Essential Guide for Presenting in English

May 11, 2021 - Dom Barnard

Giving a presentation is always challenging. Having to stand up in front of your colleagues and share your knowledge in an informative and persuasive way isn’t easy. You may feel nervous and uncertain that you can perform to your best.

However, this is even more difficult if you are presenting in a foreign language. As a non-native English speaker, you may sometimes be expected to deliver a presentation in English. This can happen if you work for an international company, or travel a lot for business purposes.

You might feel worried about this - after all, ordering a coffee or having a casual conversation in English is a lot different than giving a fully-fledged presentation. It can be hard to know where to start.

Don’t worry! With these handy hints and tips, you will feel a lot more confident about giving that presentation in English, no matter what the topic.

Check understanding

The most important thing when giving a presentation in English - or any second language - is that you are using language that you understand. Not only that, but you will need to make sure that your language is comprehensible to others.

Therefore, you may not want to use language that is too complex, even if you are confident with it yourself.

Think about your audience

When you are preparing to give a presentation in English, it is important to consider who your audience is. You may be giving a talk to native English speakers, to non-native speakers, or to a mix of both. You may be speaking in English to other speakers of your own native language.

When giving your talk, this is vital to take into account, because this will tell you how basic or complex your language use should be. Even if you are an experienced and confident English speaker, you must also consider those you are presenting to, and ensure that they will understand what is being said.

Prepare yourself

You usually prepare thoroughly for your presentations. You make sure that all of your visual aids are ready, and you practice in the mirror. However, when it comes to presenting in English, you will need to prepare even more than you usually do. Ensure that you have a clear understanding of the beginning, middle and end of your presentation, and know exactly what you are going to say.

Try and think about any questions that may come up, and how they may be phrased. This will help you to be able to respond more easily in English. And remember - the more you practice and the more presentations you give, the more confident you will feel!

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Practice with people

Though you may usually practice by yourself, try to practice your English presentations on other people. If you can do this with other second-language speakers, then you can gauge how clear and understandable your speech is to others.

If you can practice your talk on a cross-section of native and non-native English speakers, then this will give you a great idea of if you are on the right track.

Use body language - carefully!

Body language is a vital part of keeping your presentation lively and engaging. Smiling and gesturing can draw your audience in and keep them interested. But bear in mind that not all gestures mean the same things to different cultures.

Depending on what part of the world you are presenting in, you may want to think about what kinds of body language are relatable to your audience. Some gestures are universal, but others are not! When in doubt, ask around, or do some research online.

Keep it simple

If you are not very confident in your English speaking ability, don’t opt for the most poetic language you can find. Keeping it simple can be very effective, especially when you are presenting business concepts. You don’t need to make your language use sound beautiful, it just needs to be understandable to those around you.

Similarly, make a list beforehand of the main points of your talk and don’t stray too far from them. This can help you to stay on target, and keep you feeling more positive about your word use. If you also make sure that the “story” of your presentation is simple, this can make for a much more clear and easy experience for both you and your audience.

Articulate carefully

Whoever you are presenting to, articulation matters. Even if you are using simple language and keeping your presentation “story” simple, ensure that you aren’t rushing over your words.

Practice will help you to speak more slowly and clearly, and to employ pauses to allow the audience to absorb what you have said. This is especially vital if you are speaking to non-native English users, who may need extra time to understand what you are relaying.

Not only that but pausing during your talk will allow you to think about what you want to say next with more clarity.

Presenting in English

Provide summaries

When giving a presentation in English, you will have a clear beginning, middle and end of your talk mapped out beforehand. An effective way to make sure that each part of your speech has been understood is to summarise during your talk. Give short summaries at the end of each section - this will also help you to have a defined endpoint before moving on to the next piece of information.

It is a great idea, where possible, to provide your audience with a summary before your talk, too. This way they will know what to expect and can prepare any questions in advance. It will help them to understand you, and give you an expectation of things they might ask, or want to know more about.

Use clear images

If graphs and images are an important part of your presentation, make sure to check and double-check that these are clear and easy to understand. These also need to be in English, and you must be able to relate them to your presentation easily.

Practice this, and use them as part of your talk and as part of your summaries as an anchor for your presentation. The language and figures used on them can also act as a prompt if you lose your place while presenting.

Stay front-facing

As important as body language is, you also need to keep your face in clear view. If you are speaking a second language, it is easier for you to be understood if the audience can see the shapes your mouth is making, and gauge your expression.

It also helps to keep you feeling confident and connected to your audience - and allows you to see how they are responding to you, and if they are understanding what is being said. It might be tempting to turn away if you feel nervous, but try to keep this to a minimum so everyone remains engaged.

Are you feeling ready to give a great presentation in English? Keep this essential advice in mind, and don’t be afraid to reach out to colleagues for a little extra help in getting ready! Most of all, go for it! You might be surprised at how confident you feel after delivering an excellent talk.