It’s funny. Growing up, I had no problem presenting a class assignment or project to a large group, but once I got to college, everything changed. Now, I get this big ball of fear in the pit of my stomach every time I walk up to the podium. My throat constricts, my head gets cloudy and I tend to stop breathing. Not a good combo.
I’m sure you can imagine how difficult it is to be a public relations major with a fear of public speaking. Whether it’s something as formal as pitching to a client or as laid back as talking during a meeting, presentations are going to be a part of my day-to-day life. And you know what? I’m somehow okay with that. I love the communications industry and I refuse to let something trivial come between me and and my career path.
As I finish up my senior year, I have come to the realization that it is possible to cope with this phobia. In fact, I’ve learned there are several practical things you can do to make the public speaking process go a heck of a lot smoother. I recently read an article from Reputation Management Associates titled “The Fear of Public Speaking” and it reminded me of how common this fear truly is. And while my presentation skills are nowhere near perfect, I am proud to say that I have come a long way from where I once was.
With that, I want to leave you with some tips that helped me survive presentations during my college career.
1. Breath. It sounds silly, right? But this is probably the best piece of advice I could possibly give you. Your brain literally cannot function without oxygen, so don’t forget to take some deep breaths before hitting the stage. It will slow your heart rate down and get your creative juices flowing.
2. Be prepared. I always find that I am most nervous for the presentations that I am ill prepared for. Don’t be afraid to rehearse your presentation from top to bottom until you’re sick of it. Practice in front of a mirror, your mom or even record yourself- this will prevent you from freezing up or fumbling over your words while you’re doing the real thing.
3. Know your key messages. If you plan on using note cards, make sure they have concise and legible talking points. You don’t want to be staring at your note card, trying to decipher between and ‘o’ and an ‘a’ because you wrote them in your own sloppy hand writing.
4. Believe that what you have to say is valuable. For some reason, we have the tendency to undermine our own knowledge. Know that you have a lot to offer, and be confident in what you have to say.
5. Stay hydrated. You’re more likely to get cotton mouth when talking in front of a large crowd, so chug a glass of water before you start talking to avoid any awkward pauses or discomfort.
Do you have any tips on how to nail a presentation? I would love to hear about them in the comment section!