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Some Thoughts on Presenting

I remember little of my first presentations. I remember a great deal of preparation and anxiety. I remember my first title slide and then my memory is blank until that shocking moment when I finished my last slide and found myself out of breath and staring at a room of faces.

Beginner’s jitters is understandable. Anxiety before any public speaking is understandable. While I have been the highest rated speaker of my track at a huge multi-day conference, I've also choked in a very public and embarrassing way. These things happen. But they’re more likely to happen when we forget what it is we are actually doing when we are presenting: communicating. Even though one person is doing the majority of the talking, there are other flesh-and-blood humans present. Many are probably interested in what you are saying and want you to do well. Some may be glad they’re not up there. Some are probably checking their e-mail. The old tip to imagine one’s audience as naked is intended to transform the intimidating wall of faces into a group of actual people.

I never made much use of the nudist tip, but I feel my presentations improve if I force myself to take a moment and really look about the audience, make eye contact, and find a couple of people who are alert and friendly looking, people who I could, essentially, talk to. (I first appreciated this dynamic as an undergraduate when it felt as if the teachers often taught the whole class to me. I realized I “gave good face” and this helped my participation grade. As a teacher I appreciate, and I’ve heard other faculty speak of, those students that give feedback: those who are alert, nod, frown, or otherwise participate in the body language inherent to human communication.)

Consequently, my approach is to try to engage, go slow, and leave lots of time for questions. I've provided some tips to this end:

An excellent presentation is outstanding in its content and form, it:

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