You’ve spent weeks working on a project and the end is finally in sight. Before you can celebrate, your boss asks you to give a presentation of your findings to your team. Suddenly, you rethink everything you’ve spent the last month working on. You worry that your project isn’t important enough to merit a presentation. You imagine stumbling over words in front of your co-workers, making them think you don’t know what you’re talking about. Whether your project was a success or not doesn’t matter – you’re anxious about what others will think.
Nerves about giving a presentation could be a result of social anxiety. Giving a presentation with social anxiety can make it seem like everyone is zoning out, falling asleep, or wondering why you’re even talking. Your once friendly coworkers suddenly seem like critics ready to take off points for every mistake. Your anxiety can cause you to forget how helpful and valuable your colleagues will find your presentation. When you decide not to share your work with others, you might be not only limiting your own career growth. You could also be keeping valuable lessons from your co-workers that will help them learn too. If you’ve been worried about giving a presentation at work, keep reading for some ways to make presenting less nerve-wracking.
- Save for questions at the end. It can be tough to keep track of everything you want to say and how you want to say it, even with notes and preparation. Having folks jump in with questions during your presentation can make it more difficult. Remember that it’s okay to let your team know that you will save time at the end for all of their questions. Open your presentation by asking folks to jot down their questions, because they might get answered later in the presentation anyway!
- Remember your project is important. You might be worried that your coworkers don’t really care about the project you’ve just finished. If your presentation is mandatory for the company, this concern might grow. Remind yourself that you’ve been tasked with the work and the presentation precisely because it is important to the success of the company. The people in the audience have a lot to learn from you!
- Keep in mind that you can’t say everything. And you won’t be able to anyway. You might worry that your audience is going to call you out because you didn’t put in every single detail of your project. If you did though, your presentation would likely be too long and people would lose the takeaways in the details. If you’re worried that you haven’t said enough, you can always let your audience know you’d be happy to answer any questions they have or that you’d love to go into more detail about something.
- Own your expertise. It’s common to worry that you will not know what to say when you start presenting. But when you spend 40 hours a week working at a job, you become really knowledgeable about it. You are being asked to present precisely because you are the one with the information. Organize your thoughts beforehand and use notecards or slides to help keep you on track.
- Ask if it makes sense. You might be worried that you haven’t simplified your findings enough because you’re so familiar with the field. If you’re worried about having a bunch of blank faces looking back at you, rehearse with someone beforehand and ask if everything makes sense. Letting your audience know that you are happy to walk them through your work in more detail can also help.
- Don’t feel like you have to be funny. Whether it’s your work friends or leadership in the audience, you don’t have to be funny. Often people worry that if they aren’t making their audience laugh, their presentation isn’t going well. You’re not a stand up comedian – the goal of your presentation is to show what you know and have learned from a project or research. As long as you are able to share your insights coherently, you have succeeded.
- Celebrate what you learned. And sometimes, more so. It’s okay if you’re scared of what others will think because your project wasn’t successful or didn’t go as planned. Instead of worrying or, worse, hiding it, be confident as you share what happened, why you think it happened, and what you’ve learned from it. Many times projects don’t turn out as we hope they will, but it is what we learn from these projects that helps us get better at our jobs. Your findings will help the company be more successful in the future!
Anxieties about work presentations can cause you to forget how much you know and how important your work is. Even if you’re proud of what you do and how your projects are going, you might find yourself shying away from opportunities to show others what you’ve learned. Don’t let your social anxiety keep you from showing your colleagues how much you’ve done at work. Find out how Joyable, an online Cognitive Behavioral Therapy program, can help you feel more confident as you give presentations at work.