really boring.

Don’t just talk, but try to really connect with them emotionally by asking yourself “what do you want them to feel?”.

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7. Don’t make them read

The very last thing your boss wants to do is to read your slides or report while you are talking at them.

It’s not a presentation or conversation if they are forced to read. It’s simply you making them read and they won’t thank you for it.

The spoken word elicits a far greater effect than the written word. It’s your job to breathe life into your report, update, or idea, and you will never achieve that by simply making them read it.

8. Make them look good

It’s human nature for each of us to want to look good and to impress our audience when presenting; that self-imposed pressure is often the greatest cause of anxiety many professionals experience.

When all you can think about is how well you must perform and how much your reputation is at stake, you are making it all about you rather than your audience.

Focus instead on how you can help your boss and how you can make their life, job, department, or company better and stronger.

9. Be playful

Remember when we were small children and we asked our parents if we could go outside to play with our friends? Often, one of the first responses you would hear is “Yes, but play nicely.”

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When it comes to presenting, playing nicely doesn’t mean fooling around or making jokes. It just means not taking yourself so seriously, lightening up, relaxing a little, smiling, and having a sense of humor.

Your boss really is human too, so “play nicely” with them.

10. Get out of your head

That doesn’t mean smoking or consuming some mind-altering substance before you present — it means being in the room rather than in your own head.

Many professionals make the mistake of not quietening the noise in their minds before they present to the boss. They enter the room with their minds furiously popping thoughts around like a popcorn maker.

“I hope they don’t ask me a question I can’t answer.”

“I bet I’ll mess this up.”

“I wish I’d done more research on this.”

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“What if they don’t agree?”

Staying in your head like this serves no useful purpose to either you or your boss.

Your job is to be completely present in the room as you speak. That’s the only way you will connect with your audience. You can achieve that by simply taking a couple of minutes to focus on your breathing, meditating to calm the noise in your head, and pausing and smiling before you speak.

Have you made any of these or other mistakes that we could all learn from? If so, please feel free to share them in the comments.

Image courtesy of http://www.dreamstime.com/

Featured photo credit: Tim Gouw via unsplash.com

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Published on September 16, 2020

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

Today, with many companies going remote—at least until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine—technical proficiency is a vital skill for every interviewee to master. You may be asked to interview for a job on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The way you handle yourself in the online interview (your interview skills) will say much about your ability to work from home efficiently.

Does your workspace look clean or cluttered? Is the area free from noise? Is your home office well lit?

Once hired, you may be asked to organize meetings on Zoom and other platforms. Along with mastering the technology, you will have to learn to follow certain protocols.

Now is the time to get up to speed on your technical skills. Learn which interview skills are needed for the particular job for which you are applying and practice them.

Online learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, offer courses for free or a nominal membership fee. If you are a DIY type, make use of training videos offered through your particular digital tools.

Additionally, demonstrating that you have these 12 interview skills will help you land your dream job.

1. Organization

When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, some of the organizing is left to others. Your direct supervisor may host a Monday morning quarterback meeting where each worker reports on the progress on their tasks.

When you work from home, much of the organizing will be left up to you. To a much greater extent than before, you will need to develop a schedule and stick to it. Some tasks may be faster to complete from your home office where you don’t have other workers competing for your attention.

Conversely, you may find that some tasks that would have gone quickly in an office seem to take forever from your home computer. Your phone may ring a lot, which can distract you, or you may have kids and a spouse who inadvertently disrupt your schedule.

To do: Set a schedule and stick to it.

To discuss during your interview: Be specific. Point to the interview skill you utilized to create a schedule for a complex work project and followed it.

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2. Flexibility

You set a schedule for the completion of your tasks, but your prospective boss gets their work done between the hours of 2:00 and 8:00 a.m. Your West Coast partners are three hours behind your East Coast partners, and one of your partners lives in England while another lives in Australia.

Feedback and collaboration (see point 3) may need to happen asynchronously. Be the flexible candidate—the person who is willing to occasionally disrupt their schedule for the greater good of the team.

For extra credit: don’t just look up time zones, look up whether they observe Daylight Savings Time.

To do: Be flexible about meeting times.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a time when you worked on a team where members lived in different time zones. Discuss your processes.

3. Collaboration

As recently as six months ago, before the pandemic raged around the world, collaboration wasn’t quite as essential as it is today. In a remote office setting, collaboration doesn’t just mean working well with others—but actually sharing documents and editing them online on time.

Several cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Trello, enable the type of collaborative teamwork that most companies want today.

To do: Download the correct software and practice using it.

To discuss during your interview: Discuss how you worked remotely with a group. Share how you overcame certain challenges.

4. Poise

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

When things do go awry, keeping your wits about you will demonstrate your consummate professionalism under fire. This will show your future bosses that you will be able to work well under the pressures of remote work.

