7 Tips to Conquer Presentation Anxiety

The role of the pharmacist is constantly evolving, and public speaking opportunities can showcase your expertise.

The role of the pharmacist is constantly evolving, and public speaking opportunities can showcase your expertise. Public speaking can be overwhelming if it is your first time or something that you are not accustomed to doing. The Chapman University Survey of American Fears questioned a random sample of 1,207 individuals in the US about their fears.1 Although public speaking was not ranked among the top 10 fears, it was listed as number 52 with 20% of study participants reporting being afraid or very afraid.1

My personality would probably be classified as 'introverted.' Later on, I learned that extroverts can also have public speaking jitters. When I first started pharmacy school, I usually asked questions after class instead of raising my hand. Realizing that I wanted to teach someday, I made it a goal to get out of my comfort zone and started becoming more vocal during class. This enabled me to not only become a professor, but present at many continuing education programs. Public speaking can be daunting, and my goal is to ease your fears whether you are a pharmacy student or pharmacist that needs or wants to give a presentation.

Here are 7 tips to conquer presentation anxiety:

1. Get out of your comfort zone.

Make a goal to speak with someone about a pharmacy topic. This will help to enhance your communication skills. It can be a discussion with a family member, friend, or patient. Check out the FDA or CDC website for different hot topics.

2. Research your topic.

Being prepared is a great way to reduce presentation anxiety. Spend time researching your topic through reputable resources. Conduct a literature search through Pubmed for articles. If you are presenting about vaccines, then consult the CDC website for the latest recommendations.

3. Save your presentation through multiple devices.

Always save your presentation through at least two devices. I generally use a USB flash drive, and email the presentation to myself. Take it from me, there have been occasions where my flash drive did not work, and I needed to open my presentation through email. Also, print out a copy of your slides in case the computer or projector fails during your presentation.

4. Work through distractions.

Distractions are unavoidable during presentations, and knowing how to handle them will help to reduce your presentation anxiety. People will be late, and it is best to continue speaking while stragglers are walking in. True story: during my residency I was presenting at a hotel about medication errors, and there was a party next door with loud music and a bird flew into the room. This was an interesting situation, and I eased the mood by making a joke and spoke louder to mask the music.

5. Practice, practice, practice.

The more you practice your presentation, the more confident you will feel. 'Practice makes perfect' definitely rings true when it comes to public speaking. Do a test run of your presentation with a colleague, friend, or family member, and ask them for feedback.

6. Anticipate questions.

I was always nervous about what questions I would receive during a presentation. Anticipating possible questions can help to ease your fears and better prepare you. For example, if you are discussing a new medication, then the audience is likely to ask about cost, efficacy, and safety. It is important not to worry if you do not know the answer. Get the person’s contact information, research the question, and respond back.

7. Know how to get to your presentation venue.

If you are presenting locally, then take a trial run to the venue to make sure you know how to get there. Fly in to the out-of-town conference the day before to account for bad weather and possible delays.

Good luck at your presentation!

Reference

Chapman University. America’s top fears 2017. https://blogs.chapman.edu/wilkinson/2017/10/11/americas-top-fears-2017/. Accessed March 22, 2018.