Every Student’s Worst Fear

oralpresentationsShivering already? Oral presentation is no friend of mine. When I was younger we got along pretty fine, but one day in high school I got so nervous I nearly cried in front of my class mates. I was well prepared and all, but it happened anyway. I still don’t know what exactly happened or why I got so nervous. The fear has haunted me ever since. It got so bad that I actually cried at several oral exams at uni. Poor examiners! I remember one of them suggested I did coke before my oral exams. That advice I kindly chose not to follow.

I’m eagerly intent on overcoming this fear and really nail a presentation one day (soon!). As you know, I finish my studies this year and what should I have learned if not excelling at oral presentations? After the last presentation I did (in December) my lecturer smilingly told me to ‘look at the audience next time’. Thanks, (wo)man!

I did some research on the topic and collected this advice for you (and me):

  • Use most of your time on the actual content. What is important for your presentation should be in your head. The more detailed the PowerPoint (or Prezi), the worser the presentation.
  • You have the information, not the PowerPoint. The PowerPoint is just the icing on the cake. If the cake is badly prepared, the icing won’t save it no matter how pretty it is.
  • People can’t multitask (not even women). Keep the focus on you, not the PowerPoint.
  • Only have main points on the PowerPoint, never whole sentences.
  • NEVER simply read from your slides. (Otherwise you might inflict death by PowerPoint upon your audience.)
  • Instead of a full manuscript for what you are going to say, prepare notecards with keywords. A manuscript is nice to have if you get totally lost, but I easily (and usually) end up just reading it aloud.
  • Think of the audience as one person.
  • If you know the audience, then focus on one of your friends. If not, then focus on one that looks friendly or one that smiles at you.
  • Don’t be too nervous about the questions afterwards. You can always say ‘That I don’t know, but I will research it/look it up for you later’.
  • If there is a person from your class who is a good presenter then go ask him/her for some advice.
  • Talk to your study buddies about creating an oral presentation prep group, helping guide each other to be better presenters
  • Practice your presentation (in front of a mirror).
  • Watch TED-talks and take note of how the presenters do – what do you like, what makes them captivating, etc. This one is on body language, which is also something to be aware of while presenting.
  • Check out this excellent guide: Five Steps to Conquer ‘Death by PowerPoint’.
  • Get a good night’s sleep.
  • Dress up! Full make-up and a power suit might make you more comfortable.

Good luck with your next presentation. And please do share if you have some advice.


2 thoughts on “Every Student’s Worst Fear”

  1. Very relevant points. I’ve learnt that, as with pretty much everything else, the key is to be well prepared and do the research thoroughly. Know what you are talking about. Only then the nerves will disappear and by the end of the presentation you will kind of start enjoying it and feel a sense of pride and satisfaction.

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