The other week I gave a presentation to my panel to update them on all the sciencing I’ve been doing since my midterm. It was a good opportunity to have them all in one place, to hear what they have to say about my findings. It was also a good chance for me to actually think about my data, put it all together and try to make sense of it.
That doesn’t mean I enjoyed it. I get really, really nervous when I have to do public speaking. I hate it. And this week I had a mighty revelation: Giving a presentation is just like going to the dentist.
Hear me out on this one.
1. You have to face it at least once a year. Unless you are really, really lucky (and have a winning smile).
2. You are asked questions you cannot answer.
At the dentist you are a) usually trying to answer while your mouth is full of cotton buds and/or evil-looking dental instruments; or b) s/he asks “how often do you floss?” and you are forced to lie.
In a presentation this can be because a) you don’t understand the question; b) you simply do not know; c) you never considered what they are asking relevant but now realise that it is kind of vital; d) it is absolutely outside the scope of your research; e) you freeze and all your brain can provide you with is a helpful rendition of Duran Duran’s “Hungry like the wolf”; or f) all of the above.
3. You look more confident than you feel.
It is a well known fact that dentists can smell fear and that you should hide it at all costs.
In a presentation I usually look and sound so much more confident than I feel. I kid myself that if I can fool the audience into thinking I’m confident, then I’ll just magically become confident! That’s how it works, right?
4. You are given advice you do not want to follow.
Such as “floss more”. Or (in the case of my presentations) “i suggest you focus future work on …(ie some aspect that you’ve been avoiding because it’s super boring and/or really really time consuming).
5. You leave feeling ever-so-slightly, violated.