on (novice) presenting

yesterday i presented a chapter of my senior thesis to a classroom of students and a number of professors. i find i am wracked with anxiety days before a public speaking engagement. writing, for me, is comfortable – not because it is easy (it is HARD), but because i have a method for doing it. after years of practice and feedback, i’ve found my sea legs. speaking is different. debate teams and student government are elective positions – speaking instruction is not mandatory. what we don’t know, terrifies us; public speaking combines our fear of the unknown with our fear of judgment and ridicule. no wonder it induces nausea in so many.

reflecting on my final months of college, i realize that i’ve given a handful of presentations – each less terrible (and better received) than the last. confidence is a product of experience, not of natural talent. if you haven’t seen a speaking fellow, do so. it is an excellent and rare resource. in the meantime, if you have a presentation coming up before spring break, consider the following tips (they’ve worked wonders for me):

  •  take a very deep breath before starting to speak.
  • keep a glass of water on the lectern (if your throat gets froggy, as mine does).
  • people read two pages of 12 pt., double-spaced text every 5 minutes – plan accordingly.
  • writing and speaking are completely separate beasts, even though they use the same language. the president has a speech writer for one task and a copy writer for another. when taking notes for presenting, try write as you speak, not as you write.
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