How to write project case studies for your portfolio

How to write for portfolio presentation and case study

Writing helps some of us to prepare better. You'll have to fit three projects into 1800 words max.
  • To simplify our calculation, let’s suggest you have 10 minutes per project, that's 640 words per project (excluding questions and jokes).
  • You have to cover a lot of ground: problem statement, solution, and your contribution.
  • Speech is vastly different from reading (it takes longer to pronounce than to read).
  • Nobody reads on the internet. Short descriptions with specific titles help the hiring party to learn what they want.

Avoid writing a lot of text: you have a time limit for a live presentation, and hiring people rarely (if ever) read this stuff in your portfolio.

Consider time limitations if you want to write down your presentation outline before assembling it into a slide deck. Here we’ll explore how many words you might want to use to ensure you will fit the given time, what structure to follow and why the 42 words/slide is the average you might want to aim at.

Given: the portfolio presentation at the interview should fit into 30 minutes.

You have to fit 2-3 projects into a presentation.

Depending on the strategy, 20, 10, or 5 minutes can be allocated to a project.

For simplicity's sake, let's consider 10 minutes per project.

There is a vast difference between reading and pronouncing speed. If you google for “English pronunciation speed average words per minute,” here’s the snippet for you: “Most words are two to three syllables long, giving you the answer that the average person speaks approximately 100 – 130 words per minute. A professional voice-over artist usually uses 150 to 160 words per minute.”

It will be a mistake to speak quickly - you want your peer to hear everything clearly, so let's take 100 words per minute as an average pronunciation speed.

One or two minutes will be spent on a clarifying question/joke/interviewer's comment. You want the presentation to be like a dialogue and to be understood, which is the whole point of an interview.

Now we have 8 minutes/case left.

That's 800 words if everything goes smoothly and without hiccups. But they happen, so let's remove 20% from here.

Now we have 640 words left.

640 words for context, user problem statement, and comments to the slides (your process and results).

What you need to reveal in 640 words:

  1. About the company or product.
  2. The user problem statement.
  3. Justification of that problem.
  4. The audience or target user.
  5. Expected result.
  6. Problem-solving: your solution, the core of the presentation.

Depending on your story, consider these questions, too:

  1. How did you know that the solution was good?
  2. Sacrifices and restrictions, if any.
  3. Your individual contribution to the results (that's why they might want to hire you, by the way).
  4. An example of working with a team and other departments (XFN), if applicable.
  5. What have you learned at the launch/what would you have done differently?
  6. If there is a professional reason to be proud, tell about it.

Each slide with pictures will take a minute or two to explain or comment on.

There will be approximately 15 slides per case.

640/15 = 42 words per slide.

Obviously, you will have to adjust your story to the timing and slides to the story, and depending on your cases, these averages would be different. You still would want to keep the pace and avoid long talks over one slide while quickly skipping other slides.

This text has ~500 words. It would take me approximately 5 minutes of reading out loud, which is ~15% of the presentation time.

  • Build a story, not an outline.
  • Make sure a story accompanies your slides, not otherwise.
  • Approximately 15 slides per case.
  • 42 words per slide.
  • Don't use that text on slides. This is what you should tell, not read from a slide.
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