Presentations

Many students feel anxious about giving presentations as part of their course. Here’s some information and links to resources that might help.

USW Study Skills

The Student Development and Study Skills Service offer advice and workshops and have several resources that can help with presentations.

Support from the Counselling Service

Whether working in a group or on your own, giving a presentation can be a daunting experience. You may be thinking: “I’d rather work on my own than in a group, I’ve never given a presentation before and I’m terrified of standing up in front of everyone”, or “I won’t be able to control my anxiety and I’ll let everyone down”.

Presentation anxiety

It’s normal and very common to experience anxiety about presentations. It can be daunting to stand in front of an audience, have their full attention on you, and know that what you say and how you say it will be assessed.

A certain amount of adrenalin can sharpen our ability to present well, but for some people it will trigger the automatic biological fight or flight response which prepares your body for emergencies. While this may be essential for survival when faced with a charging bull or other external threat, it is not so helpful when triggered in response to our own internal fears and it may mean that we don’t come across as well as we know our knowledge and understanding of the subject merits.

How can counselling help?

Simply being heard and feeling understood can be most helpful in feeling less alone and helping you deal with the challenge of the anxiety. To be able to voice the fears and any associated emotions such as frustration, shame or anger at ourselves, while being fully accepted by the counsellor can be a huge relief.
Counselling can also offer you a confidential, non-judgmental space to explore the source of your anxiety. For some people, this greater self-awareness and understanding can be enough for them to move on from feeling held back by the anxiety. For others, it may lead to working with a counsellor in considerable depth and with long-standing and deep-rooted issues of your identity, past experience and personality.

In addition, or as an alternative, you may be more interested in developing strategies to manage the symptoms of your anxiety more effectively. A counsellor can:

  • help you recognise the early signs your body gives you of anxiety arising
  • support you in devising strategies for preventing the anxiety escalating to an unmanageable level
  • offer you ways of calming yourself down again if your ‘nerves’ have got the better of you
  • support you in promoting a greater sense of relaxation so that anxiety states are not so easily triggered
  • help you to change the way you think about presentations and therefore how you feel about them and react to them
  • teach you that there is an alternative to the downward spiral of automatic negative thinking which we can unwittingly escalate when faced with a threat
  • work with you to increase your self-esteem and confidence
  • help you tap into the inner resources we all have but don’t always recognise, and develop a sense of trust that you can cope with giving a presentation, and with other challenges that life throws your way.

Self-help

The Wellbeing Service has produced a list of self-help useful links. These are web-based resources you can use yourself to deal with anxiety.