Terrified of Presenting?


Post #47 How To Help Yourself

There is no way around it.  Engineering students must give presentations to their classmates and to their professors.  I will explain why this is common in so many of your engineering courses.  If you are terrified of presenting, I will also provide some helpful hints so you can best prepare yourself.


Presenting is in your Future

Your professors have been in your shoes.  At one point, they were young college students who had to give presentations despite their own self-doubt.  They had to start somewhere and so do you.  They understand that some of you will move on to become an engineering professor just like them.  Your professors also understand the importance of presentation skills in the workforce.  Regardless of who you work for and where, you will be required to share information with your colleagues via presentations.  This includes but is not limited to gathering data, organizing it, summarizing your findings and clearly speaking to them.  Creating and thoughtfully explaining your own presentation is part of an engineer’s job.  The more you do it, the more comfortable you will become.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Whether or not a speech course is required for your curriculum, take one anyways.  You may be scared as the hell the first time around but as each speech goes by, it will get easier.  In fact, taking additional communication courses will help, including reading, writing and speaking courses.  If you choose not to take this route, there is always the mirror.  As awkward as it may feel, practice in your mirror.  Do you have a computer?  Record yourself giving presentations and watch them back.  Do it despite the awkwardness.  I promise you will become more comfortable with each video you watch.  And you can use your recordings to break down areas that need improvement.  Also, I recommend you look into joining a Toastmasters Group.  If you’ve never heard of one, you must check it out.  The more you practice and sometimes the more you mess up, the better you become.  The art of presenting becomes less anxious if you embrace the awkwardness and work with it instead of resisting it.

crystal ball

Anticipate Audience Questions

In other words, know your stuff.  Do not pretend you know what you’re talking about (see Post #35).  Always anticipate someone in the audience knows more than you.  I’m not suggesting you have to be the expert every single time.  And I’m certainly not suggesting you should always know how to answer every question.  What I’m suggesting is that it is best if you can anticipate basic questions ahead of time.  Do your research and collaborate with others, collaborate with your professors or even with tutors.

For those of you who are terrified of presenting, I want to share a secret about giving decent presentations.  They are not scary if you know what you’re talking about.

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