Nothing like the first time
There’s nothing like your first time. The first time you accomplish something is new and exciting. Feelings that are hard to capture a second time, much less repeatedly. It’s a magical experience, especially when the first time is good and can be a powerful memory to hold on to no matter how badly things go. When it comes to presentations, in my opinion, everytime is the first time and that can be a point of nervous energy for a lot of people. Next week is presentation time for the summer interns, for their the first time, ever.
The summer isn’t quite over, but the summer internship with us is nearing an end. It came surprisingly fast even though we knew it was coming. It honestly feels like the program just started, but the summer interns have come a long way. A while back I wrote about the intern I’m working with and how I managed to pick up on something my labmates completely missed (here).
Overall, the internship has been great. We’ve had a lot of fun, the interns learned a lot and had some once in a lifetime experiences. My summer intern has been awesome and she’s learned a lot. I’ve let her run experiments under my supervision, I let her be very hands on with the stuff we were doing, and I even helped her do some basic analysis. Basically things have been going smoothly since the beginning of the internship and despite a few issues at the beginning with some funding she was supposed to receive (which was resolved thankfully), things have been good.
That is until this week. It’s the week we prep for the presentations that are being done next week. Technically there are two main “events” next week that are supposed to celebrate the time they had with us. It’s a time for our interns to brag a bit about what they did and how they did it. Presentations are admittedly stress inducing, but it’s supposed to be lighthearted fun. My intern just happens to have anxiety about presentations, so next week was going to be anything, but fun.
Anxiety happens and everyone reacts differently to it and to the stress around the event. She had a mild panic attack and we thought she may drop from the program completely because she did not want to do it. I’ve since reassured her that things were going to be okay and that she can do it. I gave her several different tips and promised to work with her to make sure she was ready.
I think after seeing her presentation practice it may be best that she just memorize a small script and have a copy on hand just in case. I’m not sure yet and we’re going to work through it today. The first presentation is Monday so she will have the weekend to practice, but she’s been so hands on with the project that I know she knows the stuff we did and in private she explains it quite well, so it’s just anxiety that is causing the problem.
As an anxious person, I know how badly that can screw with a person and their focus. I also know what works for me when I’m dealing with my anxiety. The problem is what works for me may not work for her, but I’m hopeful that if we go over all the techniques that I use or know that we can find something at works for her or at least she will have a few ideas for how to work with her anxiety to not let it crush her completely when she has to present.
If all goes well next week won’t be a celebration for her, but at least she will survive it. If I have any say in how this works out, she’ll feel more confident about presenting after the fact and she won’t be scared going into the next one. That’s the thing about the first time, it can be a powerful reminder of how well you can do, or how horribly it can go. I’m hoping for the former and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure it’s a memory that reminds her how strong she really is.