A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
The time has come. You did your best for at least one semester, you worked long hours, you lost your sleep, you even neglected your personal hygiene. You were worried you might not get any decent results, you thought it would never work out. Yet, here you are. You managed to finish your project on time and you can finally look your supervisor in the eye.
It is over. Or is it? There is just one final step left: Presenting. Here are some tips to get you through the longest 20 minutes of your life.
Preparation is key
By having a deep understanding of your topic, you will be secure about the discussion that will follow and by knowing which experts will be in the audience, you can even predict some of the questions that may come up later on. Know your text, your slides, your subject and your audience. The more prepared you are, the better. Practice makes perfect and as Ralph Emerson said:
Make eye contact
It is easy to get carried away and to keep staring at the monitor or your computer screen. Remember that there are actual people sitting down there, so don’t be shy and look towards their direction every now and then. An interactive presentation is so much more pleasant to follow.
Watch you body posture
Keep your back straight and your chin high. Keep your feet on the ground and your hands calm. You wouldn’t want your crowd to be distracted by your fidgeting and jumping around. You want to emit calmness, confidence and professionalism instead.
Show some confidence, even if at first it is just an act. Make some room for laughter and lighten up the mood. Alternatively, pretend you are alone in the room for a moment and find your calm. You should occasionally look at your audience, but this doesn’t mean that you also have to see them. Nobody will know, not even you after a while.
Last but not least, be true and be yourself. Even if your experiments did not work out perfectly or if you did not manage to answer all of your original questions, it is fine. That’s what happens in research and that’s what happens in life. It is not perfection that people expect from a fresh scientist. They want to see enthusiasm, passion and commitment to a cause.
Let your energy flow and give to the audience something they can feel. Remember that the people who are standing before you have been where you are now multiple times in the past. They know how it feels to be exposed, to be brave, to be human. They can sympathise and they are proud of you because you brought to life a part of their own vision. I see no enemies here, just people loving the same thing, sailing in the same boat.