Tuesday, April 16, 2024

12 Tips to Stay Calm for Your College Presentation (And Get That A!)

It's time to crush public speaking

Ever felt so anxious that you’d rather be hit by lightning than talk in front of a crowd? 😰 Do you think it’s impossible to calm your nerves before a class presentation because of your extreme stage fright? 

You’re not alone! Many Americans, including college students, have a fear of speaking in public (known as glossophobia) because they’re scared of being scrutinized, embarrassed, or rejected. 

But it’s virtually impossible to dodge public speaking in college. So, try our presentation tips for students below to nail your class presentation. 💪

READ MORE: 12 Best Ways to Manage Stress: A College Student’s 101 Guide

happy and confident college student speaking in front of class after calming her nerves
Glossophobia — or the fear of public speaking — is common among Americans, but you can overcome it and give a good presentation. Photo: master1305/Freepik

1. Know Your Topic Inside and Out

How can you speak with authority if you aren’t an expert on the topic? 🧐 A fear of public speaking often stems from a lack of preparation

If you don’t want the pressure of delivering a good presentation to get the best of you, simply know everything there is to know about your subject or pitch.

Knowing what you’re talking about can boost your confidence and reduce the pressure of speaking in front of the class. Photo: Freepik

Confidence naturally oozes out of a speaker who clearly knows what they are talking about, making the audience more inclined to listen.

Plus, being prepared means you’re ready to crush the Q&A portion of your presentation (if there is one).

TIP: The best thing you can do to prepare for questions is to anticipate them. Look through your presentation and check what questions could pop up. Think through the correct responses, and don’t forget to practice your answers!  

2. Build a Solid Framework 

Are you nervous because there’s just too much information that you don’t know what to include or where to start? 

Crafting a structured outline can make it easier for you to know exactly what to talk about in your presentation.

college students drafting a good outline for their upcoming class presentation
Writing an outline keeps your research and thoughts organized during your presentation, resulting in a better flow and half the stress. Photo: Armin Rimoldi/Pexels

Give yourself time to organize your ideas, go through research notes, and write down possible talking points. Doing this can help you to find the best flow for your presentation, including good transitions, adlibs, and pauses.

Knowing where to pick up after you suddenly lose track of your thoughts can help you present better. This is why you should think about creating and preparing cue cards! 

A simple bulleted guide or a stack of index cards containing crucial information and transitions is the way to go.

3. Write and Memorize a Killer Opening

A good introduction sets the tone for the rest of your presentation. Think of a catchy hook, like a thought-provoking question, a powerful quote, or an interesting fact, and follow it through with a short, strong summary of what’s to come.

Asian college student concentrating on writing a good intro for speech
A good presentation starts with a good opening so make your introduction witty, creative, and engaging. Photo: Windows/Unsplash

Memorize your intro so you can deliver it without looking! This can help you get a high, powerful start which can soothe your nerves.

If things go right, your opening will create a solid first impression, establish your credibility, and give the audience a chance to ease into the talk. 💪🏼 

4. Practice, But Set Realistic Expectations 

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! You’ll get the best results if you’ve run through your performance over and over again.

Practicing out loud can show you both the weak and strong parts of your presentation.

Perhaps you need to add more hand movements or you’re using too many filler words — going over your presentation out loud is the best chance to figure out what is missing.

female college student delivering a good speech in class after hours of practice
Practicing in front of friends can give you a fresh perspective on what you could do to make your presentation better. Photo: Matheus Bertelli/Pexels

We recommend that you muster up the courage to rehearse in front of friends or classmates to help you become more comfortable speaking in front of people without the pressure of the real presentation. Plus, a little constructive feedback won’t hurt. 😉

But it’s important to always set reasonable expectations because mistakes are part of the experience. Everyone has slip-ups, and having a couple of them in your speech won’t be the end of the world.

TIP: No one around? Film yourself delivering your presentation instead and watch it back. 

5. Normalize Pauses and Silences 

Let’s be clear: taking some time to get to the next point in your presentation is normal

Your jitters make you believe that a mental block — and the dead silence that follows — will be the worst thing that can happen.

college students attentively listening to a speaker in front of the class
Don’t fear the pause! Intentional or not, these breaks can help listeners digest the information you just relayed. Photo: standret/Freepik

But a pause can serve as a break for your audience to consider what you just said. 

All you have to do is take a few deep breaths, mentally shake off the lapse, and jump back in to your presentation with confidence. 😮‍💨

This way, you can even add emphasis to a particular point in your presentation and use pauses to your advantage. 

6. Know Your Audience

If you know what type of people are watching you during your presentation, creating a connection with them is a breeze. 

Building a good atmosphere with the crowd will help calm your nerves because it makes things seem more like a conversation rather than a rigid and nerve-wracking presentation.

happy, smiling audience after hearing their speaker crack a joke during the presentation
Building a connection with your audience can lighten the atmosphere, making it easier for you to calm your nerves. Photo: master1305/Freepik

Figure out what language, tone, and style match your audience so that they’re inspired to engage.

