“Students will be required to give a presentation…”
During college, that was the most anxiety-provoking sentence I would come across in a syllabus. I’m probably more anxious about public speaking than the average person, but I do know that most people get at least a little bit nervous. The bad news: there’s no quick fix for eliminating nerves. The good news: the right amount of nerves can actually improve your performance because it keeps you on your toes! The key is learning to work with your nerves. These are some tips that work well for me.
1. Know that you’re not alone
If you ask around your classroom, you may be surprised by the number of students that say they get presentation nerves. Even my professors have said that they were once terrified of public speaking, yet here they are lecturing for a living! So don’t feel ashamed or unprepared when you begin to feel your nerves kick in.
2. Make a point to talk in class
Get comfortable speaking in class, even if it’s a small comment or a question. One week, I made it my goal to make at least one comment a day in one of my classes. This way you are able to speak on your own terms, and you learn that it’s not so scary after all. It also allows your professor and classmates to get to know you better.
3. Practice your presentation, but don’t memorize it word for word
As far as alleviating nerves goes, practice is my anti venom. Simply knowing that you know what you’re talking about can do wonders for your presentation. If you’re using a Powerpoint, just click through the slides on your computer and explain them as you plan to in your presentation. Don’t try to memorize your presentation–if you forget something, you may find yourself in a jam. Play around with it, and try out different ways of saying things. If there are any parts that feel awkward, you may want to reword/reorder your slides or think of a clearer way to explain them.
4. Get to know the audience
I feel more comfortable presenting if I know some people in the audience. It’s easy to turn a crowd of strangers into a terrifying group of critics. If you’re doing a presentation for school, meet some of your classmates or get to know your professor.
5. Get there a few minutes before, stand up front, and get used to the view
Walking up to the podium can be terrifying. If you can, volunteer to go first. Get there a little early and get everything set up and ready to go. I try to do this whenever I can because I feel like I have more control that way.
7. Believe in yourself
One thing I have learned is that we criticize ourselves more than anyone else will. If you’re feeling awkward, chances are people haven’t noticed. When you are watching others present, do you think any less of them if they stumble on a word or their voice starts to tremble? Hopefully not. Be confident in your abilities and allow yourself to make mistakes.