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Interview Tips: The Presentation

Presentation Skills are a Key Component of Success

Presentation skills are a key component of success as a Medical Science Liaison. Therefore, the majority of interviews will test your skills in this area by having you deliver a presentation. Sometimes you’ll deliver it to a room with several people and sometimes you’ll deliver the presentation solely to the hiring manager. In either event, there are some key things to remember while doing your next presentation in an interview.

Be prepared for all technical difficulties. 

This one is self-explanatory. It’s surprising how often technical difficulties end up happening during the presentation. Bring your presentation saved on a thumb drive, email it to yourself, and bring your own laptop, if possible. As a last resort, also bring a few printed copies of the presentation – one copy for you and several others for your audience – just in case all-electronic options fail. Imagine how prepared you’ll look if you end up needing to progress through all of your back up plans!

Stand up.

Occasionally, you may be offered the option to sit down while you deliver your presentation. Unless you are delivering your presentation in a one-on-one setting at a coffee shop or a small meeting room, don’t sit. You may feel compelled to take them up on the offer at the time, but sitting while delivering your presentation will negatively affect how your voice projects, negatively affect your ability to engage the audience and overall create an awkward setting for your presentation. Opt to stand up, giving yourself a better command of the room.

Be aware that your distractibility may be put to the test.

It’s not uncommon to have someone who arrives late while you’re in the middle of presenting or who will frequently check their phone. Don’t take this personally, and most importantly, don’t let this distract you. Most likely, these audience members truly have good reasons for showing up late or looking at their phone but keep in mind that the purpose of these presentations is to gauge how you present in a real-world scenario, and in the real world, distractions CAN and WILL occur. Stay composed, and don’t break your stride as these distractions arise.

When asked a question that you don’t know the answer to, admit it.

Part of the presentation segment of an interview is the question and answer session that accompanies it. Presenters will frequently get asked difficult questions, and some of these will be good, tough questions that you won’t know the answer to. How you answer these questions is part of your evaluation. This is your opportunity to show them how you present in a real-world setting, not to test you on how much you know. So ask yourself: in a real-world situation, how would I handle being asked a question I don’t know the answer to? Trying to answer a question that you don’t know the answer to could be seen as a big red flag, especially if you’re wrong. So if you’re stumped, just politely say that you don’t know the answer and that you’ll need to get back to them. As a result, you’ll have a good topic to address in your impending thank you note to the person that asked the question. If done correctly, you can take a possible negative in you not knowing the answer to a question and flip it into a positive by exhibiting good follow-up in your note.

When given the choice, don’t present the company’s product.

When the presentation requirements are left open-ended, giving you the opportunity to present on a topic of your choice, it can be tempting to present a product of the company you’re interviewing with. This isn’t ideal, however. Let’s say you’re given two weeks to prepare your presentation for your interview and you’ve devoted every free minute to learn about this product and its data. But the people you’re presenting to have full-time jobs that revolve around this product. They’ve been following this product for years, possibly. No matter how much time and energy you put into this presentation, your audience is going to know more than you. This means that no matter how thorough you think your presentation is they may still feel that it was unfulfilling and they’ll also be able to ask difficult questions that you don’t know the answer to.

Be engaging.

Last, but not least: be engaging! A flawless set of slides is nothing if the delivery falls flat. Make eye contact with your audience, don’t get too fixated on your slides, and speak loudly and with energy.

Main takeaway: The primary thing to remember is that your presentation is being judged as if you are on the job presenting to a thought leader as an employee of this company. It isn’t simply to see what your presentation “style” is nor is it solely to measure your technical skills. The key is to be ready to handle all the situations that differentiate what is an impressive meeting and what is a subpar meeting with a KOL.