The Panic of Presentations: How to feel prepared

Presentations can be a massive source of stress, particularly if you’re someone who hates public speaking. Unfortunately, the likelihood is that at some point in your university career and beyond, you’ll be asked to give a presentation, and there’ll be no escape! But even if presentations make you feel like running for the hills, don’t panic! Here are a few tips to help you feel prepared…

Ah, presentations. An absolute joy for some, an absolute menace for others. If, like me, you fall into the latter category, I apologise. There is nothing worse than finding out that you have to stand up and present your work in front of a room full of people, if you genuinely hate doing it. The worst thing? As university students, most of us are going to have to present something at some point or another.

For me, this point came last year, when I found out that I was going to have to do an assessed group presentation as part of one of my (inescapable!) core modules. Did I spend the month before the presentation stewing in a pit of despair? Yes. Did I have to do that to myself? No. Looking back, I could have saved myself a lot of time and stress if I had just planned out the preparation process in advance. Here are the things that, I found, helped me feel most prepared before and during my presentation.

  1. Cue-cards

Everybody always seems so worried about the visual media which the audience is going to see, and they forget that the most important visual-aids are the ones you make for yourself! Cue-cards are an incredible asset to use when you’re doing a presentation, especially if you’re the nervous type. You can know your speech inside-out, but if you know (like me) you’re prone to mental-blanking when you’re nervous, having some cards with a couple of points jotted down can be a massive confidence boost. If you feel you need to, write your entire speech down! As long as you break it up onto cards and make an effort to look up at the room, no one will ever know! If it works for you, maybe even write down some encouraging messages for yourself on the cards? The important thing is that you feel confident when you’re presenting – write down whatever you need to in order to feel that confidence!

The Panic of Presentations: How to feel prepared

2. Practice

The worst part of the ‘presentation preparation process’? Running through your presentation in front of people for the first time. There is something uniquely nerve-wracking about that first time you deliver your speech for an audience, so the important thing to do is to get yourself as comfortable as possible! Pick a few good friends and try running through it with them before the actual day. If you’re the type to stutter through your words, get shaky hands or randomly turn bright red during presentations (my personal vice), this is a great step towards feeling prepared! Get all those little things out of the way in advance. Run through your speech until it feels natural – trick your brain into thinking the hard work is done! When the time comes to actually present, you won’t be so nervous – you’ll have done it fifteen times before!

3. Distraction

Presentations can make magicians of us all! If you hate the feeling of all eyes being on you when you’re presenting, try capturing the audience with a more exciting illusion – your PowerPoint! Try incorporating vibrant colours and powerful images into your slides, things that will draw the eye of your audience. Trivial as it might seem, using an aesthetically pleasing visual aid can really help you capture the audience’s interest, and divert their gaze to that instead of you! If you don’t fancy using a PowerPoint, think about perhaps making a handout for the class, or showing them a video? There are plenty of types of visual media you can use. For a little bit more of a guide, try taking a look at our previous post on creating an effective visual presentation!

The Panic of Presentations: How to feel prepared

4. Appearance

On a more general note, what you wear to your presentation can have a big impact on how you feel. If you have a favourite hoodie or pair of jeans, this is the best time to wear it! If you feel good inwardly, this translates outwardly, and can help you appear your most confident when you’re presenting.

Presentations are often a struggle for most of us, and you can never be over-prepared for them! If you want some more advice and encouragement, feel free to check out our other post – where we overcome some of the presentation misnomers! If you’re reading this and you have a presentation coming up, give these ideas a try and see if they work for you. More importantly, though, best of luck!

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