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Tips for non-native speaker

For the last few years I’ve been working with people who are delivering presentations but they’re not native English speakers. They are also presenting to an audience that are also non-native English speakers, which, as you can image, sometimes creates a challenge.

I have put together a course which I’ve run in the UK for an international organisation based in London. I was invited over to Luxemburg to deliver a version of the training to people in a financial organisation investing money. You might be reading this because you are delivering presentations yourself to an international audience or it might be that you’re considering running this sort of training within your organisation. I’m just going to give you three main tips I think are quite important: the choice of wording, the slide design and pronunciation the clarity of wording.

1. The choice of wording

I find that some non-native English speakers are actually very good with their English and that can present problems; they may end up so good with their English they actually use words without realising that people with a less understanding of those words may not understand, so if they talk about maximisation for instance which might be a word common to the speaker but not so common to the audience, or some of the audience, they might have to also say that this is about growth, or making more of something, or making the most of it, depending on the context of how they are using the word maximisation or maximise. A less common word might be something like plagiarism for instance; they would need to explain what they mean by that. Do they mean copy or do it the same way?

2. Slide design

It’s very common for people to have slides that are overly complex, with too much detail. When there is an international audience that becomes even more of a problem because if the audience are trying to read lots of detail on the slides, make sense of it, interpret it in their own language and listen to the presenter, all at the same time, this can cause great difficulties. So it’s very important to make sure what you put on our slides in terms of text is very simple, very brief – just one line bullet points and then explain what’s meant by those brief bullet points. And pictures, of course. A picture can paint a thousand words and that can be even more important to an international audience. Sometimes body language can be a visual aid if they ever want to talk about something on the increase, getting better or moving forwards – sometimes the body language helps.

3. Pronunciation

And then finally the pronunciation; making sure your words are very clear and understandable. I find that one of the common things, surprisingly, is that non-native English speakers talk quite fast and they will talk about the capacity to do something, and the words come out very quickly. That makes it very difficult for the audience to take it in. Slow down if you’re using a long word. ‘Maximisation’, ‘the capacity to do something’, slow it down, pause at the end, give people time to take it in and work out what it means, and absorb it.

There’s a lot more to it but that gives three main key tips: think about your wording, careful slide design which is simple and brief using pictures to help, and also over-pronunciation to aide clarity.

Michael Westland-RoseAziz presentation skills specialist

Further reading

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Our performance and presence guide

About Aziz Corporate

Aziz was founded over 40 years ago by Khalid Aziz, a media pioneer of his day who at 21 became the youngest ever appointed BBC producer.

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