A Class Presentation Survival Guide

Erin Gives Advice On How to Survive Presentations

Erin, Sandscript Writer

Question: Dear Erin,

In one of my classes, I have to give a presentation and I have awful stage fright.  How can I get rid of my nervousness about presenting in front of the class?


Frightened Presenter


Dear Frightened Presenter, 

Public speaking is one of the most common fears amongst people from all over the world.  Giving presentations in front of people can be super difficult and nerve wracking, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s easy to let the thought of messing up or embarrassing yourself during the presentation make you anxious or nervous about presenting. However, as long as you are prepared and know what you are talking about, the odds of you embarrassing yourself are slim.  

Before, during, and after the presentation, remember to breathe! This is super important because breathing can help relax you and keep you calm.  Breathing will keep you relaxed and the less anxious you are while you are speaking, the smoother and easier it will be. In Advisory, we have learned to use Box Breathing, which is a method to help you control your breathing to help you relieve stress.  Using this technique can help control your anxieties during the presentation. There are a lot of good techniques to help with anxiety and stress in the Advisory module on Canvas. I highly recommend looking into them and seeing what will help you! It is important to remember that what works to calm you down before a presentation, may not work for everyone, so find something that will help you the most and prove to be most effective for your personal struggles. 

The night before the presentation, try to get a full eight hours of sleep and the morning of, eat a good breakfast. You may want to stay up all night preparing for it or skip breakfast because you are too nervous to eat, but making sure that you are well rested will ensure that you will be ready and alert. Eating healthy and getting the recommended amount of sleep will also help with keeping you calm. You won’t have to worry about how hungry you are or how tired you are before the presentation, and presenting on an empty stomach or with no sleep is never a good idea.  

Making sure you are prepared is vital to making sure that you have a successful presentation. Make sure that the PowerPoint or poster board (if you have one) is the way you want it to look and has all of the information it needs to have. Even trying to practice what you will say during the presentation can give you a chance to fix what you say before you have to present. Remember that practice makes perfect! If your teacher allows you to use flashcards, I recommend writing all of the information that you need to remember to say on them so you don’t forget.

Here are some tips to remember for when you are presenting in front of an audience. 

  • Make eye contact
    • Making eye contact with your audience will keep them engaged.  Don’t stare directly into people’s eyes (unless you want to freak some students out), but keeping eye contact will keep your teacher and classmates interested in what you are saying.  
  • Try not to fidget
    • Fidgeting shows that you are nervous and anxious. When you let the audience know that you are nervous, it will show them that you aren’t confident in your abilities.  
  • Speak loud
    • Speak so that everyone can hear you. If your teacher can’t hear you then you won’t have a chance at getting a very good grade on the presentation. Speak loudly and confidently so that your teacher knows that you know what you are talking about and that you put a lot of effort into the research portion of your project. Just don’t yell at your audience.  
  • Have confidence 
    • Confidence is key to a successful presentation. If you happen to mess up, don’t tell your audience. Don’t let them know that you messed up. Odds are they didn’t even notice. Letting your audience know that you messed up takes away from the presentation and shows the audience that you have a lack of confidence. 

Sometimes the best thing to do is to just get it over with. The most effective way to relieve your stress as quickly as possible is to get the presentation over with so you don’t have to worry about it anymore. After speaking, you can sit down and relax, knowing that it’s over and you don’t have to think about it. The longer you wait before you present, the more the stress and anxiety you are feeling will build up.   

Lastly, remember that everyone else is just as nervous as you are.  Nobody is going to be paying attention to when you slip up (if you happen to), because they will be busy worrying about their own presentation. I know that before you present, it seems like everything and anything could go wrong, but as long as you trust yourself and you have confidence, presenting will be a piece of cake.