Coming into college, I thought I was done with the dreaded presentations in class that high school continuously forced upon me. Little did my naïve, 18 year old mind know that freshman year would be the beginning of presentations that would become a significant part of my college experience. Are you one of those students who hates giving presentations in front of a class? The very thought of it makes your hands shake, palms get wicked sweaty, and your face turn beet red. You are not alone. I am one of those students, and I sometimes wonder if my reaction to presenting is what I dread more than the actual presentation itself.
Over spring break in New Mexico, I had to present a paper I wrote on the “Canterbury Tales.” Weeks before, I felt my stomach in knots whenever I thought about reading Middle English in front of an unknown crowd, along with a couple of my peers. With Scholars in Action Day approaching, I know many students are feeling a similar wave of nausea, fear, and possibly some excitement. How do you conquer that fear that seems to easily defeat any semblance of excitement you hold?
As simple as it may seem, coming prepared is a huge asset to presenting. If you are presenting a paper, enlarge the font on your paper in order to make it easier to read. Nobody wants to lose their place while reading, which is an unfortunate and common mistake. If you are presenting a project or proposal, come prepared with note cards with font and ideas that are easy to read.
Similar to preparation, practice is a huge help in presenting. As cheesy as it sounds, “practice makes perfect” is a great mindset for preparing for a presentation. Practicing makes you more prepared because you are able to be comfortable with the material. Practice in front of a mirror, a friend, a video, or a group of people. Ask your friends for feedback after you finish your presentation. Was the presentation long enough? How was your eye contact? Did you stammer at all? Were all the points clearly made? That way you will be able to make changes before you actually present.
As uncomfortable as presenting is, there are ways to make it more comfortable. I know some people pretend that the audience is in their underwear. While that works for some people, I’ve been too afraid of getting even redder during my presentation using that tactic. One way that I feel more comfortable while presenting is being well versed in my subject matter by knowing the information and having credible sources. Being prepared and well versed allows for you to be able to smile, make eye contact, have inflection, and have confidence. Not taking short cuts in the beginning process will make your presentation a much smoother process. Don’t let the fear of presenting take away from the important material you have to share with the audience.