How to Prepare a Successful Presentation in English

by | Business Professional English, How To Develop Skills | 10 comments

Giving a presentation is already difficult to do, even in your native language. But to give a presentation in English? Well, it can feel impossible, maybe even terrifying.

If you’re nervous, you might be worried about:

  • What if your audience doesn’t understand?
  • What if you use the wrong word or – worse – forget your words?
  • What if someone asks a question and you don’t understand?

These are all common questions about giving a presentation in English. And the good news is: it is possible to give a presentation in English with confidence.

Whether you are presenting information about your company or presenting a proposal to a new client, presenting a new idea to your boss and colleagues or presenting to an audience at a conference, these are the strategies you need to best prepare for your next presentation in English.

These are exactly the same strategies native English speakers use to prepare for their presentations, too!

“These are the seven strategies you need to prepare for a successful presentation in English, for any situation!”

7 Strategies to Prepare for a Successful Presentation in English

Strategy 1: Plan, Plan, Plan

I know this sounds simple but this is maybe the most important step! That’s why I said it three times.

Before you do or write anything, spend some time thinking about what you want to say for this opportunity to present. You can use these two questions to help you:

  1. Where is your audience now (before your presentation)?
    In other words: what do they currently know or not know? Is there something they are missing?
    Imagine your presentation is a map and Question 1 is your Point A.
  2. Where do you want your audience to be after your presentation?
    What do you want your audience to know or do or think or believe after your presentation?
    On your presentation map, this is your Point B.

And now think of the steps you need to help your audience go from Point A to Point B.

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Strategy 2: Know Your Who and Your What

Who is your audience? You want to know the kind of people you will be speaking to so you can offer the right information, use the right language and think about the best visual aids.

For example: Imagine you design applications for smart phones. You’ve designed a great new application for children and you want to market/sell this application. As the designer you understand all the technical words and information about the application. And now you have the opportunity to present to a group of moms at a local school. It would be AMAZING if every mom in the audience bought your application.

How should you present to them? Do you want to use a lot of technical words? Will they understand them? Or should you use more common, everyday language that is clear and simple for everyone?

What is your purpose? Generally, presentations are used to teach, to inform, to motivate. to persuade or to encourage action. When you understand the purpose of your presentation,  it will be easier for you to use the correct language and the correct style. It will also help you organize your presentation well.

Strategy 3: Get Organized

Presentations in English generally have 3 parts:

  • Opening (Introduction)
  • Body (Main Points and Details)
  • Closing (Summary)

In the next several weeks, you will learn exactly what you need for each section of your presentation.
For now, it is important to think how you can organize your information into these 3 parts.

Important advice: Limit the number of main points in your presentation from 3 to 5 (no more than 5!). You want your audience to be well-informed but not overwhelmed.

Strategy 4: Show, Don’t Tell

In English, we love stories and pictures to help us remember information.

What about you? Have you ever listened to a presentation that has a LOT of numbers and statistics and data and dates? Do you remember any of that information now? Most people say no to that question.

In English, the expression “show, don’t tell” means help your audience understand your main points through stories, visual aids and/or strong action words.

People remember stories, not numbers.
When you can, use a story or a great visual aid to help your audience remember your key points.

For example: If you are presenting scientific information and you want to use a number to talk about how many cells are in the human body. According to an article by Smithsonian, there are 37.2 trillion cells in the human body!!! How many is that?

I have no idea!

Instead you could use a picture to help you. Imagine the largest sports stadium and every seat is filled. Show this picture and now tell people how many full stadiums you need for 37.2 trillion.

With a picture, your audience can visualize this big number. And it will be easier to remember.

Strategy 5: Talk, Don’t Read

This one is so important. Please, please, please do not read your presentation.

For an audience, when someone reads a presentation it:

  • Is boring
  • Shows you didn’t prepare well

Of course, you can use note cards to help you remember and to stay focused. But talk to your audience. Look at your audience. Move around. Be comfortable and natural.

The more you prepare, the more you practice, the easier this will be! And your audience will enjoy your presentation so much more!

Also, do not be afraid to go slow!

A good presentation does not mean speaking fast. Remember: this is the first time your audience is hearing this information. They need time to hear and to think about what you are saying. You will help them (and you!) if you speak slowly.

By speaking slowly, you will also have more time to think about what you want to say in your presentation, remember the key points and make fewer mistakes!

Strategy 6: Think Ahead

One of the scariest parts of a presentation in the Q&A ( = question and answer) part of the presentation. Most people fear they will not:

  • Understand the words of the question
  • Understand the accent of the person speaking
  • Know what to say
  • Remember the words they need

A Q&A session doesn’t always happen but if you have to do this, here is how you can calm your fears:

Review your presentation. Think about your audience (remember the Who Are They question!). Can you identify any likely questions?

Give your presentation to your peers, colleagues, friends, and family. Ask them what questions they have. It is possible they will have some of the same questions as your audience.

Now make a list of possible questions and prepare your answers ahead of time. Practice giving these answers when you practice your presentation.

The more prepared you are, the easier a Q&A session will be.

Strategy 7: Practice, Practice, Practice

I cannot say this enough. You must practice. Say your presentation out loud many times. Practice your presentation in front of your work colleagues, your friends, your family.

The more you practice, the more prepared and confident you will be.

And you can kiss some of those fears and nervous feelings goodbye!!*
*[Idiom] kiss something goodbye: to end or lose something. So, you can end your fears and end your nervous feelings!

Get the complete Presentations in English Series:

Part 1: How to Prepare for Your Presentation in English

Part 2: How to Start with a Great Introduction in Your Presentation

Part 3: How to Organize Your Presentation in English

Part 4: How to End Your Presentation Powerfully

I’d love to hear about your experiences giving presentations in English!

  • Have you given a presentation?
  • Where was it?
  • How many people were there?
  • What helped you to be successful?
  • Is there anything you wish you had known or prepared before your presentation?

Tell me about your experience in the comments.

If you have other questions or worries about giving a presentation in English, don’t be afraid to share with me. You can do that in the comments below.

Have a great week and thank you for joining me! ~ Annemarie

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