The good news is that, more often than not, your professor hates public speaking too.
By Nicole Fryer, University of Pittsburgh
There’s always that one class where you’re assigned to do something out of your comfort zone.
For my class, I have to lead two, two-hour presentations. Piece of cake, right? Wrong. With being super shy and having social anxiety, presenting is one of the worst things I’ve ever had to do in college. I can barely get through a five-minute slide show without incident, let alone lead a two-hour class.
Sound familiar? Here are some tips to survive the not-so-bad experience.
1. Howdy, Partner
If you have the option to work with a group or partner, do it. In most classes I’ve taken, if there are presentations, they’re super short and don’t exceed five minutes, so chances are your teacher won’t require any partnered work.
However, if your presentation is leading the whole class, there’s probably some opportunity to snag a partner or two—the more the merrier. Even if you aren’t into group work, make the best of it. Your partners can’t really bail, because they have their part of the work to present and talk about.
Last week I had my presentation, and there were four of us discussing and working at once. After several cups of coffee and a few hours of bullshitting in the library, we had most our presentation outlined. Everything was super simple and, after the outline was done, I didn’t have to worry about the project anymore until it was time to present.
Pro-tip: If you are meeting with a group somewhere outside of your apartment, make sure to bring your laptop with you. For some reason, I thought I wouldn’t need my computer, and I ended up taking all my notes the old-fashioned way and then spending extra time typing my notes up. Don’t be that person.
2. Schedule Wisely
If you have the option to schedule your presentation, schedule it for a day that works best for you. If you prefer to schedule early and get them out of the way, then do so. If you’re more comfortable waiting until later in the semester, then hold out and see how everyone else is structuring theirs.
I tend to feel more confident if I wait to present until the last few weeks of class, because I’ve seen every other student do theirs several times. Since I have to do two, I scheduled mine back to back, that way I didn’t have to have the bubbling anxiety two different times during the semester—I just have it for two straight weeks.
If you do prefer to present later in the semester, just make sure it doesn’t interfere with any other homework. I forgot finals were a thing, and now I’m trying to write two of my final papers and prepare for my next presentation. 10/10 would not recommend.
3. Enlist Your Professor
If you’re super shy, have social anxiety or just aren’t comfortable about standing in front of a class, talk to your professor about it. Your professor is going to notice if you’re quiet in class (hell, mine likes to call me out for it), but if there’s a reason why you hide in the back corner of the classroom, let them know.
Hopefully, they’ll give you advice to help ease your stage fright, and maybe they’ll go a little easier on your grade if they know you’re trying your hardest to get your point across in so little words (I can at least hope, right?).
An interesting piece of advice that my professor gave me was to ask the three people I was most comfortable in class to sit in separate areas, that way I could look at them throughout my presentation and make it seem as if I was engaging with the whole class.
Luckily, I know most of the people in my class from previous classes, but I’m way too shy and not close enough with them to ask them to sit in a special spot for me. I still lucked out though because two of those people ended up being in my group, and the other few were somewhat scattered throughout the class. It definitely made the presentation easier, plus, since I waited until later in the semester, I am more comfortable with the people in the class that I don’t know as well.
4. Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse
If you are able to meet with your partners before class to rehearse, do it. I didn’t have time to last class, and things got awkward because I split one of the sections with a partner, and we both found ourselves either trying to talk at the same time, or there would be an awkward silence because neither of us felt comfortable enough discussing the topics. Pretty awkward just having twenty-some people staring at you as you and your partner awkwardly stare at each other, waiting for the other to speak.
I’m not going to have time to rehearse my next presentation either, but, luckily, each person has their own section this time around, so hopefully, I won’t run into the same issue.
5. Do What Works for You
If you have your own de-stressing routine, just go with it to get yourself through.
Lots of people don’t recommend drinking caffeine, but coffee tends to calm me down instead of wiring me up; I tend to drink a bunch when I’m nervous or stressing out, so naturally, I showed up to my last presentation with three cups of coffee like a boss. So hey, you do you.
Take a deep breath, follow the advice, and you’ll get through your presentation and realize it wasn’t as bad as you thought it would be.