I recently signed up to give a presentation on the research I’m doing for my senior thesis at the University of Maryland Baltimore County‘s undergraduate research day. Presentations are pretty nerve-wracking – if not downright terrifying – for most people, but giving a good presentation is a really important skill to have both in academics and in the work place.
If you get the chance to practice this skill in your own school’s program or in clubs, I definitely recommend taking the risk to build up your courage. The Universities at Shady Grove also has a Toastmasters club where you can practice public speaking in a supportive, informal environment to help overcome public speaking fear.
So what should you do if you have class presentations coming up at the end of this semester? I’m no expert, but here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years:
- Start working on your presentation early. The biggest mistake people make is being underprepared or doing a rush job. If possible, start working on your PowerPoint as you’re writing your paper or doing your project so you can create it while the info is fresh in your mind. Start sooner rather than later. You’ll be less nervous if you’re more prepared.
- Plan out what you’re going to say. A few people are good at speaking on the fly, but most people ramble, blank on information, etc. if they don’t prepare. Spare yourself and your audience and plan ahead of time the major points you want to make or even write out a script. You don’t have to follow your plan exactly or read it word-for-word, but thinking through your presentation will make it ten times better and help you feel more prepared.
- Practice, practice, practice! It’s always easy to figure out who rehearsed a speech and who didn’t. Last semester, I would rehearse in my room, for my family, and even while I drove to school. It felt silly at the time, but it really helped me iron out what I wanted to say and make sure I was meeting the time limit. I also felt more confident going into the presentation.
- Command the room. When you feel nervous about a speech, it’s easy to look nervous and undermine the hard work you’ve put in. I’m not the world’s greatest public speaker, but I’ve noticed it helps to come out from behind the computer and stand beside the PowerPoint screen, facing the class. You can’t hide and you look a lot more confident!
- Don’t second guess yourself. Once you leave the podium, leave your presentation there too. If your professor gives you feedback, file it away for next time, but don’t obsess over how you did in your head…This will make public speaking more intimidating. Pat yourself on the back for accomplishing yet another task and overcoming your fear, and move forward! (Easier said than done, I know!)
Best of luck with all of your end-of-the-semester assignments! We’ve got this!