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Ben Halpern for CodeNewbie

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How Do You Deal with Presentation Anxiety?

Do you you get the shakes, sweaty palms, and a racing heart when it's time to present your work in front of others? You're not alone! Let's exchange practical tips, proven techniques, and personal anecdotes that have helped us tame those butterflies and deliver engaging (or at least cohesive) presentations.

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Top comments (17)

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mellen profile image
Matt Ellen-Tsivintzeli

I get very very nervous if I have to give a presentation.

The only thing that even remotely helps me is practice. I have to know my presentation inside out. I also need to know my topic inside out, so I can take any questions.

Even then I still go too fast.

I remember I was doing a presentation at a geek night in my city. It was only a minute long. I was worried I would over run. Nope. I had about ten seconds left after I blazed through the slides.

As with most of my anxiety, the problem is prioritising possible negative outcomes over all other possibilities. If I could get past that I would probably be a lot better at presenting.

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rachelfazio profile image
Rachel Fazio

YES to this, overpreparing always helps me feel more comfortable, because I can focus on the facts, instead of my anxiety! I find when I focus on how excited I am to share information with others, instead of how scary it actually feels sometimes, I feel much better.

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codenameone profile image
Shai Almog • Edited

I spoke in well over 100 conference sessions, meetups, etc. I lectured in classes and present often. Yet I always felt I was very shy because I'm a socially awkward person (I'm super geeky). Later in life it dawned on me that everyone has butterflies in their stomach before speaking and I'm not really a shy person.

The thing is, that despite the fact that I wasn't embarrassed I wasn't a very good speaker. My confidence over-compensated my terrible communicative skills. I worked through that and have some tips here.

But to the point. I aim for embarrassment. I was standing on stage and a demo kept failing, again and again and again. Yet, I kept talking through that. Jobs had demos fail on live stage and just brushed them off. People fail. A lot. I will never forget the guy in Google IO whose Windows computer started the auto-update process live on stage...

That's the best thing that can happen to you. Everyone will remember your talk. Everyone will be sympathetic to a problem like that. At a recent conference the CEO of github had demo issues, the crowd clapped and cheered him.

When things go wrong, you will be OK.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel πŸ•΅πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ Fayard

That's such a great read.
Yes you will be awkward.
But it's wrong to assume that people will judge you negatively for that.
In fact it's more likely that they will admire your courage for daring to do it anyway.
I've heard that public speaking was Fear #1 ... sometimes before fear of death.
So in fact the audience is with you.

Practice and dare to speak out

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codenameone profile image
Shai Almog

β€œAccording to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right?

This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

-- Jerry Seinfeld

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel πŸ•΅πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ Fayard

Ah ah exactly what I had in mind, funny and mind blowing, thanks!

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maxart2501 profile image
Massimo Artizzu • Edited

I always think that most of the people in the audience don't know about the presented subject as much as I do, and the others are most probably not interested in embarass me, and maybe just want some slack from work/life. So it's all good and worked so far for me.

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ryencode profile image
Ryan Brown

I've general anxiety (and recently diagnosed ADHD) Public speaking is NOT a preferred activity 😁!
If presenting, I don't like slides I prefer to show something and talk about. If the format demands slides, I don't speak the same information as is on the slides. I use the slides as prompts for me, and a visual "hey look at this" for the audience. If there is a graphic to show, show it but then talk about it. I also try to not have a script. Sounds counter intuitive but I feel that if I know what I'm talking about, I only need short notes.
Also, audience participation can be a great driver though the dull parts. Ask them questions and allow questions not just at the end. Just be sure to push back if they take you too far off the subject of the presentation.

  • signed NOT A SPEAKING/PRESENTING EXPERT! -
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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel πŸ•΅πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ Fayard

I was stressed by slides
It was always done at the very last minutes
It felt boring for to write and it felt boring for the people to listen to.

I found a solution: no slides

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shawn_king_43eedfac14d profile image
Shawn101

Get something that u can fidget with an out ur hand behind ur back an use body language with one hand. Stand up straight don’t slouch. Smile. And the most important is breath in through ur nose and breathe out ur mouth. This will help. If it ain’t working then u ain’t doing it properly.

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canro91 profile image
Cesar Aguirre • Edited

I feel anxiety when I think there's someone in the audience who knows more about the subject. The alternative for me is to present from a learning/student perspective. Instead of pretending "I'm THE expert in X, let me lecture all of you", say "hey, this is what I've learned about X"

Another strategy I've used is Uncle Bob's strategy: take a few minutes at the beginning to talk about an interesting but unrelated topic. He uses Astronomy. That helps to get into the flow.

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pinotattari profile image
Riccardo Bernardini

Nowadays I do not feel very anxious (although YMMV depending on the occasion), despite considering myself quite shy (but maybe this changed with age).

However, I still remember my first talk in a conference in Florence. I was a young PhD student and I had a paper of mine accepted to this conference and I was there, all alone, for this "baptism of fire." It was my very first conference, not only as a presenter, but also as an attendee; therefore, I had no idea of how things worked.

My talk was the first one of the first session of the first day, so I had no opportunity of seeing other talks before mine. My anxiety was burying the needle: I rehearsed my presentation many, many times in order to avoid going beyond my time-slot, I was not confident in my English proficiency, sure that everyone but me spoke a perfect English. I was so nervous that I spoke as fast as machine gun, my slides fell down (it was end of 80s and we used plastic slide with overhead projectors... Yes, I am that old). Not the best performance, I must admit.

After my show I listened to the other talks and discovered that my fears were just nonsense: many speaker did not respect their time and about English... well, mine was not perfect, I admit, but for sure it was not the worst one...

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akpi816218 profile image
akpi816218

Personally I just remember that being scared is normal. It's totally ok. And that usually calms me down. And then of course I have to remember to go slower than I want to... Because most people tend to speed up when stressed. Hope this helps!

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heatherw profile image
Heather Williams

Practice makes perfect and the more you do this the better you get. In the moment though try grounding techniques or distraction techniques. I personally find mentally listing 5 things I can see, 4 I can hear, 3 I can touch to be helpful (you can continue to 2 for smell and 1 for taste if needed), this distracts my brain from what it has to do.

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danbailey profile image
Dan Bailey

Dunno. I'm joining Toastmasters this week to help me deal with that exact issue.

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keyurpate1 profile image
KeyurPate1

No worries, we've all been there!

One trick is to take deep breaths and remind yourself that you're awesome. It's also helpful to practice your presentation beforehand, so you feel more comfortable with the material. And remember, the audience wants you to succeed, so just be yourself and let your enthusiasm shine through. You've got this!

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philipjohnbasile profile image
Philip John Basile

Just hide. Boxes are readily available to hide under. Lol. Do what you can. Speaking in front of people terrorizes me, but I can do it if it’s online.