The vast majority of degrees at university will involve some sort of presentation at some point during your degree. For many students, this is something they hate because they are concerned about what would happen, them making a mistake, and getting a low grade. I understand all of this, so in today’s post I’m going to be explaining how to prepare yourself and how to think about presentations.
However, before we talk about how to prepare for presentations, I want to remind you that there are benefits to doing them. As presenting information and getting comfortable with presenting can be a valuable skill in the job market, and it can help your confidence improve. Therefore, I know presentations can be horrible and scary, but they are still great practice for the real world.
Of course being prepared for a presentation is critical, but most students just prepare themselves in terms of their slides and the material. This is great and it will definitely help you, but this only goes so far.
As well as this, I highly recommend you at least try what one of my friends did in my first year, because she had a presentation and the night before… she practiced in front of us.
I fully admit this is terrifying at first thought, but it is actually great practice for the real thing. Many will have extra nerves about presenting in front of friends, family and whoever else you present in front of that you know, but those nerves can help replicate the real situation and to help you iron out any issues in your presentation. Since you will have to see these people again, you know if you mess up they will remember.
But this is actually a good thing.
If you can master presenting in front of these people then presenting in front of strangers or classmates should be easy, or at least a lot easier.
Finally, sometimes you might have to do group presentations, now I luckily have only had to do these types of presentations. I honestly don’t think I could handle a solo presentation very well but that’s what I want to highlight. When you’re in a group, it is easier because the focus isn’t on you, it’s on you and everyone else. Meaning if you make a mistake, no one will remember.
All in all preparation is key and don’t take it for granted.
It’s Okay To Make Mistakes:
Leading us onto my next point, I have never ever seen a presentation without a mistake. Just think back to our lectures, seminars, workshops, etc. our lecturers do make mistakes. But do we criticise them and think badly of them?
We all know that mistakes are part of life and everyone makes them, so if you make a few it’s okay. It is natural for you to forget something, stumble over your words or have to check the slides.
Of course, it is far better if you make it look natural and you can recover from your mistake without anyone noticing. For example, if you’ve forgotten what to say next, then you could talk a bit more about the topic whilst you check the slide again.
Overall, if you make a mistake, no one is going to moan, criticise or yell at you. We all know mistakes happen and as the old adage goes, it’s all in the recovery.
One mistake doesn’t defy a presentation.
Speaking to one of my supervisors, a PhD student who has recently began teaching, he said: “It’s so important to keep calm but also, remember that the audience don’t know ‘the plan’. Of course you need to cover all the essential points still, but if you have to go off script to achieve this, that’s fine and the audience won’t know the difference. You simply need to make sure you can stay calm enough to not let a small blip derail your entire flow”.
It Isn’t Everything
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or the presentation. Your university grades won’t be dependent on a single presentation and you will hardly be the only person who feels anxious. Of course, keep learning, keep developing and keep trying to improve because you never know, one day you might become a great speaker.
But if you don’t and you mess up on a presentation, it isn’t the end of the world, and that is what students need to remember. There will always be other assignments, essays and assessments to increase your marks on. At the end of the day, this is all a learning experience.
No one is perfect at everything (I’m certainly not) so please stop holding yourself to such high standards. It’s okay not to be good at presentations as long as you try.
I’m going to leave you at the end of this post by saying, presentations are the bane of many people’s lives. But they don’t have to be, you can practice, improve and enjoy them. Yet you have to want to enjoy them as with everything at university, everything needs to have a mindset of play and curiosity. And presentations are no exception.
No matter how scary they may seem.