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SmartWin Q&A: Don’t Lose it in the [Virtual] Interview

As face-to-face interaction comes to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both public and private owners are transitioning their AEC procurement processes online. Smartegies answered questions asked from top AEC firm executives to understand the challenges they face when converting traditional, in-person presentations to the virtual interview environment. Below are answers to some of their most pressing questions.

To learn more, check out our latest webinar, Don’t Lose it in the [Virtual] Interview: Best Practices for AEC Virtual Presentations to see how your firm should prepare to seamlessly pivot to the virtual environment.

Q: How do you recommend passing the presentation to the next speaker? Do you leave yourself on mute until it’s your turn?

Yes! Anytime you’re not speaking, mute yourself. This eliminates any background noise or feedback from disrupting the presentation and keeps the focus on the active speaker. Be conscious of when it’s your turn to speak, and don’t forget to unmute yourself.

Q: Do you think virtual presentations will be permanent?

It depends. We have seen a lot of Owners enjoy the flexibility of online interviews and not having to coordinate challenging meeting schedules. However, some Owners miss face-to-face interaction with project teams. We wouldn’t be surprised if some Owners stick with this new approach, so we recommend having a process in place for both styles.

Q: Does everyone on the presentation team need to be on camera?

Yes! Treat your virtual presentation like you would an in-person presentation. Your whole team should remain on camera for the entire duration. Along with the project team’s expertise, team chemistry, and how they work together greatly influence an Owner’s decision to award a team. Things to remember when you are on screen:

  • Be aware of your resting face
  • Do not multitask. Remain engaged throughout the presentation
  • Put your talking points behind the camera, so you don’t look down while speaking
  • Make sure you are eye-level with the camera
  • Be aware of your background

Q: How do we handle team intros and make speaking transitions smooth?

This is where practice makes perfect. Have an order to how you will conduct the intros. Have your opener introduce each team member up front and then have each person reintroduce themselves before they speak. We have found that the teams who practice making seamless transitions seem organized and professional to the Owners. You can implement keywords throughout the presentation that are verbal cues for the slide master to advance the slide or for your teammates to move on or speed up the presentation. This is why rehearsal is the most important part of your interview.

Q: What online tools do you recommend using?

  • ThingLink: A solution for larger files. It gives you the ability to turn any image (flat floor plans, rendering, site logistics plans, etc.) into an interactive graphic.
  • Online presentation platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams have live annotation capabilities that allow you to markup screen shared documents during a live stream. This is especially helpful for designers who may want to live sketch during the interview.
  • LiveSlides and Poll Everywhere: These PowerPoint tools allow you to embed real-time polling data into your presentation.
  • Branded virtual backgrounds help elevate your presentation as well. Most online tools allow you to change your background, but having a branded background elevates your presentation even more. Note that if you choose to use a branded background, we recommend all team members use the same one. Owners have found it distracting when all the backgrounds are different.

Getting it right will take practice. Rehearsing virtual presentations allows you the opportunity to identify and correct any hiccups that would hurt your chances of winning. By approaching with a plan and ensuring your team is comfortable in the virtual environment, you are maximizing your chances of winning every interview.

For more on virtual interview best practices and securing your next project win, check out our special SmartWin webinar, Don’t Lose it in the [Virtual] Interview: Best Practices for AEC Virtual Presentations.