Interview Presentations Don’t Have to Be Scary

March 6, 2022

My husband is a superintendent for a large commercial construction company and occasionally participates in project interviews. This may not come as a shock, but most technical professionals have not been properly educated or trained on presentation skills. Sure, they may have taken a speech class in high school or college and presented a few times in class — but that’s likely been several years ago with no additional practice since then.

But guess who the client wants to hear from in almost every interview? The technical professionals! They want to hear from the project architect, project manager, or superintendent that they’ll be working with on a day-to-day basis. Clients want to know if they will get along with these individuals and have a good working relationship for the duration of the project. It’s all about the connection made during that interview, so you want your technical professionals to be as comfortable as possible in these situations. I’m not suggesting they pretend to be someone they aren’t, but when they are prepared and comfortable, their personality will come out (more so than their nerves).

Usually, the project team assembles seven to ten business days before the presentation and may “practice” a few times before the big day. (When I say “practice” this could mean talking it over, putting the PowerPoint or visuals together, or writing out some bullet points.) If these technical professionals don’t participate in interviews regularly, they’re probably a little rusty. (I know from personal experience of not speaking for three or four months during COVID, I even got a little rusty on my presentation skills!) When these individuals aren’t given the resources to do their job, then they are limited in the results they get (aka winning work).

Investing in monthly training for technical professionals is highly recommended. At a minimum, it should take place at least quarterly. Host mock interviews in your office and have any employee who would participate in an interview be part of this training. Depending on the size of the firm, you could even split up into groups of 10-12 and practice throughout the month. You could rotate the people, so everyone has a chance to work with different people and personalities. This also promotes teamwork and builds morale within your firm. Practice makes everyone feel more comfortable. It’s also beneficial to actually hear yourself talk. Sometimes when the ideas are stuck in your head and then they come out of your mouth, it’s not necessarily what you wanted it to sound like. This is why actually presenting just like you would in an interview makes it much easier for the employees to deliver. They should be comfortable and prepared.

So are you wondering why I mentioned my husband at the beginning? His company doesn’t invest much in educating and training technical professionals. I hate to say it, but this lack of ongoing training is pretty common in most firms. They may hire an outside speaking consultant to come in every three or four years, but that doesn’t do much good. (People only retain about 5% of lecture training, but retain 70% when they practice by doing.) Sounds like practice by doing is the way to retain those dollars spent on training! Practicing and proper training could mean millions of dollars of work coming in the door just by investing a small amount of time and profit on training employees on presentation skills.

Ask your technical professionals what they prefer, how often they want training, and what would make them feel most comfortable. I bet they are willing to put in the time if you make the opportunity available to them. Invest in your employees, because they will be the best return on your investment.