I'm a PhD student in social science. Recently, I have been invited to present my work at a conference and a lab meeting. I'm glad about the opportunities to present my work in front of colleagues. But at the same time, I'm afraid that I won't be able to answer questions from audience and they will think that I'm dumb.
To be clear, I don't have anxiety about giving a talk per se, or at least know how to deal with it. I have a script for my talk, rehearse it so many times to the point I almost memorize it. I even practice my facial expressions and voice tone during the talk. I just learn and practice how to present my "ideal" academic self to colleagues.
However, when it comes to Q & A after my talk, I sometimes couldn't answer questions professionally. I think there are two reasons for why sometimes I couldn't answer questions.
I'm not a native English speaker. When someone asks me a question that I couldn't understand, I ask the person to repeat the question or ask a follow-up question for clarification. But this strategy doesn't always work. One time, at a conference, I couldn't understand the question after asking the person to repeat the question twice. It was so embarrassing.
When I'm under pressure, my brain stops functioning and I couldn't really think! When people suggest a new idea that I'm not familiar with, I feel like my brain stops working, my mind goes blank and I cannot really provide "sophisticated" answer, which is possible only when I fully understand what their question actually meant and when I know how to connect their idea with my work. Also, it is so hard for me to come up with a good answer in a minute. I cannot really think when everyone is looking at my face waiting for my answer.
Given that how judging academia is, I feel like people will eventually find out that I'm not that smart. My frustration is that I cannot prepare for questions in advance. They are often unpredictable and random. I'm wondering if you have any tips or advice about how to deal with questions after talk or how to overcome anxiety about questions.