Law firms need to know that their future trainees have the skills required to work in client-facing situations. And that they can be depended on to make an impression which reflects favourably on the firm. But a presentation exercise isn’t about presentation skills alone – it’s also a test of organisation and planning.
What to expect:
There are several different formats that the presentation exercise may take.
The most common one is that you will be told in advance of the assessment centre that you are to prepare a presentation (either on a topic of your choice or from a list of given topics) to deliver on the day. Alternatively, you may be given your topics during the assessment day itself, with time to prepare set aside.
Another option is that you will be asked to base your presentation on one of the other exercises that you have performed during the assessment centre, for example, you are asked to give verbal feedback about the group exercise that you were involved in. In most cases, you will be asked to give a presentation of 5-10 minutes. Be prepared to answer questions from the panel of assessors at the end.
This is the part of the assessment centre that is most likely to fill people with fear and dread. And yet it is the part over which you have the most control. You are in the driving seat. You can control the information which you choose to give.
And, usually, your performance is not dependent upon a wider team contribution. So this really is a great opportunity to stand out from your competitors and make a good impression.
What are the assessors looking for?
- Evidence of good verbal communication skills – the ability to present information in an appropriate and engaging way
- Good evidence of research and planning
- Ability to structure your thoughts effectively, showing an organised and logical approach
- Ability to think on your feet and respond to any questions that arise from the presentation
- A confident attitude
- If you’ve not been given the full information, make sure you contact the recruitment team in advance to find out what access you will have to equipment on the day.
- Select a topic that you are enthusiastic about as this will shine through in your presentation and make it a more enjoyable experience for you, and your assessors. Unless you are instructed to do otherwise, it is wise to steer clear of law-related topics. It is a risky tactic. The panel of assessors are likely to be far more knowledgeable than you are on the subject matter and this could lead to some tricky questioning at the end of the presentation.
- Know your audience – this isn’t a stand-up comedy act, nor are you being asked to present a financial report to a Board of Directors. You need to pitch it at the right level appearing, if possible, professional and yet relaxed.
- If you are a strong and confident public speaker, don’t assume this is enough to carry you through the exercise. Assessors will want to see evidence that you have really committed to this task. If your presentation isn’t well organised then they won’t be impressed.
- Spend time structuring your presentation so that it has a clear beginning, middle and end. To coin a phrase: “Tell them what you are going to do. Do it. Then tell them that you’ve done it.”
- Plan your time carefully. A large number of students overrun, and firms will not necessarily let you finish once the time limit has passed. The pace of your presentation should not be rushed, so don’t be over-ambitious with the content.
- Be well prepared. Practice, practice and practice again. Bring hand-outs if they help illustrate your talk. Prepare cue cards if you think they will help you to remember the key points. A useful tactic is to use brief bullet points on each PowerPoint slide, and aim to expand verbally on each point as you work through the presentation.
- Remember that it’s OK to be nervous. They are not expecting the ‘finished article’ in terms of presentation skills and this can all be taught at a later date, and over time. But do try and remain positive. And smile!
For a rundown of the do’s and don’t of training contract assessment centres and expert tips for other tests and exercises (and how to practice them) see our Essential Guide to Training Contract Assessment Centres.
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