… incredibly nerve-wracking and stressful, especially if you’re the kind of person (like me) who hates standing up in front of people. In fact I believe it’s more worrying to stand up in front of people you know, because as the saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt. And nervousness. However, there can be times when you have to present in front of those you don’t know and everyone has a different strategy for this. I remember someone telling me that if they had to present like this, they imagined everyone was naked. Not sure how that would have helped…  I know I would crack up laughing! You probably are looking for a different strategy which is why you’re reading this. I don’t have a strategy as such but I do believe that you can overcome any obstacle with one thing

PRACTISE!

I know. But it helped me a lot to go over the presentation several times. This was especially useful as some of the stuff we covered was unfamiliar, but with practise it became more familiar. I’m not saying you should try to memorise your lines. This will make everyone know that you’ve done this. But if that’s too hard, just remember to add tone (so make sure it’s not monotonous), pitch and gestures. And if you conceal it enough, maybe write a few words on your hand just as a tip.

Here’s a few things you shouldn’t do, along with my tips for how to avoid them.

Don’t…

  • Feel you should use the steeple gesture if you don’t want to. It didn’t help me. It felt like my presenting was stilted and artificial. I don’t go round with my hands doing a constant Mr Burns impression! When you’re up in front of people, use something that makes you feel comfortable, even flexible. Having your hands by your sides is considered too casual, but I think it gives your hands more flexibility if you want to use gestures. You can just raise your hands, sort of mid-height at your waist, and then wave them around a little, not too much or people will think you’re trying to flag down a taxi.
  • Mumble. I remember my friend repeatedly telling me to speak up. If you don’t speak up, a) people can’t hear you and b) it makes you sound like you aren’t confident. Which may be the case, but you don’t want everyone to know that. As I mentioned before, pitch is important here. If you end your sentences like ⇑this, it makes you sound more interested in what you’re talking about. This is partly because raising your pitch is positive and positive = interested.
  • Look at the floor. The floor is an inanimate object. It cannot hear you or see you. Your audience can. If you look at the floor you’re telling them that you can’t look them in the eye; in essence, that you’re not confident. It all comes down to confidence. If you don’t want to look people in the eye because the eyes are the windows to the soul and you want to keep yours, thank you very much, then look at their forehead. Or their chin. They won’t know. You could even look at their chest but some people might consider that inappropriate. Anyway, you don’t have to stare at them. Just glance for a few seconds and then look at a different person.

All in all, presenting is probably something that you’ll have to do a lot, particularly if you want a well-paid job. Think of all those lawyers who stand up in court and defend people. That’s like doing a presentation. As long as you prepare the facts (or whatever information it is) beforehand, go over what you’re going to say, and prepare yourself for any questions at the end you’ll be fine. Remember, be confident, stand up straight and make eye contact. Tell your audience that Big Brother is watching them.

Kay, student at Coventry University

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