How a Presentation Can Be Good For You
A lot of you will be buckling down and beginning the nitty-gritty of your courses this week, whether you’re a fresher or whether you’re beginning the next stage of your course. In either case, you may well be facing the prospect of completing a presentation of some kind at some point very soon; whether that be in a seminar with a small audience, or in another environment with a rather bigger crowd. It doesn’t matter how many people watch you complete your presentation; the simple fact that there are eyes trained on you can be quite a daunting experience for some students to have to face up to, whether they are younger or older. It’s completely normal to feel anxious about doing a presentation before you do one, and of course during one; what I’m saying here may be more relevant for those students who feel a particular lack of confidence regarding presentations. Some of you will be super confident and find them a breeze, and of course that is excellent – be sure to keep that up!
I was fortunate enough (or unfortunate, depending on your point of view) to only have needed to complete one presentation during my undergraduate degree – a ten-minute group presentation in a seminar during my second year. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t want to do it. I wasn’t exactly filled with dread, but I’d have happily found a reason to avoid it or skip it. I don’t really like presentations, or public speaking in any sense, even now. It’s not really my thing. However, the module was compulsory, and thus so were the assessments, and therefore it had to be done. No way around it. Besides, the presentation only counted for 10% of my module mark (so even less in the context of my whole degree), and they were easy marks. It is definitely advised to pick up those marks wherever you can, but at the same time if it doesn’t go well it won’t make any significant dent on your overall grade!
To be honest, even though on the day I was quite nervous, and even though I got a decent mark for it I still don’t feel like I did a particularly good/confident/self-assured job that day, I’m certainly glad for the experience. It’s one of the best things that could have happened to me during my time at uni. Sometimes in life there can be nothing more exhilarating than successfully completing a challenge you don’t believe you are capable of, no matter what that challenge is or how small. Small victories should be celebrated like major ones! You can realise that you possess skills you didn’t think you had if you really dug deep; in a strange way that sense of ‘inevitability’ can inject a lot of courage into you! That success can be a massive confidence boost, which could only increase further if your seminar group are particularly supportive and complimentary after like mine were, and so I hope yours are the same!
The age-old calming advice regarding “everyone being in the same boat” and “nobody will remember the details in a week’s time” (unless you throw up on the seminar leader or wear a gorilla suit or something) very much applies. Some of you will need to do several presentations as you go through your academic career, and/or during the recruitment process for jobs after leaving university, and therefore the more experience of presentations you can get in the better. If life doesn’t take you down those roads however, there’s no doubt a presentation can still be very beneficial to your life in ways you might not be able to see right now, even if right now you hate the very person who created the idea of presentations and you’d rather hide away in your flat then come out to do it. Embrace it; it could work wonders for you.