Social anxiety may cause your self-esteem to take a nosedive, especially when it comes to giving class presentations in college. The thought of standing in front of all your peers as they listen intently to your every word may scare the living daylights out of you, but fortunately there are steps to overcome this — even if it’s just for 5 minutes.
If you suffer from stage fright during college presentations or public speaking, here are 9 tips on how you can improve your focus and boost your confidence!
#1. Get into the right frame of mind
You experience anxiety, nerves and jitters because you worry too much! Even though it’s all in your head, the fear will translate into your physical actions: breaking out into cold sweats, stuttering, mumbling, fidgety movements and hand-wringing.
One of the easiest ways to overcome your stage fright is to turn your negative thoughts into positive ones, because there’s always the other side of the coin:
- “What if I botch the whole presentation?” vs “What if I ace the whole presentation?”
- “What if I sound stupid, like I don’t know what I’m talking about?” vs “What if I manage to impart knowledge to my peers?”
- “What if I mispronounce words and they all laugh at me?” vs “What if I speak fluently and flawlessly?”
It may sound too good to be true, but positive affirmation will go a long way in curbing stage fright when presenting to a bunch of people who are probably just as nervous as you are during their presentation.
#2. Try out some breathing techniques
If you find yourself short of breath moments before it’s your turn to present, try applying different breathing techniques to calm your nerves beforehand.
According to a public speaking training platform, breathing from your diaphragm will slow your heart rate and physically calm you. It will also provide enough oxygen to your brain so that you can think coherently, as well as create the appearance of looking confident.
Alternatively, try out the 4-7-8 breathing technique, which can put you in a state of relaxation almost immediately:
- Exhale through your mouth
- Close your mouth and inhale through your nose for 4 seconds
- Hold your breath for 7 seconds
- Exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds
- Repeat for another 3 times, totalling it up to 4 breaths
#3. Talk, don’t present
The word ‘presentation’ itself is a boring connotation: it brings to mind long and boring speeches one has to sit through for hours on end.
However, this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. Instead of droning on and on about the topic you’re presenting, turn your presentation into something less informal like a conversation you would have with your friends. Think of it as a casual discussion to teach your peers about your topic, using examples they can relate to.
For example, if you’re talking about ‘The Effects of Video Games on Human Behaviour’, you can share with your audience any personal experiences that relate to the topic. You can even use jokes to lighten the mood before delving into hard facts and research findings.
#4. Visualise a successful outcome
Positive visualisation can do wonders. It involves imagining the results or goal that you want and working hard to make it come true. When you practise this, you are actually catching a glimpse of your desired outcome, making you more motivated to accomplish it.
We’re not making this up! According to research, positive visualisation works as the neurons in your brain relate imagery to real-life action. As a result, when you visualise something, your brain sends an impulse to your neurons to carry out the visualisation.
So the more you imagine being great, the more likely it is that you’ll achieve the outcome. As a plus point, this will help you exude more confidence during your presentation, thus making it more enjoyable for your audience to watch.
#5. Get your body moving
Anxiety can paralyse us, causing us to stay rooted to the spot because of the pressure we’re facing. That’s why it’s important to remind yourself to keep moving around when you’re presenting.
We don’t mean fidgeting though, which can be distracting. Instead, loosen up tense muscles and use the floor space to your advantage by occasionally walking back and forth. Use your hands to point at your slides, or simply to demonstrate your points. By doing so, you’ll appear less stiff and more approachable.
#6. Be familiar with your presentation content
This is extremely important. Knowing the content of your presentation also helps with your confidence — the more prepared you are, the more confident you will be for your presentation. When you understand your topic, you will be able to speak more naturally and deliver your presentation confidently, without having to read off your PowerPoint slides or cue cards.
Practising your presentation days before the actual day can also help ease your nerves as you will be familiar with its flow, content and key talking points. As long as you know your stuff, you won’t botch it up as much as you think you will!
#7. Connect with your audience
Connecting with your audience and building a temporary relationship with them will boost your confidence while keeping nerves at bay. It will also make you appear as someone who your audience genuinely wants to listen to.
To do this, think of your audience as your friends, rather than enemies to be feared. Maintain eye contact, smile and include them in your presentation by asking them questions so that they stay engaged instead of falling asleep.
#8. Think of the worst
Yes, you read that right. If you’re unable to calm your nerves with positive thinking, you could try your hand at reverse psychology by imagining the worst case scenarios that could happen during your presentation.
Think of all the nightmarish outcomes that could affect your presentation, then try to decide on how you would deal with them. This may make your worries seem less troubling as you have a solution to overcome them. Once you’re done presenting, you’ll realise that you were nowhere near your worst case scenarios.
#9. Keep calm and don’t rush through it
Do you recall the famous saying, “Slow and steady wins the race?”
This can be applied to presenting as well. Ensure that you don’t rush through your slides by starting off slowly. This will also allow you to set a pace that you’re comfortable with.
While we understand that you want to get your presentation over and done with as quickly as possible, it pays to articulate your points properly. After all, that’s the whole point of your class presentation — to present your understanding of the topic.
Use the time to get used to your audience, and vice versa. Once your audience is comfortable with you, it will be easier to present to them.
Bonus tip: Fake it till you make it
If all else fails, opt to put on a happy facade and slog through your presentation to the best of your ability. Even though you’re aware that you’ve somehow messed up your presentation, only you know the mistake you’ve made.
As long as you make your way through your presentation without giving away that you’re a ball of nerves, you’re golden!
Giving perfect presentations is not easy, so it’s okay to make mistakes. After all, even some of the most influential people including Mahatma Gandhi and Warren Buffet have started out as nervous presenters just like you. So go out there and put your best foot forward!