Yesterday was the first proper presentation I have had to do for my Masters. The topic was about Open Access from the point of view of academic researchers (each group were assigned a different POV). Although that’s an interesting topic, I’ll be reflecting on the presentation itself in this post, and the preparation that went into it.
In terms of the presentation itself, all members of the group presented a section each. I was a bit dubious about this method at first, but it turned out that the other presentation groups had also done this, so we weren’t the odd ones out. My section was the final couple of slides on future trends and conclusions. I’m not sure if going last made me more or less nervous!
I have had some training on presentation skills and public speaking during my traineeship. Although it was a bit hit and miss, some of the techniques did help me control my nerves, keep my voice steady, and relax my body. You can read a full account of the session here at fellow ex-trainee Clare’s blog.
One of the things I remembered to do from this session was relaxing my face. Obviously it would look a bit strange to be gurning in front of my classmates, but I did make sure to rub my cheeks and swallow to relax my throat muscles.
I also tried to bear in mind some points about what I was actually saying. Practice, as they say, is key. It really was for me, and especially not just memorizing a script, but knowing the message you are trying to gt across. By relying on a fully written-out script, one can sometimes get hung up on saying things perfectly. However, spoken word sounds nothing like written English, and its important to be able to sound natural. I find using cue cards, rather than the whole thing written out, really helps me with this.
The presentation lasted approximately 20 minutes, and we invited questions once we had finished. It’s hard to prepare for questions beforehand, as obviously if you have spotted gaps in your coverage, you would amend that in your presentation. However, I feel we as a group fielded the questions well, and I really think our research and preparation showed in our responses. Especially that we could offer some references off the top of our head that might address a questioner’s issue.
So I do feel learning some relaxation skills and practice can really help with nerves (also remembering your nerves are something you control, don’t let them control you). If you can, try to identify areas your audience might question you on, and prepare some rough ideas for answers beforehand. If you can’t, knowing your subject well, and knowing more than what you have put into the presentation, can really help.