(Conference) Presentation Prep Anxiety

Do you know that feeling? When you are thinking about the coming session, and those 45 [50/60/90/…] minutes seem like a huge time ‘on stage’? You start to question your own knowledge of the topic you are presenting on, and whether or not the topic is interesting/relevant/useful for the teachers. You are asking yourself a number of ‘what if’ questions (e.g. What if everyone already knows those activities (ideas, tips, resources, etc.)? What if the topic is boring and no-one starts to participate? What if it’s too hard/easy/obvious… What if… ok, you got the point)

Sharpening them is another calming activity 🙂

My strategies to cope with those feelings have been the following:

  • reminding myself that these are feelings not facts (and that such thoughts will come and go)
  • starting to prepare earlier rather than later (to have time for several drafts and chatting about the topic with colleagues)
  • finding out as much as I can about the audience (and/or thinking how to incorporate this ‘mini-needs-analysis’ into the session)
  • balancing ideas and reflections with specific practical activities to be used in class (well, I am not a fan of ‘activity-only’ approach to creating sessions, but I don’t think that a complete ‘activity ban’ from a workshop would work either for teachers attending a conference/TD event; I may be wrong)
  • finding a reason to be super excited about the specific session I am preparing for (not to the topic, but to something in the session): it can be an ice-breaking activity, a task to do in groups, a slide, a question, etc. Something that excites me as a presenter would probably/hopefully fire a shot of inspiration in (someone in) the audience

When was the last time you were 100% happy? And a true picture 🙂

  • preparing more rather than less (in that case I will most likely have enough materials for a longer session on a training course in the future)
  • related to the point above: rehearse/pilot some tasks that are completely new or were designed for this specific session
  • reminding myself about a lot of previous sessions I have done in the past that had positive feedback from the participants (well, one of them was my small professional failure, as I see it now, but that’s based on my perceptions and reflections)
  • writing such a blog post (in fact, very reassuring and calming down even at the point of typing this!)
  • wondering what else can be done (and when/if a time will (ever)l come that presenting will be a 100% comfortable experience)

Is it ‘stage fright’? Impostor syndrome? Professional Development (side effect)? Something else?

What are some of your strategies to prepare for and feel cool about a coming presentation/conference workshop?

Thank you for reading! 🙂

About Zhenya

ELT: teacher educator, trainer coach, reflective practice addict https://wednesdayseminars.wordpress.com/.
This entry was posted in Reflective Practice and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to (Conference) Presentation Prep Anxiety

    • Zhenya says:

      Great post about the time on the actual stage! My favorite part is this one: ‘Trust me, every single person in this room wants you to do well up there. No one is cheering for you to mess up.’ – Yes, so true that the people who have come to the session are positive and supportive. Most of the time. 95% of the time, or more.
      Thank you for reading and sharing your post Tim!


  1. Wilma Luth says:

    Great post! I can’t really speak for you and what the root cause of these feelings are. But for me, I’ve come to realize that feelings like these during the prep time are generally a positive thing. Maybe it doesn’t feel like it, but they are. It means that I’m working on something that I care about and want to do well in. I want the session to be interesting and useful for the attendees and perhaps I’m also trying something new and I’m unsure how it will go.

    When I’m not even a little nervous, it can fall flat. I think the brain (my brain?) needs that bit of stress to work well.

    PS. I was feeling pretty anxious until I saw the pencils! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Zhenya says:

      Thank you for these words Wilma: indeed, when I/we don’t care, there is no worry or feeling nervous. Yes, it is often about the matter we care and want the others to be thoughtful about, or simply inspired.
      Haha, after the line about the pencils I checked where the image was. I guess you mean that you felt better when you saw that I am listing some strategies? 🙂
      So cool to know you are reading (some of) my posts 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wilma Luth says:

        It was the stress I was feeling after your first paragraph that was relieved by seeing the pencils. 🙂
        And I do read all of your posts. Really glad to see that you’re posting quite a lot these days. Yay for us!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I needed to see this right now – I’ve been going through all these nerves/imposter thoughts and more in the run up to IATEFL.

    Usually when I’m nervous I start lessons or teacher training sessions with something learner-centred which takes the focus off me. So, I need some alternative strategies.
    Bookmarking this!

    My tip is to do a practice run with an audience you know, even if it’s just 3-4 of your colleagues.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Zhenya says:

      Hi Elizabeth

      Thank you so much for the comment and for the idea to ‘pre-run’ the session with friendly and supportive audience. I agree and find it super helpful. The other one you mentioned and I like very much is about the learner- (audience- in this case) centered activity at the beginning. Something simple and super short. To me it is also ‘off-slide’ so that I can do a quick test or check if it is a new room we have all just entered.

      Good luck with your IATEFL talk!


  3. Tesal Sangma says:

    Helpful strategies, Zhenya! Thank you!

    “reminding myself that these are feelings not facts”: This will be with me every time I’m about to go up on stage.


    • Zhenya says:

      Thank you for the support and comment Tesal!
      This strategy is a (relatively) new practice for me, but I keep reminding. In areas far from ELT, too 🙂
      Take care and good to be in touch!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. El Habib El Hadari says:

    Hi Zhenya,
    Thank you very much for this wonderful post. I really like the strategies you’ve suggested. I think that the anxiety feelings a person can go through prior to her or his talk or workshop is a sign of the respect she/ he has for the audience. One more thing, this anxiety can sometimes work as a motivator to double the efforts to bring something interesting to the attendees. I like the idea of piloting the tasks especially the new ones.
    Thanks a lot for sharing.
    EL Habib

    Liked by 1 person

    • Zhenya says:

      Dear El Habib
      What a great surprise to find your kind and supportive comment here, just when it is most needed! I started to listen to myself more after reading what you said making sure the questions in my head are about the audience and their needs, rather than about me and my ‘presenting skills’, etc. It helped a lot!
      I know that each session is a new learning experience. A case to study later, so to say. Reflective practice pave the way 🙂
      Thank you for reading and responding. Good to be in touch via various channels and means. Today’s world allows that.


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