Dealing with your fear of speaking in public (Science Is My Favourite Colour)

Photo by David Laws |
When giving a talk, the worst thing a person is afraid of is making mistakes that will consequently lead to embarrassment.

Different people do have different skills on managing public audiences.

There are people who love giving talks, and those who feel that speaking in public is their worst nightmare.

However, when it comes to talking in front of an audience, everyone can experience fears.

In this post, we offer ideas that can help you make an astounding presentation!


Transferring one’s work into a talk is not as easy as one thinks. The best way to start is to convey the talk into words that can give a clear idea of what needs to be transmitted.

  • One of the first things to do is to understand the audience.
  • Take time to create a script, it will help to present the key ideas more clearly.
  • Outline the structure of the presentation in such a way that the audience can follow the subject easily.
  • While writing the talk think as if you were telling a story to someone that is not in your field and does not know the topic.
  • Use sentences that capture the attention of the audience.
  • You are allowed to tell a joke, but if you are not good at jokes, do not do it! It can work against you!
  • There are a lot of different presentation applications you can use besides Powerpoint (such as Prezi). Whatever you use, keep it as simple as possible. Slides must not overwhelm the viewer.
  • Images and diagrams are better than text, use only a few words in your slides and try not to read them. They are there only to make your presentation clear, not for you to read them.
  • You need to be fluent and the best way is to rehearse as much as you can until you feel comfortable and confident about what you are saying. Rehearse the talk alone. Once you feel ready, do it with friends and ask them for feedback.
  • Record your rehearsals and watch the video to evaluate yourself. Practice is the key to a natural delivery.
  • Do not memorise every word. If you forget a word you will get stuck in the middle of your presentation; believe it or not it is difficult to recover. Memorise only the key points; that should be enough to keep the flow of your presentation.


When it comes to presenting, you should enjoy the opportunity to communicate and share your work. 

There are various reasons that require you to present your project (conference, confirmation, PhD oration, or as part of the job-hunting process). Whatever the occasion is, you want the audience to get involved and feel enthusiasm for your work, and you should appreciate feedback from them.
  • When the day comes, take the best with you: your energy and passion for your research!
  • Introduce the points of your talk and stick to them.
  • Deliver your talk through a story; it is simple and you can capture the attention of the audience. Think of it as having an enjoyable discussion with friends! No one wants to hear something monotonous.
  • Look around the room and make eye contact (but not for too long) to engage the audience.
  • Talk about the significance of your research. You have a few minutes to mention what matters the most in your topic; this will clarify what you are going to deliver in the rest of your presentation.
  • You need to surprise your audience during your talk; people get bored when they listen to something too common or repetitive.
  • You have about a minute or two to capture the audience’s attention. They will otherwise turn their interest to their phones or, in the worst-case scenario, they will fall asleep.
  • The best way to connect with the audience is through delivering an authentic and powerful talk.
  • Getting nervous is natural but not good. However, nervous energy is exploitable and can be beneficial if you take the best from it.
  • Take extra care with vocabulary and grammar, especially when English is not your first language. Pay attention to pronunciation and speak slowly and clearly.
  • Stick to the time limit. Always prepare for under the amount of time given to you.
  • Always arrive early at the venue where the presentation is going to take place. Make sure the projector and computers are working to set up and check your presentation. Save it in PDF format as a backup.


It is important to end your story with a good summary recapping the main points:
  • Try not to use bullet points. They are not original and can be boring.
  • Think of a persuasive ending with an image: 'a picture is worth a thousand words'.
  • Remember to acknowledge your collaborators - everyone involved in the project as well as funding partners.


Your skills are also evaluated by the way you tackle the questions. You should keep in mind that you know more than anyone in the audience about your particular topic
  • Always be prepared to answer hard questions. No matter how difficult they are, you have to learn to deal with them. Take your time, take a deep breath, and do your best to answer the question.
  • Prepare extra slides that can help you answer questions.
  • It is all right to say “I don’t know the answer” to a particular question.
  • If you do not understand the question, you can ask them to repeat or paraphrase it.
  • If you are not sure about the answer, you can paraphrase the question back to make sure you understood correctly. It will give you some time to think of the reply.
  • A good presentation is always rewarding. It will encourage people to talk to you after the presentation.
The original version of this post was published on 16 November 2016 at the 'Science is not my favourite colour' blog, and is used here with kind permission. 


The 'Science is my Favourite Colour' blog was created because of the idea that doing research is not always easy! 

It was created, and is managed, by five ordinary PhD researchers from different backgrounds who are eager to share their experiences in the scientific world. These graduate researchers are Pramod Subedi, Patricia Casas, Constanza Martínez, Julieanne Vo, and Natasha Brohier. 

The blog project can be found on Twitter and Instagram (handle at both platforms is @scimyfavcolour), and also on Facebook.