Presenting in English when you’re not a native speaker

14 ways to present more easily & confidently

Presenting well is a challenge at the best of times. However, if your native language is not English, you may find yourself especially worried before your presentation. The following tips will help you deliver a more successful presentation with style, ease, and confidence.

  1. Use simple language. Clear communication is powerful. Using short words and sentences will make it easier for you to express your thoughts and ideas. It will also make it possible for others to understand what you’re saying.
  2. Speak slowly. Remember that everyone has an accent, so having an accent is not the problem. The only difficulty is when non-native English speakers try to speak too fast. Slow down, and then slow down some more. In fact, you should slow down so much that you feel that it sounds strange. That speed will probably be the best for others to understand you in English.
  3. Have your visuals professionally edited. Nothing is worse than professional material with grammatical and spelling errors. Such mistakes detract from your credibility and can ruin your professional reputation. Millions of dollars in lost business could result. So, take the time and effort to have your slides, brochures, and handouts edited by an English professional.
  4. Use verbs instead of nouns. Spoken English, which is quite conversational, is quite different from written English, which is more formal. While academic and business writing may use a lot of nouns, spoken English sounds more natural when you use more verbs. For example:

    Nouns – less effective:
    The delivery of the package took place on Sunday afternoon by the post office.

    Verbs – more effective:
    The post office delivered the package on Sunday afternoon.
  5. Use active verbs instead of passive verbs. They are much easier to understand. Just look at the example below:

    Passive – less effective:
    Five thousand apartments were rented by ABC Housing last year.

    Active – more effective:
    ABC Housing rented 5,000 apartments last year.
  6. Watch great presenters in action. One of the best ways to improve your own presentation skills is to watch a master presenter in action. There are many experienced presenters online and on television today. Watching from a learning perspective will help you pick up several tips and strategies, such as body language, speaking style, and common English expressions.
  7. Rehearse with an experienced English trainer. You would be surprised how much difference it makes to receive feedback from a professional. Any important presentation deserves such serious preparation.
  8. Learn to use transition words. These words make it easier for your listeners to follow your argument. Examples are: On the contrary, similarly, nevertheless, therefore, and in addition.
  9. Write down numerical information. Make sure important numbers and statistics are written on your slides so the audience does not miss this critical information. Adapt the style of writing and saying the numbers to the country where you are making your presentation.
  10. Don’t use acronyms. Remember that not everyone knows what you know. For example, in India a real estate information brochure might use the term “2BHK”. This is understood locally to refer to an apartment with 2 bedrooms, a hall (living room), and a kitchen. If this term were used in a presentation to a foreign audience, no one would know what 2BHK meant. Similarly, don’t assume that others know the acronyms, abbreviations, or nicknames for well-known institutions or organizations in your country. The first time you use such a term, say or write it in full, followed by the acronym. After that, you may use the shorter version.
  11. Avoid jargon. The jargon from one country is often unintelligible to people from another cultural background. Use plain English to explain what you mean.
  12. Avoid idioms. Although many English learners enjoy using idioms, don’t do so unless you have mastered the use of the idiom. An idiom used incorrectly sounds hilarious or ridiculous and will surely detract from the seriousness of your talk.
  13. Don’t use slang. In a professional environment, slang is out of place. Do not use street language in the boardroom, even if you hear native English speakers doing so. Use the best English you can and you will make a better impression. Slang used incorrectly just sounds fake, while your goal is to project a professional image, even if English is not your native language.
  14. Don’t use crutch words. Anyone speaking a second language occasionally has a hard time finding the right word. This is understandable. However, try your best not to overuse certain crutch words or sounds while you are trying to remember the right word. Examples are: uhhhh, ahhhh, you know, and so on. It can be quite annoying for the listener. Learn to think with your mouth closed. Silence is preferable to hearing uncomfortable sounds.