Presenting in a foreign language

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I’ve been involved in business English training since I left university, and over the years I’ve helped hundreds of executives, managers and experts improve their presentations in English. I’ve worked with confident presenters, nervous presenters, boring presenters and inspiring presenters. Some of them have struggled with their presentations skills, others with their content and many with their English skills. All of these people came to mind when I was preparing a presentation in German. It was a sure case of the shoe being on the other foot for once and I was quickly reminded that knowing what to do and doing it aren’t the same!

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The challenges

The presentation I needed to make was  part of a kick-off event for an exciting new Blended Learning project with Global English at one of our clients. I was going to be one of three presenters, speaking to a group of around fifty German HR specialists and managers. As this was a high profile flag ship project, the kick-off needed to build interest and motivation. Doing it in German didn’t worry me too much – but I knew it was going to be functional rather than elegant. Having learnt most of my German by “doing” rather than “studying”, I sacrifice accuracy for communication. (My German trainer tells me my German is CEFR B2. I think she’s just being nice – my grammar ist nicht gut.)
So the first thing I did was sit down to consider the advice I’d give a client faced with the same situation in reverse:

  • Identify my key messages before I do anything else – and make sure I can phrase and rephrase these
  • Keep it relevant by using examples and stories
  • Don’t try to learn the presentation word for word – it will make me nervous and inflexible
  • But do think through and practice my introduction in advance – by getting off on the right foot I knew I’d relax
  • Never rely on prompt cards – they’ll just get in my way and stop me building rapport with audience – and for the same reasons don’t read from my slides
  • And most importantly – don’t get hung up on the language – they are there to hear what I’m saying – not how I’m saying it

The presentation

After some preparation and practice I drove to Bonn to make the presentation. I felt that my message was clear and the audience seemed interested and convinced. There’d been some nodding heads, some laughter in the right places, and a few questions. Job well done, I thought.

The feedback

Reflecting and debriefing is always important if you want to get better, and there were a couple of people in the audience who I knew and respected. With this in mind, I asked them how they felt I had done, and what I could do better next time. Their answer was clear and consistent – “Sometimes you spoke a bit too fast” and “It was hard to hear you in some places”. Ouch! I thought about the feedback – and then replayed my presentation in my mind.

Upon further reflection, I realised that when I began to struggle with my German I unconsciously began to speak a little quieter. Although I knew what I wanted to say I wasn’t sure about how I was saying it – and without realizing it I turned the power down. I also realised that when I began to struggle with my German I unintentionally spoke faster to hide my mistakes.

Because I’d forgotten to remind myself about a common problem that many people face when presenting in a foreign language – nerves mean they forget the 4Ps.

The 4Ps

  • Power – speaking audibly and clearly
  • Pitch – using the stress and tone of your voice to emphasize key points
  • Pace – matching the speed at which you speak to the message and the audience
  • Pause – playing with silence and breaks to draw attention to build suspense, interest, draw attention to key points and signal thematic changes




Train the trainer: Interactive presentations

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Internal training is often done via presentations and companies often use an internal “expert” to deliver training to other members of staff. Slide after slide appears on the screen and by the end, there’s a handout with the most important points and perhaps a summary. The upside of this type of training is that the information is first hand from the expert. One of the downsides is that the trainer often doesn’t have experience in training. He/she doesn’t understand how to make learning stick, or that only 10% of learning happens through structured training. (Read more about the  70-20-10 model.) Here are a few ideas to make your presentation based training interactive. 

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Who are you and why are you here?

A trainer always explains the objectives of the training session. The objectives need to be relevant to the audience – you need buy-in for learning to take place. Everything that happens in the training should link back to the objective. The participants have objectives too – but they might be different to yours and you need to align the two sets. This is often done through a warmer activity – who are you and why are you here? A warmer activity can be done as a group, in small groups or in pairs. At the end of the activity, everyone has shared their personal objectives (ideally they are visible for everyone to read). The trainer then paraphrases the personal objectives and links it in to the objectives of the session. If there are objectives that can’t be aligned, the trainer points them out: “Sorry, we won’t be covering that in detail today”, or “There might be time to do that at the end of the session.”

Get people up and moving

If participants don’t know each other very well, a few icebreakers are necessary. A game called ‘find someone who’ can be adapted easily to any audience and topic. Beyond that, you can bring discussion cards, or tasks that participants have to do between slides. Especially when people’s interests are fading, stop the presentation and get them up and moving around the room. Ask them to brainstorm in groups, to summarize in pairs, to troubleshoot, or ask them to pick a position in the room based on how strongly they feel about a company/work-related statement. Ask them to present some of the key learning points of the presentation back to you half-way through and use it as an opportunity to align participant knowledge.

Involve your audience

Closely related to the above, even when the training material is dry, full of facts and technical jargon, your training can be interactive. You can engage participants in almost a thousand different ways. Ask them for their experience or opinions, ask them to read out the information on the slides, or prepare a quiz or a competition (with a token prize). Open a debate, do a shout out round of questions or get them to walkabout the room to examine information on the topic at different stations. (Here are 25 ideas on making training active.)

