SparkNotes Blog

How to Survive a Final Presentation

Holiday breaks are almost here, which means we get a brief respite from the joys of the academic calendar. However, many of us have a few hurdles to hopefully not collide with before it’s all blankets and eggnog and waking up at 11:00am. For many of us, few nemeses vex and intimidate us like the dreaded final presentation. Steel thy notecards and ready your PowerPoint for battle. We will help guide you on your quest to best this harrowing trial and reap the pleasures of a break well earned.


First things first: Chill. Out.

Release hair from hands, breathe deeply, and repeat. Feeling stressed about your final presentation is a natural feeling for anyone to have, especially those who feel that public speaking should be classified as capital punishment. However, for your sake (and the sake of your audience), you’re going to have to dial it back. Take a break between editing drafts or practice attempts to watch some quality kitten videos. You’ll be more productive if you don’t feel like your brain is undergoing a dystopian revolt. You should absolutely try to be as prepared as possible for your actual presentation, but if you can swing it, try to spend ten minutes right before the offending class doing something relaxing that will take your mind off things, like reading a good book or knitting something that takes a mild level of concentration. Calming down this way will make you feel less anxious, and will make you come off less like a trapped feral animal to the rest of your class.


Let me hear your body talk

While we’re on the subject of physiological mechanisms, let’s get real healthy all up in here. The following suggestion comes with a high eye-rollitude coefficient, but we’ve got to say it anyway: The day of your presentation (or better yet, the whole week leading up to it), try to get a good night’s sleep and eat a solid breakfast in the morning. Right now you might be cackling at the absurdity of trying to sleep more when you are busy with finals, and anticipating the dreaded presentation might not do wonders for your appetite, but there’s no arguing that sleeping well and eating breakfast helps with academic performance. Put down the notecards, put on your motivational sleeping headband, tuck your worries away for the night (more kitten videos recommended), and get the granola ready for morning: we’re gonna’ make it!


Stand and deliver (with your legs shoulder-width apart)

Once you’ve arrived in the fated classroom to wrangle with the destiny of your grades, you can give yourself a fighting chance by standing strong and tall. Standing confidently and putting a smile on your face can actually make you feel more confident and happy, and if nothing else it can help convince your teacher that you feel good about the quality of your presentation. Keep your legs roughly shoulder-width apart so that you feel balanced, and don’t “lock” your knees and clench your legs straight (doing so can supposedly interfere with blood flow and make you feel faint, but in any case it’s not a comfortable way to stand). Just imagine this is a care of magical creatures final, and stay saddled on your invisible hippogriff. You can save the bow for the end of the presentation.


Get goofy with your bad self!

Working up the nerve and taking the time to practice your presentation beforehand can sometimes feel as grueling as doing the real thing, but it’s a good idea. You can take some of the “blerg” out of it by treating your practice runs as a joke. Try doing your presentation in a goofy voice, or race yourself to say everything you want to say as fast as possible. Even though it seems silly, this will help you get more comfortable with the language and content for your presentation, which will make you seem more polished and professional when you do it for real. Just try to remember to reset your speaking apparatus to “normal person” the day of.

One extra ridiculous secret strategy is to get together with some friends who are working on their own presentations, and take turns presenting to each other is the absolute worst way you can imagine. This is good for some de-stressing laughs, but it will also give you a clearer idea of how you actually would like your presentation to go. You might stumble on some silly bits that you end up wanting to keep around, which is an extra bonus. A little humor is a good way to get your audience involved, and it might help ease the mood of the next poor soul to get called up after you. (Tough luck for them; you’ll be a hard act to follow after you’ve applied all of our ~*~amazing tips!~*~)

Finally, always remember: no matter how your presentation goes, you will probably survive it.

How are you coping with your final presentations? If you don’t make it, can we have your stuff? Let us know in the comments!