College Advice Blog

Jan 22, 2013

5 Tips for Combating Presentation Jitters

Public speaking only comes naturally to a select few. The people that it comes naturally to have the ability to step up in front of a crowd and let the words flow from their mouth like they had been giving presentations since they were in the womb, or at least it seems. Conviction rings in their voice and their very presence is dripping with passion. If only everyone were that lucky.

For many people, public speaking is one of the most terrifying things that they will ever have to do, especially when their job or grade is dependent on how well they do during a presentation. Sweaty palms and cotton mouth are only the beginning of a massive train wreck that will inevitably ensue when someone who is terrified of giving presentations gets up to do one.

Don’t let this be you. Easier said than done, I know. Giving a presentation without feeling like you are going to throw up takes a lot of practice that many people are never exposed to. During high school and even into college students are only assigned maybe a couple presentations a year so it is really difficult for them to practice their presentation skills. The less practice you get, the more likely you are to be nervous and have presentation anxiety. When a presentation completely tanks, it is likely due to the anxiety leading up to a presentation over anything else. Anxiety is a large issue in itself but here are a few tips the help ease the presentation jitters:

  1. Practice- Ok, I know that this isn’t the Holy Grail of tips, but it really is essential. The better you know your presentation, the less likely you will be to stumble on your words and fill your presentation will umms and ahhs. Practicing in front of a mirror will give you a good clue as to how you actually deliver your presentation instead of just how you say it.
  2. Bring a bottle of water with you- No matter how much water you drink throughout the day, as soon as you get up to deliver your presentation you are suddenly going to feel parched. Bringing a bottle of water with you will make you feel more comfortable and less like you are in the middle of the Saharan Desert. You can also take a sip of water when you feel yourself start to get flustered. This will help you slow down and take a pause that doesn’t seem awkward or too rehearsed.
  3. Use visual aids- Most professors require visual aids when giving presentations such as a PowerPoint or presentation posters so you have to use one anyways. If for some reason they don’t require it, then you are still free to use one unless they specify otherwise. Yes, it takes more time, but it will help guide you through your presentation so you’ll be less likely to get lost or forget things. The biggest caution when using visual aids is to not read directly off of them and don’t overload them with text. They are aids, not crutches. 
  4. Prepare for questions- write down questions that you think someone might ask concerning your presentation and then write down your answers to them. The more prepared you are for questions; the less likely you will be to get off track or stumble on your words when someone asks you something.
  5. Don’t point out your flaws! - When a nervous speaker apologizes for being nervous and the mistakes they think they are going to make because of it, everyone notices. When a nervous speaker doesn’t say anything about being nervous, 9 times out of 10 nobody notices. Apologizing for being nervous only brings attention to it. It’s not a bridesmaid’s speech it’s a presentation! No one has to know how you really feel.
About the Author
Jessica Reynolds is a PowerPoint and presentation professional. She currently writes for presentation poster printer, a division of MegaPrint. She considers herself an expert in PowerPoint layout and designer.

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