Ask for commitment

When the participants leave the training room, what are they expected to do? They learned something but how will they transfer that to their job – that’s a good question to prepare yourself for. Before the training session finishes, take enough time to ask participants about their ideas, and also to give advice on making the learning stick. You may also consider a Personal Learning Plan.


Here are just a few posts for you to explore if you want to learn more on this topic. We also offer a range of  Train the Trainer and Workshop Facilitation seminars.


The elevator pitch

For a lot of us it’s a fact of life: you always think of the things you should have said after the conversation finishes or the moment passes. Why is it that when you need something brilliant to come out of your mouth, it doesn’t come out, or it comes out wrong? The name ‘elevator pitch’ is based on the idea that it should be possible to deliver a summary of your conversation in the time span of an elevator ride (thirty seconds to two minutes). If two minutes are all you have, what will you say? 


“A while ago I shared an elevator with a Board member of a major multinational. He had no idea who I was. But I knew exactly who he was and unfortunately, it was going to stay that way.  Apart from a “Good morning” and a “Goodbye” we rode the elevator in silence. I literally had my moment to speak and I did nothing with it. Of course, afterwards I thought of about a million brilliant things I could have said, but didn’t. I fluffed it.”

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Forethought and planning

The participant from the above quote didn’t think to prepare for such a moment. Perhaps she thought she would just “wing it” if the moment ever arrived. But it requires real forethought and planning to get your message across concisely and engagingly, especially when you only have two minutes to do it.

“It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”

Mark Twain

How to get key points across in two minutes

A great elevator pitch has one aim. To appeal to someone you want something from somewhere in the future. When the doors open you want to be walking away with some kind of commitment. At the very least, you’re hoping for a business card. So, absolutely everything you’re going to say has to generate interest – there’s no space for fluff and waffle. That can be pretty tough, and that’s why it’s all about the preparation and thorough, personalized practice with tough and challenging sparring partners.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you prepare your elevator pitch, starting with the GOALS model that we use in our training sessions:

  • Goal – Know what your goal is from the outset

  • Opening – How will you open your elevator pitch and make it topical and relevant?

  • Attention – How will you keep their interest in what you’re saying?

  • Language – Don’t be tempted into using jargon and complex words.

  • Steps – What are the next steps?

An elevator pitch is (should be) a two-way conversation

Talking for a minute without interruption is a long time, have you tried it, or listen to someone do it? Say your elevator ride takes as much as two minutes. In that time you’re building rapport, you’re allowing the other person to answer and ask you a question or two, etc. It’s not a monologue. Brian Walters calls it verbal ping-pong. So in fact, you might only have the chance to say three or so “meaningful” things. Having an (important) elevator conversation with someone you don’t really know can go one of many ways in between going terribly wrong and going absolutely great.

Final tips for your elevator pitch

Be interesting, whatever you say. When possible.

  • Use similes when describing yourself.
  • Compare yourself/the situation to someone/something recognizable or a cross between things.
  • Create surprise.
  • Listen.


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Asking for feedback

1001meetingsphraseslargeI recently asked a colleague for some feedback following a presentation which I thought had been a bit shaky. ‘You did great’ was the reply, and the conversation moved on. Later on, when the warm glow of being told ‘well done’ had faded, I asked myself what I had actually learnt from that feedback and how would it help me improve. I realized that apart from thinking what a nice person my colleague was, I’d actually heard nothing which would help me do better next time. It then dawned on me that this was because of how I’d gone about asking for it. If I wanted to get meaningful feedback, then the way I asked for it had to be structured too.

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Basic steps to get the feedback you want

Getting feedback from peers is one of the most useful tools we have for enhancing our performance. Peer feedback is in real time, looks at learnt skills being used in real situations, and it’s from ‘end users’. But how we go about asking for this feedback has a huge influence on how useful what we hear will be. No more ‘Do you think my presentation was OK’? type questions, what do you really want to know?

Check with your peer that they are comfortable giving you feedback

If they say no, it’s not necessarily because they have nothing good to say! Not everyone is comfortable giving feedback, and those that aren’t tend to give the type of empty answers such as ‘great’ or ‘it was fine’.  A few ways to ask could be:

  • “I’m really hoping to improve my presentations skills and could use your help.  Do you mind giving me some feedback after my presentation?”
  • “Could you give me some feedback on my presentation afterwards?  It would help me a lot in improving my presentation skills.” 

Be specific about what you want feedback on

When asking for feedback, briefly explain what you would like to cover, and why it’s important to you.

  • “It would help me a lot if you could specifically pay attention to my body language during my presentation.”
  • “Could you try and focus on how I transition from point to point during my talk?”

And, if the other person is struggling to think of something to say, ask two basic questions:

  • “What did I do best?” 
  • “Is there something I can improve?” 

Don’t be afraid to dig deeper

For example, I was told that I had lost the audience in a presentation. By asking where I had lost them, why did they feel this had happened and did they have any suggestions for what I could do differently, I was able to think of ways to prevent this happening in my next presentation.                            

