This is generally true.
Along the lines of “the more you practise the easier it gets”. So if you’re Johnny Wilkinson and you practise kicking a rugby ball over the post every free hour you have then you’ll get good and kick lots of points. And personally I find this rule to apply. I’ve practised squash a lot and I can now hit the ball! I’ve played golf quite a bit in the past and can hit the ball!
The one thing this does not apply to, for me anyway, is giving presentations. In science you routinely have to give talks introducing/defending your work, or something thats been published, in front of your colleagues and generally anyone who’s interested. This I find very daunting. I’ve just given my first departmental seminar in Basel and I’m glad its over.
In Sheffield when we gave seminars it wasn’t so bad. We were the only lab working in our field in the department so everyone else hadn’t a scooby’s what we were talking about. Therefore you could always bank on easy questions at the end. Because its not the talk that really counts, its your ability to answer any questions posed at the end that defines your knowledge and understanding of your work. Thats the scary bit for me.
Now I’m in Basel and there are three labs working on very related research and who all are happy to ask questions at the end. Just as I was setting up one of the other post-docs told me that one of the groups were away on sabbatical. I suddenly relaxed a lot and figured it can’t be too bad. But the minute I started into the talk the usual shakes and panic set in. I always try and mask this with keeping my voice as steady as possible but invariably by the third slide my voice breaks, goes quivery for a second and then I get it under control again.
I got one question during the talk that I had thankfully covered in a slide further on and two questions at the end that I managed to answer. I sat down and suddenly realised that there was no need to panic or stress. Of course at this stage its too late but I come to this realisation at the end of every talk I give. I just wish I could figure this out before the next talk. It would save the high blood pressure and sweaty palms.
I now have the utmost respect for teachers and lecturers everywhere. Sorry for any trouble I gave you in the past!