Training Tip of the Month — May

Did you Know

“Presentation Anxiety is the most common phobia that exists. It ranks with the fear of death as a traumatic experience.”*  (Followed by fear of completing the FAFSA, right?)

We’ve all experienced it at one time or another, the sweaty palms, the butterflies in the stomach, the fear that you’ll forget important presentation topics. Being nervous is not a problem if you learn to channel your nerves into positive energy. Conducting a successful presentation can be accomplished by focusing on a few helpful tips.

Practice makes perfect
Be prepared and well-rehearsed for your presentation. A slide show is only a small portion of the presentation; make sure to spend plenty of time learning your subject and rehearsing what you are going to say.  Practice deep breathing, drink plenty of water, remember to smile, and pause. Just before you start talking, pause, make eye contact and smile. Channel your nervous energy into an enthusiastic presentation.

Use humor

If you can start your presentation with a laugh, you will put your audience at ease (yes, that’s as important as putting yourself at ease!) and they will warm up to you and want to hear what you have to say. Also, if you are smiling and laughing, you’re increasing your own endorphins, which can help calm your anxiety and help you feel good about presenting.

Allow for pauses

When we’re nervous, we tend to speak too quickly and rush our points. Sometimes merely pausing for a deep breath can calm a shaky voice and allow the audience to absorb your information. Why not involve your audience to give yourself a break in your speech and give you that chance to breathe? Ask questions or for feedback from audience members, or plan for an interactive part in your presentation.

Use already-created presentations and handouts

To lessen the burden of giving a presentation and give you time to focus on practicing, why not use (or adapt) presentations that already exist? Check out Federal Student Aid’s Financial Aid Toolkit at for many PowerPoints, handouts and other resources you can use. Presentation topics available include: Finding Money for College, Successfully Managing Your Student Loans, FAFSA 101 and the Armed Forces, and Financial Literacy Resources, plus you can use already snagged screen shots from FAFSA on the Web to enhance your presentations. FSA PowerPoints have notes for slides that may need more explanation, so you can relax knowing your information is correct! NASFAA also provides a guide to providing a successful financial aid event complete with presentation, fact sheets, a glossary and checklist to keep you on track.

Advice from our esteemed RMASFAA President, Art Young

I think my best tip would be to do everything you can to make the topic relevant for the attendees. I have found that there are many ways to do this. Perhaps the most important one is to present on a topic you are passionate about. If you have been assigned a topic that doesn’t meet that standard, do everything you can to find something new or interesting that has real-world application. Another way to keep a presentation relevant is to focus on the ‘average’ audience member, not on the best-informed person in the room. When presenting, I do my best to ‘demystify’ concepts and explain and simplify everything as much as possible (especially industry jargon or acronyms, which FA Administrators seem to have more than our share of!). Lastly, I rely heavily on personal experiences and humor. If the listeners can laugh and see the way that the topic has impacted you or how you’ve dealt with it (for better or worse), I believe that everyone learns more and walks away with something useful. In fact, I’ve found that sometimes sharing a personal experience about a failure can be even more effective than only highlighting successes; it disarms the audience and sets up a comfortable atmosphere where everyone (even the presenter) is learning and sharing.


*Quote from Guide to Stress Reduction, John L. Mason, Ph.D, of the Stress Education Center

Federal Student Aid’s Financial Aid Toolkit

Other Federal Student Aid resources

Get help with all aspects of planning a Financial Aid Night presentation

NASFAA’s Planning & Conducting a Financial Aid Night toolkit (available to NASFAA members)


How to Add Humor in Public Speaking

Lifehack’s 13 Tips to Zap Your Butterflies When Speaking in Public

Fear of Public Speaking: the Fear that Stalls Careers

Also related: See the latest RMASFAA Exchange blog post! Helping Office Introverts Stand Out

This Tip of the Month was provided by your RMASFAA Training Committee

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