For most students, presenting in front of their teachers and classmates can feel pretty scary. Not only can it feel intimidating, but it’s not always a skill that comes naturally. However, lots of schools expect students to formally present to their classmates, informally share ideas in small groups, and participate in whole-class discussion, which can account towards grades in certain subjects. That’s why it’s important for students to overcome their fears of presenting, as it’s definitely something they can’t avoid. Here are 7 tips to help your students master their presenting skills.
1. Pick a Subject That You Really Care About
Firstly, when choosing a topic for your presentation, the key is to choose a subject you really care about. Whether this means the subject has a direct impact on you or perhaps you just feel passionate about sharing it with others and can speak about it from the heart. When you present something with passion you’ll automatically feel more comfortable and confident in your presentation before you have even started!
2. Know Your Material
Nothing helps ease the fear of presenting than knowing your material inside out. A smooth performance usually comes from remembering key points and being able to expand on subtopics without reading directly from a PowerPoint slide or poster. Having this confidence in your topic will mean your presentation will be delivered with certainty, which also means the audience will be much more engaged in your material. If you know your topic, we guarantee your pre-speaking fear will quickly evaporate.
3. Start Small
If you’re new to presenting, then it’s important to begin by speaking to smaller groups and build up from there. There are plenty of people you can practice on such as your parents, friends, siblings or grandparents. Speaking directly to another person first will help you relax and give you some great experience practicing your presentation. If they have questions about your speech, it is likely that members of the audience will have the same questions. It’s also a great opportunity for you to see if there are any areas you need to work on. Remember, ask your small audience to be honest and give you feedback that will help you improve.
4. De-Stress and Visualise Success
The most fearful moment of any presentation is the few minutes before you begin. To overcome this fear and counteract the nerves, it’s a great idea to visualise success and a positive outcome. Say positive thoughts to yourself, such as ‘I am going to do great’ or ‘This is going to be my best performance to date.’ This can help build your confidence levels and eliminate negative thoughts. Deep breathing is also a great idea to reduce stress levels and calm nerves.
5. Avoid Talking Too Fast
Talking fast during a presentation can interfere with your breathing patterns. If you talk too fast you will breathe less, which can make you feel panicked and more susceptible to fear. Practice slowing down when you speak, and you will be calmer and more relaxed.
6. Engage the Audience
Creating a monologue presentation puts the entire task of informing and entertaining on you. Make your talk a two-way interaction with questions and audience participation to reduce boredom and help build up your confidence. Having your classmates involved also gives you time to reorganise your thoughts if things are going off track.
Top Tip: Use Visuals. Including visual resources in your presentation adds flare and gives the audience something to look at other than you! Whether that’s images, a short video or a visual handout to follow along with, we guarantee you’ll feel less nervous if the class has something else to focus on.
7. Practice Makes Perfect
One of the most effective ways to overcome a fear of presentations is to practice, practice and practice some more. Make practicing your presentation a priority - whether that’s at home with your parents or in front of the mirror at home. The more you hear your own voice and presentation, the less panicked you will feel when it’s time for the real thing. It’s also a great idea to write out a script of your key points, but don’t read from the script word for word. The more prepared you are, the more confidence you will have going into your presentation. Not only will you be able to answer questions at ease but you will be able to deliver your talk with finesse and passion.
“The only way to learn to speak is to speak and speak, and speak and speak, and speak and speak and speak.” Elbert Hubbard