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PhD Discussion Forum

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This Category:   PostgraduateForum.com > PhD Advice / Support


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Can training courses force you to present? (PhD)


User: SarahDoogan - 13 January 2016 21:22

Hi guys,

I'm in my first year of a PhD. I've done a few presentations in the past 7 months, but it's been difficult as I have severe social anxiety.

Now I know everyone gets a bit nervous before presenting but I have severe social anxiety issues in life, not just with presenting. So when I have to present it just makes my anxiety a million times worse. I actually have to go to the bathroom to throw up days before just from thinking about it & getting stressed.

This year I've to take a training class. In the class the course co-ordinater has us presenting on this that and everything. I've made the effort to do them all so far (with a lot of stress and anxiety!) but now this term he has us doing even more! I know that people say the more you do it the easier it gets, but that's just not true for me. Every week now I get anxious & stressed thinking about this training class. I literally can't sleep at night. I am sick regularly from the nerves in my stomach.

My question is, to what extent can a university/course/supervisor force me to present?

Please know that I'm well aware that I need to present my thesis/results/etc at conferences & other events to disseminate - that's not what I'm talking about here.Conferences etc that are relevant to my work/field I can cope with and know that these are times I need to suck it up for the benefit of my PhD output.But I'm talking about being pressured into presenting and doing meaningless talks every week for one of these crummy training courses I've been forced to take this year as part of my PhD training. Can 'they' (the university or course trainer) force me to do this each week? This is literally eating me up! I sit every day consumed by anxiety, fear and stress thinking about what this course teacher will have us presenting on next.

User: TreeofLife - 14 January 2016 10:03

I'm not advocating that you don't do the presentation training, but no, you probably don't have to.

I know many students that didn't bother to go to the 'compulsory' training courses and no-one knew or cared. If there's a sign in list occasionally, someone else could sign them in. Check with other students whether this was ever monitored properly.

If you are on a kind of DTP PhD though, attendance can count towards you passing or failing your first year and being able to continue with your PhD, so check this before you stop going.

User: chickpea - 14 January 2016 18:40

How is your relationship with your supervisor - are they likely to be sympathetic and supportive if you tell them about your anxiety? I agree with TreeofLife about checking out what you actually need to do; in my experience of talking to my supervisors, very few things are actually mandatory (even when the emails say they are!).

User: Pjlu - 14 January 2016 19:59

Are you able to record your presentations on a tablet or iPad app and then either play them on an Apple TV, or data projector or send them to the group online (prior to the tutorial)? I think the other advice is great but if it is hard to avoid the course, or you don't want to and the presenter wants to prepare people to 'present' regularly, then would this be an option?

It might seem like a big production to go to do this, but this is something we teach our students (secondary school) and it is an effective strategy for students who are anxious about presenting. Many of the apps allow you to prepare (very quickly) a presentation that not only allows you to quickly record your thoughts or content, but to incorporate this with visual and conceptual organisers. The presentations can be brief, or longer (as you need) and are often really engaging. Perhaps you could negotiate with the course facilitator to this this on a weekly basis with one or two "in person" presentations that you plan for well in advance-if they really want this. It might help lessen the anxiety perhaps? Best wishes with it all, anxiety can be a really tough thing to experience, P.

PS- Perhaps on reflection, doing this might seem to be something that 'highlights' your anxiety, so hopefully you can find a way out of the course. The best option would be for the course instructor to make the course more accessible by allowing other ways of presenting info to all students, but this might be a bit of an 'ideal world' scenario.

User: IntoTheSpiral - 15 January 2016 09:31

Hi,

Do you have a disability services at your university? At mine, anything which is a medically documented issue (or for which there is other evidence) that has been ongoing for more than a year can be classified as a disability at which point the teaching staff/everyone has to make their best effort to take into account any support plan that is in place.

I have worked with a student with similar social anxiety issues before. If there is any assessment that includes a presentation then they are permitted to give the presentation by themselves, one-to-one with the marker. But, if "oral presentation skills" aren't part of the learning objectives of the module then they are permitted to submit the assessment in an alternative, pre-agreed manner - they typically submit a transcript of a planned presentation in this case.

If presentations are just being included in the module teaching method rather than the assessment, then this student always works with another student who is aware of their social anxiety problems - either in a pair or as part of a group. Both of the students will prepare the presentation and work together on creating the topic, doing research etc. but the second student actually stands up in front of the group and gives the presentation.

Now, this does add a requirement that all presentations in the class are done in pairs. But, this is an accommodation we make to take into account the disability of the student with social anxiety. This obviously works because we have another student who is happy to present alone, but they have said to me that they are absolutely happy to do that because the student with social anxiety contributes a lot to the research and development of the presentation to compensate for the fact they are not delivering it.

Perhaps you could look into something like this?



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