When it comes to public speaking, it really is not easy, especially in classes where the professor says: "you will present next!". Like damn, what will I say? What if I get stuck, or even worse...go blank?
I understand you because I also went through that. Even if the presentation was not graded, I would still get nervous...but why was I feeling anxious? I really don't know.
However, as time went on, I learned to control my public speaking fear in such a way that does not affect me much anymore. I know many people also want to overcome public speaking fears too, so for this reason, I decided to share a few tips that will hopefully help with your anxiety.
Let's get started.
1. No Big Words
Prepare the text, language, and layout of the presentation based on your audience. For example, using words that are relevant and easy for the group to understand and follow you. I know sometimes there are some fancy words that you would want to use in your presentation for it to be more professional, but try to refrain from this because it might just confuse the audience and those confused faces would just make you more nervous.
2. Engage with your topic.
Knowing about your topic is good but it is even better to present a topic that you are engaged with because it will come naturally. Of course, this means that you will be more confident when presenting because it's something that you love or care about. For example, talking about yourself like hobbies, favorite things, things you believe in (e.g. good causes, theories).
However, if you have to present a topic that you are not really interested in, you can use your own personal life stories or case studies that are related with your topic as examples. This will make it more engaging for you when presenting.
3. Practice your presentation.
Of course it is great to practice in front of the mirror or your loved ones since you notice or get feedback on things that you can improve on. But, honestly, what helped me the most was being part of an organization where you can practice your presentation skills, such as Toastmasters. I first started by asking questions just to get accustomed to speaking in front of an audience; later, I volunteered to present. This helped me a lot because not only was I getting feedback, but I also got the opportunity to present many times.
However, if you don't wan't to be bonded to a monthly fee, try this with a study group and once you get comfortable, slowly build up by voluntarily presenting in another environment such as in class, workshops, etc. Remember that the more you present, the more comfortable you will be.
4. Analyze the environment.
If you know beforehand where you will present, reserve the room or arrive earlier so you can walk around the room and practice your presentation (of course imagining an audience). This way you will feel more comfortable and prepared for when the time comes to present.
5. Observe others present.
By observing others, you can learn from others' mistakes and successes. I mostly analyze the things that worked well in others' presentations. This can range from behavior, use of words, or layout. Then, I change it a bit to my own style and include it in my presentation.
Bonus tip: You should not stress about everything. Remember that you cannot control what other people think or foresee any technical difficulties. In the end, people will always have different opinions and the use of slides should just be an aid for your presentation rather than the main focus. The most important thing is that you have control of your performance and therefore should make the best out of it.
These tips took me a while to uncover, but I hope it will help you overcome your public speaking fears too. Remember that you have to take small steps in order to get comfortable with presenting. It might take a while but in the end it will be worth it.