I know presentations and public speaking tend to be almost everyone’s biggest fear, but what some people do not realize is that combating these issues is much simpler than it may seem. These five tips are so easy and doable that literally everyone, even the shyest of people, can accomplish them. As long as you make it a point to do all of these things during a presentation, your professor is guaranteed to be impressed by you.
Enunciate and Articulate
Whether or not you speak in a clear and concise tone is the first thing whoever you are presenting to is going to notice. Say what you need to say in a succinct manner. Do not leave room confused with a lack of details but also do not let the people you are presenting to get bored of your rambling. One thing that irks people, not just professors, is mumbling. State what you have to say correctly. Do not jumble over your words. Articulate every letter. The worst thing you can do while presenting is look and sound confused. Your professor will pick up on your ill-prepared presentation and immediately deduct points. Just because you are nervous does not mean you have to show it. As the old saying goes, fake it ’til you make it.
Watch Your Volume
Now, although you may be speaking articulately and summarizing all your knowledge thoroughly, that does not mean everyone can hear you. Speak loud enough for those in the back of the room. However, this step can be quite tricky, especially if you are in a particularly large classroom. Speaking loudly for those in the back may come off as too loud for those sitting close to the front. Finding a good middle ground is important. You can practice the proper voice before you begin your presentation just so you are extra ready ahead of time.
When presenting it can be easy to get a sense of how loudly you are talking by glancing at a person in every row as soon as you begin, just to get a sense of their facial expressions. If they are looking directly at you and maybe even nodding along, they are paying attention and can hear you clearly. But, if they are maybe looking off to the side or have a puzzled look on their face, they could have a hard time hearing what you’re saying. Or they could just be bored but, let’s stay positive.
A trick that many tend to find especially difficult is maintaining eye contact. The fear of looking into someone’s eyes as you are presenting then being met with boredom or distaste from them is not a pleasant feeling. Despite all of that, it is incredibly important that you do make eye contact with everyone in the room at least one to two times throughout your presentation. An easy trick to bypass actually looking directly at the person’s eyes is staring in between their eyebrows. It’s one of those “why didn’t I think to do that before” tricks that you wish you would have known a lot sooner.
If you bring along note cards, do not spend the entire time looking down at them. Note cards are there to remind you of key points, not your entire presentation. Practice your speech or presentation in front of a mirror or a group of friends. This will help you get used to what you need to say and what specific order sounds best. Allow your friends to give you feedback and let you know if you made regular eye contact with them. If you are practicing alone, try laying out several items around your room and look at each of them at least one. Or if you are practicing in the mirror, hold eye contact with yourself the entire time.
Do Not Fidget
The one thing professors hate most is fidgeting. Nervous habits can’t be helped and that is understandable, however, they are quite distracting. If you keep shuffling your papers or your feet and playing with your fingers while you are presenting, the audience is no longer going to be paying attention to what you are going to say next but instead, what will you do next.
In order to overcome this, try just placing your hands behind your back or directly at your sides. I know it can be quite difficult to stay still, especially when presenting makes you anxious but, there are ways to maneuver around it. Take deep breathes ahead of time. If you do happen to have note cards with you, keep them up at elbow-length so that you do not have to keep raising and dropping your arms. When you do refer to any sort of external pieces of information, such as PowerPoints or displays, keep your movements slow and minimal. Do not try grand gestures out of nowhere, believe me, it never ends well. Underestimating your reach is not what you want to do in front of your professor because this means potentially knocking it over or hitting something.
Do not slouch. Keep your head held high throughout your presentation. Despite how uncomfortable you may be or how shy you feel, your professor does not need to know that. Display a confident aura. The second you began to feel your posture wavering, remind yourself that this presentation is only going to last a few minutes and that it will all be over soon. Standing tall and upright gives off a very professional and put-together feel. It is something many see as a sign of respect. By doing so, it makes it easier for them to see you properly, for your voice to project loudly, and for you to make just enough eye contact with everyone around. Though it sounds easy, it does tend to be difficult, especially for those of us with a lazy posture. So, do not lean on the wall or the podium if one is given to you. Stand there with your back straight for the next few minutes and just get the presentation over with.