Someone told me that if you have butterflies in your stomach, clenching your bum makes them go away - not sure if it's true though, strangely it never crosses my mind at the time!
What helps me is to memorise and rehearse my opening sentence, even if I don't have a full text presentation to read from (in fact, especially if I don't have a text to read from). Being able to envisage starting the presentation, knowing exactly what you are going to say, does make it easier i think. Obviously having at least one practice so you know it will last roughly the right amount of time and that there are no parts to the presentation which you are unclear about is vital.
I think anticipating the questions you might be asked and having some answers prepared can make you feel a lot better too - try to think of the most awkward, evil questions possible, like those which challenge the very foundations of your research - that way the questions you *do* get, which will undoubtedly be boring questions about tiny details or further reading, will seem like a breeze in comparison!
I get nerves all the time. I have been presenting for years through my old job where I had to present daily and now I have to present all the time for various industrial/in house things. But everytime I get a nerve attack, presenting time and time again hasn't made it easier for me! The worst for me was when I had to give a talk in our lecture theatre and I felt awful, yet people said that they didn't notice I was a bag of nerves. So I think you often feel a hell of a lot more nervous than you actually appear and I think that is something to take comfort in. My main tip is to avoid direct eye contact with anyone and try not to look into the audience too much as they can provide a big distraction. I try to focus on points at the back of the room so it looks like you are looking at people but you aren't. If you find yourself loosing your way a bit there is nothing wrong with pausing for a couple of seconds to take a breath, have a drink of water and refocus.
Oh yeah and if you do get a tough question or one that you don't understand it is totally acceptable to tell the questioner that you dont understand what he is asking.. its OK to say if you don't know the answer to a particular question, I have seen experts in the field turn round and say they can't answer things. One phrase that I find useful when someone asks me a question i can't answer regarding my work is something along the lines of 'I have though about that and I am going to be looking at that in my next set of experiments'
Practice is the key tip from me too: go over the presentation in advance (speaking out loud) to check it for timing, flow, things that just don't work, might get you in trouble etc. However my other big tip is to think that it will all be over in so many hours: gives me an end in sight to the terror and helps me get through it. I haven't had big problems with presentation fear for years, but I did early on. I still practice talks like mad though.
Thanks everyone! I have a presentation coming up soon so am a bit nervous about it! I don't mind answering the questions its giving the presentation that makes my very uneasy! In general I'm a confident outgoing person, but turn into the exact opposite when I have to present. Is there anybody who felt like this who can now give a confident presentation? Is there hope for me????
I think you're right Tricky, they are different things. I used to be nervous before all presentations years ago, although am usually confident enough in other situations. Now my presentation nervousness seems to depend on who the audience is going to be - I'm ok for conferences in big lecture theatres if the audience is going to be undergrads, but if it's for work colleagues or a room full of established academics I still get nervous, especially if I'm critiquing their work. New audiences from a completely different discipline also make me a bit anxious, as they're completely out of my so-called comfort zone.
I agree with the others, practice is really useful. I also check what the technical setup is like well in advance for any laptop/DVD/sound requirements I have, as at least that rules out any technical hitches as far as possible. I can't believe people who just turn up at a completely unknown place minutes before doing a talk and expect whatever they bring with them to magically work with other people's kit, especially when it's central to their whole presentation. Being prepared as much as possible is really important.
It's ok to get nervous, the trick is to control your nerves so that it doesn't affect your presentation.
Things that help me:
Practice the talk a few times, check timing etc.
Just before I have to speak, take a loo break. It's best to lock yourself into a cubicle - shake out the excess energy by wiggling around - it really works!
I tend to find that I'm nervous just before I go up but as long as I have a good opening sentence, e.g "Before I start I would just like to thank the organisers for giving me the opportunity to speak today. I want to talk to you about blah blah blah blah". After that, I feel really confident and my nerves disappear.
I used to be really nervous before presentations, and now, as a rule I am not.
Pre-PhD I worked. I once had to present something to a bunch of people with alot of power and millions of £s riding on it. It was an awful experience, but it went fine. It was only after I went through that, and was then presenting something a few months later, that someone commented on how unnervous I was at presenting that I realised I had forgotten to be nervous. In order to cope with the awful thing I had had to really work on my mindset to get through it. Luckily, I don't think you need the traumatic experience to get there though...
I think often people try to do things to cope with the nerves, but the nerves are still there. They are just covering the nerves. If you are a confident person normally then you are halfway there. What I did was to just imagine I was feeling confident. If I started shaking, or slouching, or fretting or whatever I do when I'm nervous, I'd stop myself and think this isn't how a confident person stands, sits, speaks, looks etc. Basically I'd just act confident. I wouldn't entertain doing unconfident things. And the thing is, if you do that it is really hard to feel nervous. Try slouching and being nervous - pretty easy. Then stand up straight, in a confident way, look people in the eye and speak in a confident tone. Then it's really hard to sustain being nervous. And then eventually your default is to be like that straight away in that situation. Worked for me.
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Like others say...practice is the key. Know your presentation inside out. Many public speaking trainers recommend spending 1 hour's practice on every 100 words of your material (this equates to something like 20 hours of practice for a 30 min speech). Once you know your material, it makes it much easier to control your nerves.
Some tips I use to calm/hide my nerves:
- Practice in front of friends/family.
- Check the volume of your voice. Many presenters don't speak clearly or loudly enough, nor slowly enough.
- Remove all 'erms' or other filler words from your presentation (the odd one or two is forgiveable). It's shocking how many top academics still manage to splatter their presentations with 'erms'.
- Remember that while you will be very nervous, the audience will probably not recognise this. Only 1-10% of your nerves will physically show.
- If you have shakey hands, hold something (papers or the lecturn or a paperclip).
- Remember that the majority of the audience will switch off after 2 minutes.
- Never admit to the audience that your nervous.
- Time your presentation to perfection...running over time will immediately turn the audience against you.
- Like someone else said, go somewhere private before your presentation and shake out your nerves and take some deep breaths, then walk out 'acting' confidently.
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