This year at #ExperimentalBiology2019 my abstract was selected for oral presentation in the “Environmental and Epigenetic Contributions to Disease Origin” session, sponsored by the Water and Electrolyte Homesostasis Section of the American Physiological Society. When I received the email stating that my abstract was selected I, initially, was super excited. This was huge news – my first oral presentation in graduate school!
However, shortly after, the realization of speaking in front of people hit me and glossophobia, the fear of public speaking, quickly washed over me. The conference was months away, yet, there I stood, frozen, with the anxiety of presenting my work in front of a large group of people. What was I going to do?
Being able to effectively translate your science to a population who doesn’t know your work is something, as scientist, we all have to do. Proper communication is important because during this time, you can receive good feedback or questions that have the potential to propel your research to the next step. So, it was very crucial for me to make sure that I delivered an effective presentation.
Fast Forward to the day before my presentation and I finally have down the perfect delivery. However, the big problem now is making sure that I can stay calm enough to deliver as I have practiced. Very often, during the practice presentations with my advisor, I would become so nervous that I would either speed through the entire presentation, do not explain my presentation well, or a combination of both. At one point she even asked where I would like her to sit during the presentation so that I did not see her and become extremely nervous (during the actual presentation she sat in the back and remained crouched the entire time so that I couldn’t see her). So, what do you do when you have practiced your presentation almost a million times and are still overwhelmed with anxiety?
When trying to determine how to attack my anxiousness, these are a few tips that I found useful:
- Take a deep breath. You have spent a lot of time preparing for this day, you got this!
- No one knows your material like you do. You have spent plenty of hours and weekends trying to answer your particular research question. There is no one in the audience (besides your advisor) who will know your research like you do.
- Focus on the material and not the audience.
- Channel your nervous energy and make it work in your favor. For me, after I finished the introduction slides and realized that this was not as bad as I had thought. I was able to channel all of my energy into my excitement for my research. This was cool data that I was sharing and I wanted the audience to be just as excited about it as I am.
- Visualize your success.
What other tips can you think of that can help people with glossophobia overcome their fear?
Jacqueline Leachman is a student-scientist working diligently to complete her doctoral degree in Nutritional Sciences at the University of Kentucky, “Go Cats”! Her interests include nutritional implications in the developmental origins of cardiovascular disease and obesity, and health disparities. @JackieLeachman