Conquering My Fear of Presenting

I’ve always been a very anxious person, particularly when it comes to talking to people I don’t know. Speaking up in class and giving presentations was my worst fear as a student. After high school, I attended a large university - UC Davis. My classes were huge, often close to 500 students per lecture. This allowed me to get through my courses mostly anonymous. I didn’t have to speak up in class, do presentations, or even talk to students around me. This worked well for my anxiety; I talked only to friends and wasn’t often forced out of my comfort zone.

However, as I went through my undergraduate career, I realized that I loved helping others learn. I got a job working as a tutor and fell in love with teaching. But, I knew that if I wanted to make a career out of teaching, I’d need to get comfortable talking in front of groups. I ended up teaching small groups of students in algebra and biology. I got to see the same students every week and became more comfortable leading discussions and teaching material in front of a group. By the end of the year, I was so comfortable with the material that I could get in front of 20 to 30 high schoolers and teach for two hours comfortably.

Now as a masters student at SFSU, I was recently asked to present a 3-minute talk on my thesis. All my anxieties about presenting in front of people came rushing back. We did a practice run-through and I was a nervous wreck. Then came the final filming and I was surprised to find that I was less nervous than I had been a week before. I realized that our professor was right – it really does just take practice, many run-throughs, and becoming extremely comfortable with what you’re presenting to decrease your nerves. The good news is that I’ll be able to use this advice to help me in future presentations. The bad news is that every new presentation I do is going to take a LOT of work.

Despite all of this growth, I still compare my presentations to others’. When I see people present flawlessly, I tend to assume that they don't mind presenting or that it’s easy for them. I never consider that maybe their presentations are so polished because they dedicated a lot of time to prepare and practice beforehand. So, to help others change this misconception and to show that it’s okay to be nervous and need some (or lots) of time to practice and prepare, I wanted to share a blooper reel. This video was made using clips of myself and my classmates presenting the 3-minute thesis assignment that made me so nervous. Everyone included in this bloopers video is a master’s student at SFSU. These clips are all from the practice run of our 3-minute thesis presentations. Needless to say, these clips didn’t make the final cut. My intent is to show that all types of people get nervous, stumble, have technical difficulties, and need practice to improve. After watching our blooper reel, please take a look at the final versions of our thesis videos!