This is an installment of Suzette Andujar’s recurring column, “As I was Saying.”
How did this happen?
I was prepared. The facts were ready. The jokes were ready. My classmates had no idea I was about to make the presentation of the century. The microphone was in my hand and ready to be dropped. But it happened; I froze. I had to freeze because everyone was looking at me with their eyeballs. Looking at me and thinking things. The professor was standing there and waiting with a patient smile. I cleared my throat but there was a dragon stuck inside.
In a panic, I gave the dragon the name Igor. I don’t know why, but I was nervous, and I do crazy things when I’m nervous. My voice sounded like Igor which is bad because Igor sounded like Ernie mixed with Oscar the Grouch. I was halfway through the presentation when my joke blew up in my face. I’m not exaggerating; it was embarrassing. Remember that time Steve Harvey read the wrong Miss Universe name? It was a huge joke, especially during the time of my presentation. I decided to add a slide with his picture and the caption, ‘I’m so sorry, that was the wrong slide’ and I said out loud, “It was written on the card” and I held up my index card…if I said I heard crickets then I would be lying. It was worse. Dead silence. Now come on, that would have been hilarious if delivered the right way! Right?
Have you ever felt this way during a presentation? If you’ve read everything before this sentence then you’d realize that it’s okay; you’re not alone.
I was determined never to let my nerves get the best of me again. I Googled “different ways to cope with anxiety before a presentation” and got a variety of results; from breathing deeply and smiling, all the way to exercising before a speech. Taking deep breaths doesn’t work for me. It only makes me more nervous because I psychoanalyze why I’m taking deep breaths in the first place, which in turn makes me more nervous.
And exercising? We don’t have to go that far.
What helped me was not to focus on everyone’s eyeballs. What’s important is getting the facts straight, speaking clearly and volunteering to present first. Yes, I said it! Try to go first! I’ve done this a few times already. Let me say that going first relieves so much stress for the rest of the day! (I apologize in advance if the presentations in your class are in alphabetical order.)
Just be yourself. So what if my Steve Harvey joke didn’t get laughs (or any human reaction)? What mattered was that I tried and you know what? I got an A.
So how do you cope with anxiety before a presentation? Do you have an Igor? An Ernie? Maybe our Igors can have a play-date; just not during presentations.