MBA Internship Final Presentation Tips

Last year at this time I was an MBA intern preparing for my final internship presentation. The internship was the first time I ever worked in a real business setting and I had never given a real business presentation before (the Duke MBA did give me tons of practice, though!). After my presentation I wrote this blog post to highlight some of my key learnings so future MBA interns can benefit. These tips are based on my experience during the final project presentations and hope they will help as you plan yours.

1) Describe your approach.

This is the most important tip. Your approach is the main thing that the audience is looking for in your presentation. They want to see how you think, how you make decisions, and how you are able to navigate the matrix environment in a company. Some of the best presentations I saw were able to clearly articulate the thinking behind why the intern took an approach, and how it aligned with the overall strategic goals of the business unit, or even better yet, the company. The intern presentation is not meant to be informational, so don't position it as such. The worst question to get during the Q&A is how exactly you did something. You want to get a question that gives you the opportunity to show off your insights.

2) Highlight the business implications of your project. 

You don't want to dive straight into the project details, and not put the project into perspective of the overall goals of the company. You'll always want an objective section in your presentation and it's great to add a line or two of how your project is relevant. You want to describe why the project is business critical or at least what the intended effect this project should have on the business. This is the "why" of the project, and as I mentioned multiple times in my blog that is incredibly important.

3) Every slide should highlight your leadership skills. 

Even if it's not written on the slide, you should talk about it. How you actively engaged, how you led meetings with suppliers, how you matched a team resource to a team need, etc. Remember that these companies are not looking to hire only smart people who can do the job well, they are hiring for future leaders to fill their pipelines. Read more in this post.

4) Don't just quantify what you did.

In our resumes, we are taught to quantify our results. This is not the way to present your work during a live presentation. You don't want to say that you had 50 one-on-ones. That's what you did, and the audience will be wondering why you did that. It is way more impressive to say that you identified a need to understand company internal best practices and therefore dedicated time to interviewing current employees, which combined with your competitive analysis externally, led to your recommendation of doing X, ensuring that your plan will win both within the company and in the marketplace.

5) Most presentations should have a learning slide. 

The best ones tie what you did to leadership learnings, so when the slide pops up, you can refer to specific actions you took that you already mentioned earlier in the presentation. It lets you end the presentation with a bang and shows how the internship was a transformative leadership experience. What is less effective is if you just said I learned about the culture of company X, or I found the people to be really friendly, etc. Instead, you can say you learned that facilitating a collaborative team culture was important to accomplish your goals, or focusing on building strong relationships within the matrix environment was critical to get buy-in.

6) Acknowledge people personally.

Many interns will put up a slide with the 80 people they had one-on-ones with. This only shows that you were good at setting up meetings. Instead, what I found most genuine was to spend a minute or two actually calling out the people who were most important to your project and to your leadership learnings. Invite these people to your presentation. You'll want to run this slide by your manager to make sure that you're not missing anyone.

The rest are mostly simple presentation style tips, which are usually covered in first year MBA courses (e.g. Management Communications at Duke Fuqua).

7) Don't have too much text. 

You do not want to have slides that are walls of text. This is highly distracting as it took attention away from the presenter. Again, think of the presentation as your last interview with the company. You want the presentation to be focused on you.

8) Have good transitions if you have more than one deliverable.

In our communication classes, we are taught to say what you just said, and say what you are about to say. You want your presentation to flow like a story so that it's easy to follow, and show that you were very thoughtful in how you approached your project.

9) Take full ownership.

Start sentences with "I" and not "we" when you are speaking. Again, the final presentation is like an interview. If you are uncomfortable because of all the help you got, have a genuine and personal acknowledgement slide as I described in tip #6.

Alright, that's it for now. Just remember to describe your approach and thinking, and you should be in good shape.

Read the other posts in my MBA Internship Leadership Series here:

Leadership: the Key Ingredient to Success
What the MBA Doesn't Teach: How to Become a Leader
Gaining Exposure to Senior Leaders: Night Jobs
Get Promoted: First Build Trust With Your Boss
Leadership Development: Finding Time to Reflect
Leading Effective Meetings for MBAs
Non-Traditional MBA Skills, A Hidden Asset

If you're an incoming first year MBA student, you may find my 6-piece series called "Advice to First Year MBAs" useful as well.


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