We’re in peak season for campus interviews. At this stage of my career, I’ve had and seen many of them. So a bit of advice to those whose applications ended up at the top of the list:
We’ve all probably heard the statement, “No one in the room knows as much about your topic as you do,” intended to alleviate the anxiety of speaking before an audience of strangers. In an attempt to strengthen the performance of job candidates, I now propose the Chad Raymond Corollary: “No one in the room is as interested in your topic as you are.”
If your interview includes a research presentation or a teaching demo, practice multiple times — by which I mean full dress rehearsals, not just reviewing what you think you’re going to say in your mind. Boil the talking down to one or two main points. Eliminate words that you stumble over. Whittle down the content until you can deliver the entire presentation at a steady, deliberate pace within the specified time limit.
Then cut at least another 25 percent. Preferably more.
Why? Expect a delay because of the technology in the room isn’t working properly. Then introductory announcements by hosts. And you will need to entertain questions at the end. But mainly because people don’t really want to hear someone else speak non-stop for 45 minutes about a topic that has less import to them than what they will eat for dinner that night.
The above also applies to conference presentations.
Last, and I can’t stress this enough, figure out how you are going to engage your audience. If you prompt people in the room to do something, they are more likely to have a stronger, more positive view of your abilities. At minimum, they won’t be looking at their phones.