Five Tips for Presenting

By Krishna Patel


Growing up, one of my biggest fears was public speaking. I knew it would probably hamper me later in life, so I decided to try to overcome my fear by embracing it; I joined my high school speech and debate team. After four years of giving speeches and a couple of symposiums and research presentations, these are some tips I picked up:

  1. SLOW DOWN. If you have a time limit and are trying to pack a lot of information into your presentation, you might think that speaking quickly is the best way to ensure that you get through it all. However, most people, including yours truly, tend to speed up even more during the actual presentation because of nerves. So, practice at a normal speaking pace. Furthermore, delivering your presentation at a normal pace is especially helpful to your audience when they are trying to pick up complex concepts in a relatively short amount of time.
  2. Don’t fidget. A lot of people tend to unconsciously rock side to side or forwards and backwards while presenting. Not only does this look unprofessional, but it also distracts your audience. If you notice that you rock side to side, plant one foot slightly forward to prevent yourself from doing so. If you rock forwards and backwards, plant both feet next to each other, shoulder width apart.
  3. Use your hands. Your hands are an especially helpful tool to emphasize points when used properly. To have the greatest effect, rest your hands at your side and bring them up only when you are making an important point or transitioning to another point. When you do move your hands, make sure that you bring them up above your waist so it’s clear that you’re making a point.
  4. Record yourself. For tips two and three, the best way to see what you’re doing wrong, especially if you’re doing it unconsciously, is to record yourself and actually watch how you present.
  5. Relax. If you’re at a research conference or symposium, the people you’re presenting to are not trying to judge you, they’re simply interested in understanding your work. You’re not defending your doctoral dissertation to them (or at least, not yet), so take a couple of deep breaths, try to think about something else to relax and then begin your presentation.

Krishna Patel is a sophomore at Stanford University, where she is studying computer science and biology with a significant interest in international security.