I had to give a pitch for our start-up last night. In front of about 200 people, including media. This was, by far, the biggest crowd I have ever stood up in front of. Unless you count Christmas/Band concerts when I was little (but I was never front and center in those).
I didn’t have to speak for long (only a couple of minutes). But I won’t say I wasn’t nervous. Because, even though I have improved when it comes to public speaking, I still get some butterflies before. But they are no way as debilitating as they use to be. And I can actually somewhat think when I stand up.
I have a few things I do when I have to give presentations now.
- I remind myself before I go and speak that I’m talking about something that I know more than anyone in my audience. Thankfully, this is generally always the case, as I’m usually speaking about my research, and I really should be the expert on what I’ve been doing.
- I remind myself that no one in the audience expects or wants me to fail. It’s easy to think that everyone is waiting for you to make a mistake. But they’re not. Anyone listening to you talk, is hoping that you are going to give an engaging and interesting presentation. Think about it, when was the last time you went to a presentation and sat there hoping that the presentation would be terrible?
- On that same note as above, I remind myself that I will be my harshest critic. Yes, your friends are likely to lie and tell you that you were great even if you weren’t. However, even if you weren’t perfect (who is), it’s likely that you are better than you think, and somewhere in between where you think and what your friends think. Which is usually a perfectly reasonable place to be.
- Finally, I remind myself that each time I stand up in front of people, the next time is a little bit easier. So I might as well take all the chances I get. Especially since grad school is one of the few places in life (actually, school in general) where learning is not only highly encouraged, it’s suppose to happen. So if things don’t go great, don’t worry, someone will provide some useful feedback and you can do better next time.
I think last nights presentation went okay, even if I didn’t say everything exactly as I wanted to. Because I still got up there, and we still had a great event. Which is pretty much the best that can happen.