Members of the academe are not the only ones who present academic papers in public. Even students have to do this more than once in their student lives. More often than not, an academic presentation is a requirement to pass a subject.
If you’re the type who loves speaking in public, I’m sure you wouldn’t mind these academic presentations. It’s a different matter altogether, though, if you dread even just the thought of speaking in front of an audience. If you have glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking, you’d probably just find ways to skip the event.
Here’s the thing, though. Academic presentations can actually help you in many ways. In particular, they can help you boost your confidence, not just as a public speaker, but as a person in general. How? We’ll discuss that in this article. But first, let’s look at what academic presentations are in the first place.
What Is an Academic Presentation?
In the strictest sense of the term, an academic presentation is one which sees a researcher presenting her or his research findings to an audience. That audience can be a panel of fellow researchers or just the general public. Taken to mean that way, that presentation should follow a specific formula, depending on the field of study. In sociology, for example, the presentation formula would be something like this:
- Theoretical framework
- Review of literature
- Discussion of data
After the presentation, the audience is expected to ask questions. The questions can be just clarifications about the study or gaps found by the audience in the study. Ultimately, the researcher answers these questions and, if need be (and more often than not, it is actually needed), defends her or his study.
You might ask, so, isn’t an academic presentation the same as a business presentation?
Well, sure, in a way, yes it is. The main difference, however, lies in how speakers treat their audience according to their knowledge of the topic.
Speakers in business presentations–whether those are seminars or product demos, for example—tend to be more “forgiving” in a sense. They don’t always assume their audience has the same level of understanding as them about the topic being discussed. In other words, in the course of public speaking, they explain concepts if they have to.
Academic speakers, on the other hand, in the strictest sense of the term, typically assume they and the audience have the same level of knowledge about the topic being talked about. They, therefore, use very technical concepts as they go along, and don’t “waste time” explaining these at all.
In other words, if you were a layman, you’d probably have more chances of understanding what a business presenter is saying than what an academic presenter is saying.
In this article, though, I’ll use the term “academic presenter” more liberally. The term “academic presentation” in this article refers to any presentation given in the context of the academe. So, whether you’re an actual researcher or not, if you speak about a concept that is being studied in academic discourse, I’ll consider it an academic presentation.
Under this definition, then, teachers and students giving a presentation in class are also considered academic presenters.
How an Academic Presentation Boosts Confidence
I chose to use the term “academic presenters” liberally to highlight one thing: that public speaking about concepts in academic discourse doesn’t just benefit actual researchers. They can benefit others, too.
That said, let’s go back to our original question: How exactly can academic presentations boost confidence?
Here are some of those ways:
1. They help you overcome your public speaking fears.
Academic presentations can help you overcome your fear of public speaking. If you speak frequently enough in front of an audience, you end up getting used to it. So, when someone asks you to speak in public, you no longer find ways to skip the event. In fact, you even welcome it.
Of course, it’s not as easy as it sounds. The key, however, is just to take it step by step.
The first step is the hardest part. The good thing is, with academic presentations, you don’t usually have the luxury of begging off from speaking in front of a crowd. When a teacher tells you to present in class, for example, you need to do that presentation in class or risk not passing the subject. If you’re a teacher or a researcher, well, presenting is really part and parcel of your job. If you don’t do it, your supervisors can easily find someone else to replace you.
That means, then, that your only option is to take that first step. After that, the next step becomes a little bit easier. Repeat that process more often and that jittery feeling you get just with the thought of speaking in front of an audience eventually goes away.
2. They help you improve your speaking skills.
As with other types of presentations, academic presentations can help improve your speaking skills. You learn how to structure your speech so that your audience won’t get bored. You also get to expand your vocabulary and learn the right pronunciations of words. If you give enough of those academic presentations, you can even learn how to explain complex processes and concepts on your own.
All of these improvements translate to enhanced self-confidence. When you improve your speaking skills, after all, you end up understanding that your fear of getting criticized for your speech is unwarranted. Since you now know you speak just as well as the other speakers you know, you end up changing the ways you deal with people. You no longer shun interactions with them and end up welcoming them, always with your head high.
3. They teach you how to physically face people.
Academic presentations teach you the right way of facing people when you’re talking to them. You need to make eye contact when speaking. You need to stand up straight, and avoid staring at the floor. All of these can become a habit if you give academic presentations frequently enough.
When that happens, the next time you talk to a person, you no longer stare at your shoes. You’re no longer fidgety. You act as if you were speaking to your audience during your presentation, with all that confidence in the world.
4. They help enhance your critical thinking.
Academic presentations help improve your critical thinking. Since you typically have to defend your arguments before a skeptical audience, before you even set foot on that stage, you’re already constantly looking for holes in your academic arguments so you can find answers to them. Your goal is to be prepared if and when that audience starts bombarding you with questions.
That ability to identify gaps and determine solutions to those gaps helps boost self-confidence. Once you (and other people) recognize your ability (a rare trait, may I add), you begin to understand that you have something to contribute to conversations. So, when you’re interacting with people, you no longer stay quiet in a corner and you give your two cents.
5. They teach you how to deal with people who think differently
When you give academic presentations, not everyone in the room will agree with what you say. Some of them will definitely have different opinions and won’t have any qualms about raising them in the Q&A session (or even maybe during your presentation).
If you find yourself in this situation more than enough times, you end up knowing how to deal with these sorts of people. (And the way to deal with them, by the way, is to thank them for voicing out their opinion and acknowledging they are entitled to it. Never try to change a person’s point of view, unless it’s blatantly flawed from an academic perspective).
The point is, the result, then, is that you feel more confident when facing people in real life. Because you know if someone suddenly disagrees with what you have to say, you can react appropriately.
It’s true. Academic presentations can be hard. They can, however, prove useful to you if you just take that first step of facing the crowd.
Academic presentations, after all, can help boost your self-confidence. They do that by helping you overcome your public speaking fears, improving your speaking skills, teaching you how to physically face people, and enhancing your critical thinking. They also boost your confidence by helping you deal with people who think differently so when someone disagrees with you, you won’t cower in a corner and just agree. You’ll know exactly what to say and do.
In short, if someone asks you to give an academic presentation, don’t find ways to skip it. Welcome it instead. Give many of those presentations and you’ll be an entirely different person: one oozing with confidence (but not in a bad way, of course).
For more resources to develop your public speaking skills while you are in the comforts of your own home, please check out the article ‘Online Resources for Public Speaking‘. If you would like to leverage the best presentation software for your next big speaking engagement please read the article 'Best Presentation Technology tools'.