A group of international associates are coming to visit. Your manager asks you to give a presentation on a project you've been working on. That's fine - you're used to giving presentations. But this is the first time you'll need to give the presentation in English. You're worried that you won't be able to present your ideas very well.
In this article, we look at the things you can do to ensure your presentation is a success and your visitors go away with a good impression.
There are three parts to presenting:
- making - actually deciding what to talk about and how to structure what you say
- rehearsing - practising your presentation until you're ready to present in front of people
- giving - actually presenting what you have prepared to the audience.
1. Making your presentation
If you're already confident with creating presentations in your own language, there's no reason to 'reinvent the wheel' (completely change something that's already works).
Here are some tips that might help:
- create your presentation structure first, worry about the language you'll use later
- use two sets of notes:
➡️ rehearsal notes - these are longer than your presentation notes and should include your main points and any English phrases you're trying to remember
➡️ presentation notes - these should be short because their purpose is to help you remember the key points of the presentation, not the language you want to use
- write all notes in English - this will help prepare your mind to think in English and force you to look up any words you need
- create a quick introduction that wakes the audience up while giving an idea of what your presentation is about and makes the audience want to hear more:
➡️ "Have you ever wondered why .... ?"
➡️ "People in the US spend 80 billion dollars on pets every year."
➡️ "Steve Jobs famously said that innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower".
- create three related points that you'll talk about in the 'body' of the presentation and consider how you'll connect each point:
➡️ "The first thing we should think about is ... "
➡️ "This brings me to my next point, ... "
➡️ "On the next slide, you'll see ... "
➡️ "Finally, we need to consider ... "
- create a quick end to your presentation that asks or helps your audience to do something:
➡️ (for example, remember the key points or do a specific action related to your presentation)
2. Rehearsing your presentation
There are two common ways to practise giving presentations in order to try to remember them:
- If you make mistakes, you stop and start again
- If you make mistakes, you correct yourself and continue.
The first helps train your accuracy and is more useful when you're just starting your rehearsals. The second helps train your fluency and is more useful when you're soon to give your presentation.
As your memory improves, you can reduce your rehearsal notes each time you practise. You should eventually end up with just a few notes on your main points, which you can use as your presentation notes.
Besides practising what you'll present, you also need to practise how you'll present. This includes your body language, the speed and pausing in your speaking, and the feeling or emotion that you express.
One of the simplest and most effective ways of doing this is to record and watch yourself presenting on video. You may not like the idea of this, but given that all smartphones have a video function, you don't have any excuse not to! By watching yourself, you'll gain a great understanding of what you're doing well and what areas you can improve.
In addition, you may want to ask a family member or friend (or a group of these) to watch you present. You may receive useful feedback that you didn't consider when watching yourself.
3. Giving your presentation
You've done the hard work already so try to feel confident and even excited about the chance to share your ideas with a real audience - easier said than done, I know.
As you take to the stage, keep a few things in mind:
- communicate, don't present:
➡️ no one enjoys sitting uncomfortably while a boring speaker reads from some prepared notes
➡️ your audience is made up of living people who will respond to your questions, your facial gestures and your humour if you give them the opportunity
- be yourself:
➡️ the audience will quickly warm to someone they see is 'human' - you could even tell the audience if you're nervous presenting in English (I mean, what person hasn't felt nervous before?)
- people don't expect perfection:
➡️ if you make mistakes, correct them and continue
➡️ if you forget the English for something, try to say it in another way or just ask your audience ("What's that word for a really big meeting with people from different industries?")
And finally, if you're really feeling nervous when it comes to speaking, you could always try using that famous piece of presentation advice: 'picture (imagine) your audience naked'.
If you're interested in developing your English skills further, you may want to consider taking a course. In our next article, 'What Kind of Course is Right for Me?', we help you understand all of the different options available for you.