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Feature Story - March 2009

Presentation Skills Column

Getting Better Results from Project Interviews

Tough economic times mean more competition for each and every project. By following these tips, your team can increase your chances of being selected for that next big job.

By Hilari Weinstein

The downturn in the economy is certainly affecting the A/E/C industry, with fewer projects to pursue and more companies going after them. With each project worth significant money to an organization, your team’s ability to effectively present is critical.


Consultants and general contractors require skills and tools to do their job effectively. Yet, all too often, interview teams are sent to represent their firm with just a PowerPoint and a stomach full of nerves. Many project managers, estimators and superintendents haven’t been given the tools or skills to effectively manage this job requirement with the confidence and authority they handle the rest of their work.

The good news is that presenting skills can be developed. There are things you can do today that can improve your shortlist-to-win ratio:

1. Make it easy for the panel to give you points.

The panel can’t give you points for questions they don’t know you answered, and they shouldn’t have to search throughout their rating sheet to discover which interview question you are addressing. Help them out by identifying which question you are answering before providing your response. If you are using boards or PowerPoint, identify which question that slide or board is responding to.

2. Show the owner what’s in it for them.

The panel doesn’t want to know why you are so great. They want to know what you can do for them. Help each owner understand how your firm and your experience will be uniquely valuable to them on this project.

3. Let the panel get to know your people.

Interviews offer the panel something the SOQ can’t -- an opportunity to meet your team face to face. Your people are not their job description; who they are brings added value to the work they do. But sometimes it’s hard for project managers, superintendents and estimators to be natural. Concerned about saying the right thing and getting their points across, they can become paralyzed. Remember that the message and the messenger impact the effectiveness of your presentation.

4. Simplify PowerPoint or Boards.

You are presenting your team. Visual elements such as boards or PowerPoint should be speaker support and should enhance the presentation. Unfortunately, they are often used as a crutch to mask poor speaking skills.

  • Don’t give your audience whiplash with too many slides.
  • Minimize the number of words on the slide.
  • Use project pictures.

5. Keep focused and stay on time.

With limited time available to respond to each question, it can be challenging to thoroughly answer the questions posed with simplicity and clarity while providing enough detail and specific examples to illustrate your points. Because time is of the essence, it is critical to keep folks from going off on a tangent that could impact the time available to respond to later questions. A few ideas to keep your team on track:

  • Give each person an allotted time for their sequence.
  • Outline exactly what they will cover and examples to be used.
  • Practice, practice, practice.


Hilari Weinstein, president of High Impact Communication, has helped numerous A/E/C professionals nationwide to win more work. She is co-author of “Selection Success! How Consultants, Contractors and Others Can Win More Work in a Qualifications-Based Selection Process.” Contact Hilari at hilari@highimpactcommunication.com or visit www.highimpactcommunication.com for additional tips.


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