Five Ways to Prepare for Presentations

By Jordan Dynes

Gasp! Your professor just assigned you a presentation. For as long as you can remember, the mere thought of having to stand and talk to a group of people makes a shiver run down your spine. However, there’s no need to worry any longer. Here are five strategies to help you feel at ease and well-prepared for presentations.

1. Practice in front of your friends and pets.
Practice your presentation in front of your best friend or favorite furry pet. Your friend will give you honest feedback and encourage you to become more comfortable speaking in front of people. Rent a group room at the Writing Center and practice in front of multiple friends. This will create an environment resembling the classroom setting that you’ll be presenting in. Eye contact makes you appear confident and prepared—just be sure to not focus on a single person. Also, practicing in front of your pet will help ease the anxiety of presenting. When you eventually present in front of your class, just think of your pet or best friend, and your worries will melt away.

2. Speak in front of a mirror.
Although you may feel uncomfortable at first, speaking in front of a mirror can help you identify your body language and how others perceive you. You may notice that you talk excessively with your hands or keep your arms crossed. Using the mirror to recognize areas where you appear to be too closed off or too open gives you an opportunity to improve your body language in a low stakes situation. Remember, if you project confidence, even if it’s forced, you will begin to feel more confident eventually. Also, don’t forget to smile!

3. Try recording yourself and playing it back.
Speaking into a recording device and playing your voice back helps you identify patterns in your speech that could detract from the clarity of your presentation. For example, if you use fillers such as “umm” or “like,” you can begin to work on pausing when you are thinking instead of trying to fill the silence. Recording yourself can also help you gauge the length of your presentation, which is especially important when you have time constraints.

4. Dress to impress.
One strategy that can help you become more confident is to wear the appropriate attire for your presentation. The general rule of thumb is that you should appear slightly more dressed up than your audience. If you have students in the class wearing casual or simple attire, consider dressing more business casual. This will help increase your ethos, i.e. credibility, and might encourage audience engagement.

5. Know your stuff.
The best way to succeed when giving a presentation is to know the content that you will be talking about. We’ve all experienced what it’s like to draw a blank during a presentation—it’s better to have extra material prepared to discuss so you have something to fall back on. While notecards are useful tools for prompting your memory, you should avoid reading off of them word for word.

Writing consultants were asked, “What is the most important presentation tip?”

1. Kari: “I would say dressing well. If you dress well, you feel well.”
2. Scout: “Know your presentation material really well like the back of your hand. If you know something well, you can talk about it well.”
3. Reece: “Don’t make your presentation text heavy. Don’t memorize the script; memorize the main ideas of what you are trying to say.”
4. Iris: “Make it visually appealing. Don’t make the background highlighter yellow or neon green.”
5. Shay: “Be cognizant of your main points so you don’t ramble.”
6. Kylie: “Wear deodorant. Antiperspirant is a must as well. Don’t speak too quickly because that’s what a lot of students do. They get nervous. Don’t read off the PowerPoint.”
7. Izzy: “Moderately know what you are talking about. You’ll sound convincing.”
8. Nate: “Someone wise once told me, ‘Speak softly, and carry a big stick.’ That man was Theodore Roosevelt.”

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