Helping students overcome presentation fears

by Halina St James

One of the many things commerce students have to do in university is make presentations. For many it’s a nerve wracking experience. So hats off to universities who give their students an advantage by bringing in a presentation skills coach.

One such school is the Ron Joyce Centre for Business Studies at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick.

I just spent time with a first year commerce class there. The students have to make three presentations, which account for 30% of their final mark. They do group presentations of four people. Their professor, Peter Sianchuk, says many struggle to overcome nerves or shyness.

Halina St James with Peter Sianchuk
Halina with Peter Sianchuk and a lot of snow outside the Ron Joyce Centre for Business Studies

I gave the students the basics of my Talkitout™ Technique, and some strategies for powerful presentations. Then I talked to them about the experiences of some of my clients, like advertising companies, who regularly make group presentations.

Figure out your format. Will you have a Master of Ceremonies (MC) type of format, or one where everyone speaks equally?

  • If you have an MC, he or she starts with a dynamite hook and perhaps on overview of the whole presentation. Then the MC introduces the first speaker and topic. When that person finishes, the MC comments on what has been said and introduces the next speaker. After everyone has spoken, the MC sums up.
  • If there’s no MC, the group must decide who starts, how the first speaker throws to the second speaker. Then how the second speaker throws to the third, etc, and how the last speaker ends.
  • Be creative. Could you offer your group presentation as a three act play, or in a talk show format?

It’s important that the group plans what they’re going to say together, so the information unfolds logically and provides maximum value for the audience.

Finally – to make sure the whole presentation goes off seamlessly – the group must rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.





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