As discussed earlier, giving a presentation in your second language is a challenge. By following these three rules you can make it a great success.
1. Be Clear
The first step in any presentation preparation is to develop your key message. You want this to be as clear and as simple as possible. Take time to really understand what your topic is. What do you want the audience to take-away from your presentation? If they only remember one thing, what should that be? How should the audience act differently after your presentation? These are just some example questions to help you create a clear message.
Also be clear with your voice. Speak loud enough for everyone in the room to hear easily. Pronounce your words as clearly as you can – especially if you are worried about your accent. Practice your presentation so you know what you are going to say next and you don’t confuse your audience. Speaking at a good rate is also important for being clear, which brings me to my next point.
2. Be Slow
This may seem like a strange piece of advice, but it works. I find there are more speakers who speak too quickly than those who speak too slowly. Find out how fast you normally speak and during your next presentation try speaking a little bit slower.
If you speak at a slower rate consistently during your presentation it will be easier for your audience to understand and follow your presentation. It will also give you time to think about what you are going to say next so that it comes out with the correct grammar and structure. For some more information about how to be slow, see my earlier post on speaking rate.
3. Be Confident
Be confident with the subject you are presenting, but also with your English skills. Speakers who present with confidence are perceived as more credible, experienced and better leaders. If you worry unnecessarily about your accent, grammar or rate; confidence won’t come through in your delivery.
Someone once told me ‘to be the duck’. As a duck is swimming in pond, it seems all calm on the surface, but underneath its legs are paddling frantically. You should have the same goal when speaking. Present with confidence, even if your nerves are creating butterflies in your stomach. This way no one will perceive that you are nervous. Tricking your brain can help with this.
Science tells us that positive thinking can rewire our brain. Neuroplasticity is a new concept that describes the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections. For instance, if you fear that your accent is difficult to understand, you may avoid giving presentations because you are scared of failing. Instead, every time you worry about your accent think about a positive quality you have as a speaker (your humour, your body language, your voice etc.). If you do this consistently you can retrain your brain to think positively about public speaking and present with more confidence.
A man is but the product of his thoughts; what he thinks, he becomes. – Mahatma Gandhi