I have to say I’m feeling pretty stressed this week, and that’s because I have to give a presentation on Thursday. I’ve already given 3 this semester and this will be my last one, so I should be feeling pretty confident- but it’s for my most difficult and intimidating class and it’s with 2 other people whose studying style doesn’t seem to be quite the same as mine. So yes, I’m pretty nervous.
People keep telling me that the more I do presentations the more comfortable I will feel about them, and I do believe that but at the same time I feel like there are some people who just don’t enjoy giving presentations and will probably never feel that confident about giving them- and I definitely fit into that category. Having said that, there are definitely ways to improve confidence, so I thought I’d share some of mine.
1. Figure out which sort of cues are best for you
When I gave my first presentation here I tried to just use notes with key words so that I didn’t just read monotonously my script. This tactic worked for a while, until I got to a point where my mind went blank due to nerves and my brightly coloured key words weren’t much help in forming coherent sentences. Normally I would say that key words are the best cues for presentations, because if you go completely without them you risk rambling and losing your point/going over your time limit, and having a whole script results in boredom for the audience. However, I happen to know that there is always a point in my presentation where I lose my cool and my brain freezes. Now I’ve figured that out I’ve accepted that it happens and try to prepare for it. On my cue cards I have key words on one side, and on the back I have a word for word script. That way I can go as far as I can until my brain gives up, then flip to the full script until I get past the temporary block and can go back to speaking more freely with the key words.
2. Practice with and without your notes
Although I believe you should always have cue cards of some sort, I also think it’s a good idea to practice without your notes at some point. It gets you to really get to grips with what you’re talking about, which prepares you for the questions you sometimes get asked at the end, and also it gives you the confidence that even if something went horribly wrong (like your notes disintegrated 5 seconds before your turn or you temporarily lost the power to read) you still have the knowledge to give a passable presentation.
3. Practice lots, and do it standing up
I used to go over and over my presentation, but when it came to standing up in front of the class I would still be terrified. Then I realised that part of the problem was I always went over my presentation curled up in bed, so when I got to actually presenting I still felt like I wasn’t sure what I was doing. I suddenly got hyper-aware of what my legs were doing, and wondered what on earth I should be doing with my hands. So when you go over your presentation, try it stood up, and if you’re using powerpoint practice switching the slides and things, just so you know you can do it all ok.
4. Give your presentation to someone beforehand
I never tend to do this, but I’ve heard numerous times that if you give your presentation to a friend beforehand you feel more confident, so I’d say give this a go, and I’ll probably try it myself once I’ve got over my fear of boring my friends to tears.
5. Set up early
If you’re using any form of technology then we all know it tends not to be co-operative 24/7. I’m sure we’ve all been in the class where a teacher decides they want to use the projector, only to spend about 10 minutes just trying to switch it on. If you get there early you have the chance to sort out any problems so that the class can run smoothly, plus as people start coming in you can use their expertise to help you out without embarrassing yourself in front of the entire class.
6. Dress for maximum comfort and minimum fiddling
This sounds bit stupid, but when you’re already nervous, the last thing you want is to be wearing something you’re not comfortable in. Similarly, many people can feel really warm whilst they’re presenting because of nerves, so try not to start your presentation snuggled up in a million layers and then roasting alive. Also, when people are nervous they tend to play with sleeves, hair, just anything that will distract themselves and occupy their hands. If you know that you do this, try and plan ahead and for example wear a short tshirt or tie your hair back. It makes you look a lot more confident if you aren’t twitching around.
Ok well that’s probably enough for now! And just remember that most of the time a presentation is not the be all and end all of your grade, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself. I’m now going to get back to pacing around my room giving my presentation in my most confident voice, so I’ll blog again soon. If you have any other tips for me they’d be greatly appreciated!