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What could go wrong, you ask? You might be muted without realizing it—your Internet connection may not be robust, your headphones may blip out, your cellphone may ring, Zoom could have an outage. The list goes on and on.

To do: Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of Skype and Zoom uploaded.

To discuss during your interview: Consider highlighting a time when a project did not go as planned. Demonstrate the interview skills that allowed you to rise to the challenge.

5. Communication

Your ability to handle online communication is one of the top critical skills you will need to thrive in today’s remote workplace. Download Slack if you haven’t already. Get used to toggling to a different form of online communication if one of your tools fails.

When it comes to the preferred format for your online interview, demonstrate proficiency by offering several different options. Give your phone number, Google Chat Hangouts name, and Skype ID.

To do: Familiarize yourself with video conference and online chat tools, such as Slack, Fleep, or Workplace by Facebook.

To discuss during your interview: Be prepared to share the online communication tools you’re using and examples of how you use each one.

6. Good Computer Hygiene

Setting up a backup system for your computer files is one of today’s crucial requirements for working in the digital age. Storing documents that can be shared by team members is also an efficient way to work together on presentations, articles, and reports—although studies show nearly one-third of employees avoid them because of the time it takes to find documents.

Be prepared in your interview to indicate your experience utilizing this technology, describing how you organize and store files using cloud-based collaboration tools. How do you keep track of links and tabs? Do you use Dropbox? Google Docs? Confluence? Others?

To do: Take inventory of the cloud-based document sharing and storage systems you know and use.

To discuss during your interview: Describe the document sharing tools and backup systems you utilize—both for personal protection and professional file sharing.

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7. Proper Meeting Etiquette

Today, presenting yourself virtually has its pros and cons. While you only have to show a professional persona from the waist up (make sure to straighten up your office space behind you), you must boost your energy to show that you’re engaged in the discussion.

Make your voice as upbeat as possible. Have your talking points at the ready and be careful not to ramble on, as long virtual meetings easily become tiresome. Use the mute and chat features to avoid interruptions.

To do: Once you know the meeting platform, make sure you have it mastered before your interview.

To discuss during your interview: Offer to share your screen to show an example of a work project— while at the same time demonstrating your prowess with video conferencing tools.

8. Respecting Feedback

In the age of working remotely, there may not be as many systems in place to obtain feedback (such as yearly performance reviews). Workers may need to ask for feedback, while managers may need to give more feedback than usual as the team adjusts to working off-site. Respecting feedback is on top of the interview skills list that you should learn.

Taking a proactive approach with giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your work style is a desirable quality that your employers will note.

To do: Reflect on the positive feedback you’ve received from past employers to bolster your confidence.

To discuss during your interview: Share a time when you received feedback that made you grow in the job. If you’re a manager, share a time when you gave feedback to an employee who needed to better their job performance.

9. Project Management

Staying on task with projects has evolved far past a to-do list, with electronic tools that can track time, manage team workloads, and even do the client billing. While your prospective employer may have its preferred project management program, your experience with any of the various options—whether it’s Basecamp, Teamwork, Smartsheet, or another—will be applicable.

To do: Know which project management software is likely to be used by the industry in which you’re interviewing, and familiarize yourself with its features.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a project management feature that is particularly useful in helping you excel in your work, and explain how you utilize it.

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10. Staying up to Speed

Employers expect their remote workers to be technically proficient so that technology runs smoothly and doesn’t create work disruptions. Bosses count on remote workers to know enough about their systems to manage them without relying on the help of overworked IT staff.

To do: Make sure you have a fast internet connection and have a back-up plan, such as a second computer or other tethered devices.

To discuss during your interview: Note that you are diligent about keeping your computer and software up to date.

11. Attention to Cybersecurity Issues

“Virus” is a loaded term these days. Spreading a computer virus in your company, however, will not only bring productivity to a halt, but it will also make you a pariah. While working from public places using free Wi-Fi (with uneven security provisions) has waned, in pre-pandemic times, coffee shops accounted for 62 percent of Wi-Fi security breaches.

To do: Keep antivirus software updated and don’t download software without verifying its authenticity.

To discuss during your interview: Emphasize your awareness of cybersecurity risks and your care in taking necessary safety measures.

12. Teamwork

Work relationships now mostly happen in virtual settings, yet employers value team-oriented workers.

Being a part of a team gives you a sense of connection and shared purpose. A well-honed team understands how mutual reliance makes the sum of its parts greater than when individuals act on their own, improving the end product.

To do: Take stock of your attributes as a team player and where you can cultivate skills that will enable you to work more collaboratively.

To discuss during your interview: Inquire about the company’s culture and how it encourages a sense of community despite working remotely.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for remote positions available in today’s job market will mean honing your interview skills to highlight your technical abilities as well as your adaptability. By adhering to these To-Do’s and perfecting your online interview skills and charisma, you will rise above the competition and win over any prospective employer.

More Tips to Improve Your Interview Skills

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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