Add humor when it’s going to be appreciated, or choose good anecdotes and illustrations if the class is serious. 🎭

7. Steer Clear of Stimulants

Repeat after us: no caffeine! 🙅🏻‍♂️

While you may think that a nice cup of joe will amp you up for your presentation, in fact, coffee, sodas, or energy drinks can make you a nervous wreck

Symptoms can include sweating, an increased heart rate, and trembling hands. 

All this does is make you look unprepared and all over the place, even if you’re not. So if you want to be cool, calm, and collected during the big day, it’s better to stick to water. 

college student drinking a glass of water to prepare for a class presentation
Caffeinated or alcoholic drinks spell trouble if you drink them right before your big speech. Photo: Karolina Grabowska/Pexels

The same goes for alcohol. While this might be a good companion for game nights in your dorm or to unwind after a hectic midterms season, we recommend avoiding it before a presentation. 

Alcoholic drinks increase your chances of forgetting things (like that killer intro you’ve been practicing) and slurring or mumbling your words. 

Instead, have a beverage of your choice to celebrate after you’ve nailed your presentation! 🍻

8. Shed Nervous Energy Through Exercise

You’ll probably be the most anxious on the morning of your big presentation. You can expel some of that nervous energy with a brisk walk around campus or even your dorm hallways. 

If you’re up for something more strenuous, try aerobics or a fun dance routine to get loose and shake your nerves off. 🕺🏽

READ MORE: 12 Top Tips for Busy College Students to Stay Fit

young college student on a morning jog to expel nervous energy before presentation
Break a sweat (and get rid of any nervous energy) by taking a walk or a jog around campus. Photo: Ketut Subiyanto/Pexels

Taking slow, deep breaths also works to remove all that extra tension and stress. Inhale through the nose and quietly exhale at your own pace and you’ll find yourself more relaxed and your mind clearer.

9. Arrive to Class Early

Show up early at the place where the presentation will be held to get a feel of the room if you aren’t already familiar with it. This is one way for you to be more comfortable when you actually give your speech later on. 

Arriving early can get you a few uninterrupted minutes to practice your lines and make any needed adjustments. Photo: larisashpineva/Freepik

Arrive 15 to 20 minutes earlier to act out your presentation in the spot where you’ll stand. 

Visualize your classmates and professor in the room as you rehearse your lines. 🙍🏼‍♀️ This can calm your nerves while gauging your readiness in speaking to a room. 

10. Talk to People Before the Presentation

When people start pouring into the room, you should try to connect with some of your peers who are also slated to speak in front of the class. 

Initiate some small talk. There’s nothing wrong with sharing some of your fears when it comes to the presentation. Why? Because having someone to talk to can be liberating and can put you in a good mood.

two college students discussing their preparation for upcoming class presentations
Having someone listen as you get some things off your chest can do wonders for your nerves. Photo: George Pak/Pexels

Talking to your audience gives them a chance to get to know you a little bit. When you step up on the stage, that could get you more support.

Remember, your audience is filled with classmates who are also lined up to give a presentation. They know what you’re going through and they might also need a little pick-me-up because it’s likely that you’re all nervous.

11. Practice Positive Self-Talk 

If public speaking is not your forte, it’s easy to think of the worst possible scenarios. 😵 Your nerves can convince you that stuttering or forgetting crucial talking points will definitely happen. 

But try to replace pessimistic thoughts with affirmations

To do this, take some time to declare positive statements, such as “I can present with confidence and eloquence” or “I will not be afraid to get up on stage.”

female college student motivating to herself in the mirror before the big speech
Find a mirror and psyche yourself up by saying that you’ll do a great job. Photo: Roberto Hund/Pexels

You can also listen to your favorite music or upbeat songs that get the blood pumping! These songs can energize you to bring your A-game.

These practices are great ways to overcome self-sabotage and put you in the right mood to nail your performance.

12. Concentrate on Friendly Faces

For some, it’s the blank, bored faces in the crowd that can double their anxiety. 😖

When you feel like people aren’t impressed, it makes you retreat further back into your shell and negative thoughts can soon take over.

attentive college student smiles at speaker in front of class
Spotting engaged, smiling faces in the audience can calm your nerves and help you focus. Photo: Kampus Production/Pexels

To keep your spirits up, locate people in the audience that seem to enjoy or pay attention to your presentation

A good technique to overcome stage fright is to focus on these people and deliver your speech just to them. This narrows down the number of people you need to be worried about when performing. 

And if you think your day ends after you’re done presenting, think again! It’s also good to be a friendly face in the audience for your classmates. Actively listen to them while they’re speaking and crack a few smiles here and there. 😊

There’s no escaping public speaking in college and while the thought might seem terrifying to you, delivering a confident, passionate presentation is definitely within reach!

Is the date for your presentation nearing? With these tips, staying calm and getting that A is easy. Good luck! 💪🏼

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