For the past 10 years, I've done presentations on how to do presentations. Nothing like setting yourself a high bar!
I learned to present the hard way. As an undergrad at Cornell, I majored in Design and Environmental Analysis. And what do interior designers do? Present to corporate clients.
So that's what we did.
Every week for four years we'd tack our drawing up on the board and try to give a good, coherent spiel on what we were doing, why we were doing it, and why they should love it. Shaking in our boots and waiting for the professors to critique our work.
Know what? It worked. By the time we graduated, ALL of us could present our ideas clearly, coherently, and confidently. Good speakers aren't born. They're built. And they're built from simple steps that anyone can learn.
Practice, practice, practice
I do the same thing to my psychology students. This semester, every student in my upper level lab gave three 30 minute presentations: one teaching about a technique for studying adolescent development, one running a discussion of an article we'd all read, and one presenting their semester-long research project.
At the end of the semester, I asked them to think about what made a good presentation.
First, and most importantly, they said:
In terms of what they thought made a good presentation, their advice for future students (and you) included:
It was hard for some of them to implicitly say 'I know more than you' by standing up and lecturing. But you know what? YOU HAVE TO. By playing the part and taking charge, you make your audience comfortable and help them to know how they're supposed to behave. Their job is to follow your lead, not to make you feel comfortable.
Your job as a presenter is to figure out what the task of the group is and to shape their shared activities so that they reach that goal. Focusing on meeting their needs will help to determine your plan of action.
And remember, an activity can be anything. And varying activities breaks up a presentation and can make it more effective
Think hard about which tasks should be done individually, which in writing, which by the leader or other speakers, and which in groups. Then choose and shape activities so that each component of your presentation works together.
I talk about this in depth in the post How To Give A Presentation: Tell A Good Story and won't repeat it here.
Other points students made were smaller and already covered in depth in my previous posts.
But their bottom line advice: JUST DO IT. It's scary, but you'll be just fine.