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His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy There’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready To drop bombs, but he keeps on forgettin’
// Eminem, “Lose yourself”
As often - a rap artist articulates it the best. How often have you heard that the average persons biggest fear is to stand in front of others and present something?
This probably stems from The Book of Lists, which in 1977 reproduced a 1973 survey by Bruskin Associates. Here’s the top ranking of the worst human fears:
- Speaking before a group
- Insects and Bugs
The fear of death itself was at a humble seventh place. So, if you feel like this, you are definitely not alone. However, just the insight that this is a completely normal response to stage fright, may not be extremely helpful when you are in a public speaking situation. Doing a simple web search will provide you with a ton of articles with different thoughts about how you could cope with what is often percieved a very stressful situation. Here is an outline of some things that have helped me, as a fairly introvert developer, in the past.
Remember that the presentation is (rarely) about yourself
Usually you are there to present a topic you know well and care about - and the audience is to there to listen to the topic, not there to judge you.
No one is there to see you fail.
Mostly, people will like you to succeed. It will be the most comfortable for everyone in the room, and the audience wants to get something out of your presentation.
Breathe with your stomach.
If you haven’t conciously tried this, it is highly recommende in a situation where you are under pressure. If you are like me, you will feel that you have much more control over your surroundings.
Bring your motivation into the presentation.
This may sound a bit fluffy, but hopefully, there are at least a few things you really would like to tell the audience with your presentation. It could be a couple of key sentences on why to use a certain technology, or a valuable experience you have had, for instance. Focusing on getting to those few things works for me - the fear of stumbling on your words more or less disappears into the background.
In the next chapter I will go into more depth about my personal experiences in this realm.