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Tips for Calming Your Nerves before Giving a Presentation

If you’re anything like me, speaking in public is not exactly in your comfort zone. Giving presentations can be pretty tough for the likes of us: opening a PowerPoint document in front of the class is often accompanied by sweaty hands, intense blushing and a shaky voice. But fear not: giving a presentation can be a pleasant experience when you get the hang of it, and with the following tips you can reduce your stage fright.

1. Practice by giving the presentation to someone you know well. Whether it is your roommate, significant other, or a family member, going through the main points of your presentation with someone you know well allows you to prepare for the real thing in a safe, forgiving environment. Ask the person to give you honest feedback: they could tell you what works well, and which topics you could elaborate on. They could also give you tips on how to use your voice and body language to engage with your audience better.

2. If possible, choose a topic that interests you. If a particular course topic gets your creative juices flowing and feels particularly inspiring, it might help you combat your stage fright to choose it as your presentation topic. Working on it will put you in the flow state and could distract you from the nervous thoughts you have about public speeches. Your genuine interest towards the topic will also show in the way you will use your body language and voice while giving the presentation – a passionate speaker is always interesting to listen to.

3. Reserve the night before the presentation for yourself. Get the work done early, and in the last evening before the upcoming presentation, give yourself time to focus on something completely else. Watch a funny movie, spend time with your friends, or take a walk in the nature – do things that put you in a good mood. This will help you calm your nerves and face the next day with a positive outlook. Try to avoid leaving all the work for the last minute, because this will rob you of a good night’s sleep and cause you even more stress.

4. Remember: it’s only a presentation. A single 15-20 minute time period will not determine the rest of your academic career. If it goes well, that’s great, but if it doesn’t, it’s not the end of the world. Your lecturer probably understands that stage fright is a problem for many college students and you won’t be the first, or the last, nervous presentation giver they will see during their career. Not all of us are natural public speakers, but if you can show you’ve done your research on the topic (and taken the time to find some pretty pictures for your slideshow), you’ve earned your marks!

A 22-year-old anthropology student from Helsinki. Music, photography, and poetry are close to my heart.
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