So you’re going to be a speaker at an international conference. Or your boss asked you to give a presentation to your clients. Or something else equally important. And it has to be in English. And you’re terrified. Or at least not very happy. Giving a presentation in English, if English is not your mother tongue, may cause you some stress. And I’m not surprised as people are generally afraid of public speaking. So giving a presentation in English (a language that is not your own, a language that is so commonly-used that many people consider themselves experts in it and are willing to judge you, a language that you are supposed to be proficient at – at least this is what your CV says) doubles the stress. Fortunately, I’m here for you.
- Check the pronunciation of keywords
There’s probably going to be a set of keywords in your presentation and you don’t want to mispronouce them. After preparing your presentation, spend some time on identifying those and make sure you know how to say them correctly. There are plenty of online dictionaries where you can check pronunciation. Also, watch out for proper names which are used internationally and might sound differently in your language. If you’re going to talk about companies, products or people from English-speaking countries, be sure your pronunciation of their names is correct.
2. Check for false friends
Some words might sound similarly in English and your mother tongue but if you’re going to give a presentation in English, you need to make sure that they carry the same meaning. For example, in Polish we have the word “ewentualnie” and many native speakers of Polish automatically translate it into English as “eventually”. However, our “ewentualnie” means “possibly” in English, and “eventually” means “in the end”.
I learned the KISS rule in the School of Translation, Interpreting and Languages. And it works perfectly in the context of giving presentations, too. What does KISS mean? Keep It Short and Simple. Remember that the purpose of every presentation is to get the message across. Not to impress people with difficult vocabulary and complex sentences. If you present to international audiences, chances are other people are not native speakers of English either, so by keeping it simple, you’re doing them a favour. Additionally, if you use accessible language, you’re less likely to get lost and forget what you were supposed to say.
4. Prepare a “Plan B list”
Giving a presentation in English may be stressful, and when we’re stressed, we tend to forget things. The solution is to be prepared. So look at your speech and think which part of it you might forget. Which words might be problematic? Identify them and try to think of a synonym. You want to use the word “require” but sometimes it eludes your memory? Be aware of the fact that you can use “need” instead (depending on the context of course).
5. Prepare a list of possible questions
If you expect questions at the end of your presentation, the best way to make yourself ready for this part of your performance is to prepare a list of possible questions and try to answer them while still in the preparation mode. If you were the audience, what would you like to ask about? Which questions are you afraid to be asked? Ask your family, colleagues and friends to help you come up with a list and get to work! This way you’re going to reduce the stress connected with the unknown.
6. Get rid of er, erm and ah
These are so called “fillers” and you usually use them when you’re thinking about what to say next. People tend to overuse them especially when speaking a foreign language as it requires more effort to think about what and how you’re going to say something. If you’re not sure you overuse them, try to record yourself while spontaneously speaking about something in English. Why to avoid them? They make you sound unconfident, and when people sense that, they might eat you alive during question time. I’m not saying they will, but if you learn how to use pauses correctly, you are going to win. People are afraid of silence whereas skillfully used silence is the most powerful attention-grabbing tool you can use in your speech.
7. Get to know your audience
If you have the opportunity to talk to your audience before the presentation, DO IT! You’re going to see that they are not pure evil, but just people really interested in what you want to say. This may help you feel more confident and relaxed.
8. Practice, practice, practice
The more you practice at home, the less stressed you’re going to be, and the better chance of giving a brilliant presentation you’re going to have. BUT remember to practice saying it out loud!!! Saying it in your head is not enough. Do bits and pieces while driving to work, washing the dishes or taking a shower. I don’t care how. Just do it!
9. Rehearse it in front of people
I know I’m being boring but rehearsing is the key to success. Try to give the presentation to your family, friends, or colleagues at least once. Their feedback might give you some fresh perspective and a boost of confidence. Also, they might help you come up with possible questions.
10. Get excited and smile!
If you’re going to be excited about what you’re talking about and smile, you’re going to infect people with your excitement! So just before the presentation, go to the toilet or an empty room, look into the mirror and say “I’m awesome, my presentation is interesting and people are going to love it!”. 😀 Good luck! Anything else you would like to add to the list?