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Mr Chen's anecdotes.

How to prepare for and conquer project presentations

Over the past year or so, more and more of my students have been telling me this.

Cher! Next week I got another presentation for my ______ (insert subject here) WA. So many presentations leh, sian.

I get it, presentations can be daunting.

Fear not, here are some tips that may help you conquer your presentation.

1. Breathe

Whenever you're anxious, do you notice that you may subconsciously be holding your breath?

In that moment, one of the best things you can do is to breathe in and out, just like how you are letting out a big sigh.

Why is breathing so effective? Breathing is a way to signal your brain that hey, you're relaxed. Your heart rate slows down a little, and your parasympathetic nervous system starts to calm down.

Just by making sure that you breathe, you can potentially feel better right away. Your mind stops racing, and at this point you'll feel more prepared to speak.

2. Drink up, or even pop a mint

Before your presentation, take a quick sip of water. If possible, keep your water bottle close by if the presentation happens to be a little on the longer side.

Popping a mint might help your mouth stay fresh and comfortable. (but be sure to finish it before speaking!)

3. Prepare in advance

Well, duh.

Preparation is important. Go over your slides and make sure that you're familiar with the order of your slides. If you're going to be bringing up certain anecdotes to liven up your presentation, check and double check to make sure that they are to be brought up at appropriate intervals.

If you prefer your slides to have as little words as possible and as many visual cues as possible, you may consider writing note cards to help you make sure that you cover all the points you need to.

Preparing for a presentation can be stressful and overwhelming because figuring out what your audience wants to hear is not easy. Am I sharing too much? Am I digressing? What if I'm not explaining enough, will my audience feel lost?

Personally, what I like to do is to put myself in the shoes of my audience. For someone who isn't well-versed with my presentation topic, what might they want to know? For the more detailed or more specific points, are they 100% necessary in helping my audience get to where I want them to be, or they can be skipped?

When considering whether to skip certain points, you may also ask yourself if these points may open doors for your audience to ask you tough questions that are outside of your domain. If this presentation is for your oral presentation for JC PW, you might want to be mindful so that you do not trip during Q&A.

4. Rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse!

In the past, I like to record my own voice while rehearsing.

girl rehearsing a script

It's cringey to hear your own recorded voice, I know...

But trust me, this is the best way to identify the parts of your presentation that needs extra work.

Where do you pause for way too long? At which point do you use filler words the most? (e.g. um, err..., alright, like, I think) Filler words indicate hesitation and they are a sign that you need to work on your thought process.

If you can, grab a friend or a family member. Sit them down and have them sit through your rehearsal. At the end of the rehearsal, they may have questions for you. These questions can be helpful for polishing up your presentation, especially since they aren't subject experts. (You are!)

5. Learn from the best, and imitate

Human beings are extremely good at imitating. It's how we survive, adapt, and conquer.

Watching others present can be extremely helpful.

Here are a few master presenters that you can consider watching:

  1. Amy Cuddy on body language. Great PEEL structure in her presentation too, plus she gives wonderful tips that you can use for your own presentation.

2. Bobby McFerrin and his amazing stage presence using music and his body language (I watched this SO. MANY. TIMES.).

3. Jill Bolte Taylor and her stroke of insight. I like how she could break down tough concepts in simple, relatable ways.

Are you ready to conquer your project presentations?

Presentations can be tough and may put a dent in your level of confidence. It gets better though! Think of this as a great opportunity to hone your communication skills. In this day and age, being able to communicate effectively is an important skill. After all, one of the most satisfying feelings in the world is seeing your audience see the world the way you intended for them to.

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