Stage fright. It’s what people avoid and try not to think about. It’s what you hope you won’t have to go through on that first day of class when the professor is going over what to expect from the semester (or quarter if you’re school is on the quarter system).
In fact, Psychology Today even says people fear it more than death itself.
Today I’m here to tell you that I was one of those people. If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be here writing a blog post with tips on overcoming stage fright, I wouldn’t have believed it. To me it seemed like it would be one of those fears that would never go away. I’m really glad my present self proved my past self wrong.
I can’t really pinpoint one single moment when I overcame my fright but I’m just here to tell you that it is definitely something you can overcome. When I became a Business major, I knew that I had to work on my public speaking because I’d likely have to be presenting something for a variety of classes. I transferred to Stanislaus State and became more involved on campus and as time went on my confidence grew and now I’m at the point where, with adequate preparation, I could do a presentation on anything if I had to do a presentation. I’ve even considered presenting a TED Talk at some point.
So without further ado, here are my tips on becoming a good presenter, from a guy who used to be an introvert!
- Preparation is Key
I’ve mentioned it earlier and here it is again. It’s super important to make sure that you prepare for a presentation ahead of time. Depending on how much time you have, I’d say at least a week would be great. The more time you have to prepare for the presentation, the more knowledge you’ll have on the topic you’re presenting and the more practice you’ll have presenting. It’s important to set time each day so that you can have your ideas in mind often so by the time that day comes by, you’ll have all that knowledge in mind still.
- Practice with Family & Friends
It’s important to go through your presentation and by presenting it to your family & friends, you’ll be able to practice in front of an audience and they can tell you if any adjustments need to be made. It also helps improve your confidence as you’ll be able to go through your presentation a couple of times to know what and when to say something.
- Volunteer at Workshops
If you’re involved in an organization or the opportunity is there, volunteer to present a workshop on a particular topic that you’re knowledgeable in. Sure it’ll mean that you’ll be presenting without it having to be a requirement to do so, but you’ll gain valuable practice. For example, I volunteered to do a workshop on job search tips & interview tips on campus back in 2014.
- Minimize Words on Your Presentation
If you’re using PowerPoint or other presentation software, try to minimize the amount of words that you do per slide. For example, if you have a slide talking about Modesto Junior College history, rather than putting “The Modesto Junior College is a community college that was founded in the year 1921.”, put “Modesto Junior College, 1921”. This of course is a smaller example but where I’m getting at is, don’t put every word you plan on saying and just read everything that’s on the screen (that people are already seeing). I once had a professor that told us not to do this because it’ll quickly bore people and they will just read everything on the screen and ignore you. It’s actually funny (and not so funny) because I have had one or two professors who have literally had slides with so much content and have read every single thing.
Taking the first point of being prepared into consideration, if you’ve gone through the presentation quite a few times, you may be able to talk a lot about something by just having a key point that allows you to know what to reference next.
- Include Visuals on Your Presentation
Again, if you’re using technology in your presentation, do include visuals such as images and/or video clips. It’s important that not all of your presentation is just slides with text (unless you can’t have any visuals for some reason) because people will eventually get bored from just seeing text on every slide. It also helps you have a visual to allow visual learners to better understand what you’re talking about. And of course, so there’s a lower chance that people will get bored.
- Minimize Note Viewing
If you depend a lot on your notes, it’ll be hard to not look at your notecards or paper all the time. Try to minimize your note viewing and look at your audience most of the time. And yes, I know people might be asking themselves, “but I get more nervous if I have to look at people and present”, and I understand! If you really think you can’t do that, try this. When you’re looking at your audience try to look at whatever is around your audience. For example, if you’re in a classroom and there’s posters and empty desks, look at that. You do have to make sure that you’re still looking around the audience area so it doesn’t seem like you’re just presenting to one side but by doing this, your audience will think you are looking at them and it’ll help you be less nervous.
- Ask Questions
If you’re able to, ask your audience a question at the beginning usually works best. For example, if you’re doing a presentation on overcoming stage fright (see what I did there lol), you could ask something like, “how many of you would say that public speaking is one of your fears?”. With the question you’ll find out things such as how many people in your audience can relate to your presentation or if not many people in your audience have heard about what you’ll be presenting. The question depends on the topic but is great to have in a presentation because it can help capture the audience’s attention.
- Eat Something Before
You definitely want to make sure that you eat something before your presentation. I’m not saying go out and get a super burrito but I’d recommend something light like a granola bar to make sure that you don’t get hungry. There is nothing worse than being minutes away from presenting and hearing your stomach growl. This not only is going to make you want to finish the presentation soon to go get something to eat but it’ll distract you from making sure that you do a great job.
- Sleep As Much As Possible
Make sure that the night before the presentation you get as much sleep as you can. Sure there’s always coffee that can provide you with the energy but try to avoid it if possible (because that coffee is going to cost you, while sleeping is free! lol). It’ll help you be energized for the presentation and completely focused (because just like the previous tip, you’ll be distracted if you keep yawning in the presentation and it’ll make it seem like you’re bored of your own presentation!).
- Be Early To Your Presentation
Whether it’s in a classroom or in an auditorium, be sure to be early, if possible, to your presentation. It’s especially important if you have never been to the place you’re presenting, so that you can see how everything works and set up to be ready to present. It can also help you be more confident because if you’re running late you’ll already have that stress of not being on time and that may affect your presentation.
So those were some of the tips that I’ve used myself to help me overcome this fear that many people have.
Do you have additional tips that you’d like to add to this list? Have you used some of these yourself? Feel free to leave a comment below and good luck in your next presentation everyone!