Step 2: Assessment Centers - Oral Interview
Battalion Chief Paul Lepore
The oral presentations are probably the most overlooked part of the promotional exam. This is ironic because studies show that our greatest fear is to speak in front of a group. From the department’s perspective it is important to promote people who can speak in front of a group. The higher the rank, the more public speaking you will be expected to do. I was recently involved in a Battalion Chiefs exam where five out of 12 candidates failed the oral presentation. It was very unfortunate because several of them would have been excellent fire ground commanders. While commanding an incident is a extremely important, as a chief officer I find myself in front of a group as often as I run a major incident.
Candidates will be expected to follow the rules of speaking in front of a group. These include introducing yourself, explaining the reason for the meeting, motivating the audience as to why it is important for them to embrace what you have to say, delivering the sustenance of your presentation, summarizing your presentation, and leaving time at the end for questions. Most oral presentation exercises are timed. It is up to the candidate to manage his or her time. The candidate should note the time the exercise culminates so he can allow enough time to complete it. Once the time has expired, the candidates will be asked to stop speaking regardless of where they is in their presentation.
The most common mistake in an oral presentation is trying to write everything in paragraph form. It’s painful to watch a candidate try to read the entire presentation to the raters. Candidates who are able to speak to bullet points will fare much better than those who try to read what they have written. Teachers and people who have previous experience speaking in public usually excel in this area. The best way to prepare for this exercise is to practice with a topic, have a set amount of time to prepare a lecture, and present the topic to an audience. Using a video camera is the best way to critique oneself.
You will be amazed at what you see.
Paul Lepore is the author of the best-selling series of career how-to books for firefighters. You can buy them directly from the FireLink Bookstore