A number of years ago I was asked, as part of a job interview (second stage), to prepare a presentation on how to get value out of a contract. I thought “hey ho! This is different. This company isn’t asking me how to get costs out they’re asking me how to get value in …. wow…. I like them already!”
But this was a second stage interview and I needed to make an impact, deliver something memorable but 99% of people immediately think ‘presentation’ means PowerPoint time. So unless you really, really, really know your PowerPoint stuff then you’re likely to find it a trap door for a quick exit. I know from experience (and I’m sure you’ve been there too) of that slow, agonising, disjointed, eyes down, talking to the screen …. “death from PowerPoint” scene.
So instead of throwing myself into bashing out 50 slides of crap I sat back and thought not just about my audience but also about the environment I would be presenting in. I knew the presentation was going to be in a small meeting room with a round desk of just 2-3 people. There was no guarantee there’d be a projector which would mean a ‘bad-breath huddle’ around a laptop screen and if there were several interviews then I’d face that horrible risk that my presentation would just blur into the masses and be forgotten.
I did, however, remember there was a white board in the room so I hit on the idea of using this rather than slides. It meant I could stand up, all eyes would be on me and more importantly my eyes would be on them, allowing me to gauge the audience rapport rather than having my back to them while we watched the screen for my prompts.
But how could I give a 10 – 15 minute presentation using just the white board?
I had loads of ‘negotiables’ that could add value to a contract such as reduced stock holding, payment terms, lead time reductions, seasonal manufacture, currency, limitation of liabilities, warranties and even the kitchen sink …. the list literally goes on. How could I get this across and, more importantly, my handwriting was shocking!
In the end it was beautifully simple. I decided on the following;
1 – Dominate the white board with the simple value equation
2 – and prepare/print a colourful one page summary of variables to hand out (at the end).
I practiced at home and when the day came the presentation went like a dream. I was right, the other candidates had all opted for the PowerPoint huddle so, as one interviewer stated, “your presentation was a breath of fresh air”.
But there was a couple of added benefits to this approach that I hadn’t considered.
- By writing the equation on the board it gave me time to ‘educate’ the audience to understand the concept of ‘value’. It meant we were all on the same page from the start and I could adapt my content; something you just can’t do in the middle of PowerPoint.
- The presentation was at the start so all the way through my interview I was able to revert back to the ‘value equation’ written in big letters on the white board to demonstrate the various anecdotes and interview answers.
- It meant that even after I left the room there was a (positive) reminder of me on the board rather than a USB holding a PowerPoint no-one would ever look at again.
The point of the above is that if you want to be successful then be observant, push your comfort zones and try something different. Don’t always follow the crowd.
This interview was a success and I enjoyed many excellent years with the company. Sadly, at another interview I used my sons three action men figures (really!) instead of PowerPoint, which wasn’t as successful in landing me the job … but it was a lot of fun and the two interviewers said they “would never forget me!”.
I’m a massive advocate of personal development so if any of the above hits a note for you or you know someone that might benefit from this missive then please give it a share…!