I’m working on it: Presentation paralysis

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By Amanda Lee, Web columnist

In approximately 24 hours I will give one of the most important presentations of my life. Senior Project presentations are creeping up on the class of 2012, and in case you haven’t started to panic yet, I suggest you start now in full force to make up for lost time.

As of right now, my presentation is 38 slides, and after practicing, if I remember to breathe occasionally, I will make the minimum 10 minutes. Otherwise, I’ll have to repeat my presentation. And let’s be real here, no one wants to go through all that stress a second time.

Presenting in front of people gives me the heebie jeebies. I take on a completely different persona when I have to stand in front of an audience and talk about myself.
So, I find myself standing in front of my adviser and a smattering of peers, after school, practicing for the big day.

Normally, I’m cool and collected and I can form sentences, speak at normal speeds and get along just fine. But, as soon I have to go up in front of an audience, I fall to pieces.

All of a sudden I can speak at a speed that rivals the speed of light. My hands take on a life of their own as they fiddle their way through the excruciating minutes that I am on the spot. Things I should know about and facts I should have remembered have hidden themselves away in the deep recesses of my brain.

Errant thoughts that have no meaning or use pass through my head and cause me to stutter, stop, stare at the screen and try to remember why I had even created that slide.

“Is my skirt crooked? Is my blouse wrinkle-free? Does my breath smell? Are my teeth white? What is my hair doing?” Silly worries are sprinting through my brain, and I can’t stop obsessing over them.

And so, I stand there feeling like my viewers are judging me, I slowly but surely sink into a deep hole of despair in which there is no hope of ever recovering from or making out of alive.

The only escape I can manage to think of in-between the worries about my appearance, the panelists’ thoughts and bits of useless information is this: talk faster, and get it over with.

Brilliant idea! All of a sudden, the speed that I was already gifted with, while brisk, upgrades to hyper-active mode. An practice audience member tries to answer a question: “Is it Japan?” But I’m already so far gone, I yell back at them “NO!” and click to the next slide before they can further question me.

All of this is leading up to the final slide, the “Mahalo” slide. At this moment, I realize that I have finally made it to the end. There are no more charts, no more quotes or photos to explain. It is finally over and I can breathe.

This is how I envision my presentation on Thursday going down. But, I believe that if I just keep practicing and rehearsing, perhaps everything will turn out all right.

A tip for all you stressing seniors: JUST BREATHE (and practice). It will all be over soon, I promise.