Since following these steps, I’ve found feedback far more useful and an increase in respect from both sides. There have only been a couple of times that I’ve winced at something somebody has said, but what they said was true. Ultimately, audiences at future presentations have benefited. So, take a big breath, smile and ask the question – could I ask you for some feedback?

The three basic rules to capitalization

Speaking a language involves understanding, recognizing and successfully using a set of grammar rules. However, when writing in a language, a whole new set of rules have to be learnt and used. English is no different. One question I get quite often from my participants who are writing a report or preparing slides for a presentation is when to capitalize a letter. Because we are speaking about English, the answer isn’t exactly straightforward. There are a few basic rules, but the rest are a matter of style. As usual, the most important thing is consistency. Remaining consistent makes your writing more professional and polished. Otherwise, your work looks lazy and shoddy.

That said, the three basic rules to remember can be broken down as follows:

  1. Capitalize the first word in a sentence. This is an easy one that is pretty consistent across languages with Latin-based alphabets.
  2. Capitalize the pronoun ‘I’ in any location. Remember that you are important! You are so important that you use a big letter when talking about yourself.
  3. Capitalize all proper nouns. If it is the official word for something, capitalize the first letter. This goes for cities, countries, companies, brand names, days, months, people’s names or nicknames, etc.

That seems pretty basic and covers just about everything, so what else is there to worry about? Well, what about titles of reports and presentations? Here you can do it one of two ways. Either capitalize only the first letter of the title, or the first letter of each important word, like in the below example.

  • A study on customer behavior with supporting data
  • A Study on Customer Behavior with Supporting Data

Once again, consistency is key. After you have picked your style, make sure you use it on each subsequent page or slide. If you are preparing a presentation, the same rules apply for each bullet point. Thus, is it important to use the same style for your bullet points as you are using for your titles. This will give your final presentation a polished and professional look.

What other grammar problems do you come across when you write in English? How are the rules for English different than for your native language? Let us know in the comments box below.

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Building authentic intercultural business relationships – part 3

The 7 dimensions of culture, and how does intercultural theory actually help you in business?

Why is the contract often seen as the end to a negotiation to Germans yet viewed as part of the negotiation process in China? If you are presenting, where do you put your summary? Sounds obvious – but is it? Why should you put your summary at the front when presenting to Americans (bottom line up front) And why would you start big picture and then summarize at the end if your audience was French?

Few things are as complex as human behaviour, and understanding cultures beyond a superficial level is never easy. This is where a little practical theory comes in.  If you know that specific cultures like to get to the specifics quickly via an “executive summary” (US, Dutch) and that more diffuse cultures want a holistic view, with a big picture (France, Japan) then you can structure your presentation to be successful, regardless of the nationality of your audience.

In this interview, Dr Fons Trompenaars, the best-selling author of Riding the Waves of Culture and one of the world’s leading management thinkers, explains how theory can concretely impact tangible business scenarios such as negotiating, presenting and leading others.

Effective intercultural training needs theoretical models which work hand in hand with practical exercises and activities – and this is where the 7 dimensions of culture adds real value. It can simplify complexity, and is easy to recall and explain. If you’d like to know more about the model check out, for a great explanation and practical advice.

And we’ll leave you with a final few words from Fons on how culture and communication are entwined.

Interview with Dr Trompenaars

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Powerful Communication – The Power of the Purpose Pyramid

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listening skills target trainingThe purpose pyramid is one of the simplest and yet effective communication models for introducing a presentation, opening a meeting or organizing your thoughts that there is. It is so simple, in fact, that no one seems to take credit for it though you will find it in the work of many communications gurus. The four questions in the pyramid aren’t special by themselves, but together they offer a powerful way to connect what you want to do with the goals and needs of your organization, no matter what business you are in or function you perform. Why? + What? + How? + Who? = Alignment. The Purpose Pyramid makes it easy for you to structure your communication – in any situation.

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Why is where you share or remind your team about the deeper meaning and purpose of the organization. This is the reason that energizes you and your colleagues as well as your customers. What’s your why? Your purpose is best when it brings the energy of your team together and they can all see themselves in it. It should also attract internal and external customers to your work.

A band plays music, by definition – but wouldn’t you rather see a band whose purpose is to give you high energy and a memorable musical experience?

At a more nuts and bolts level, you can also apply the why to day-to-day interactions and situations. An example could be to state the purpose (why) of a meeting on the agenda for everyone to see. If there is a question about being on track, the team can refer to the mutually agreed purpose of the team.


What refers to the tasks you and your team need to get done to contribute to making your purpose a reality. At their best these tasks are things you can track and observe easily so all can know when it is accomplished. For example, to have better meetings is not a clear task. Having everyone contribute to the meeting is a clear task. The SMART principle is a great model to use, just remember they should in some way contribute to achieving your purpose.

An example could be to make task identification a two-step process. Instead of automatically identifying who should complete a task at the same time as identifying the task, outline just the tasks first. Going through the how before identifying who will help team members to know what they are committing to.


How is where you turn to your method, approach or process, How will you get your tasks accomplished? For example, sticking with the “better meetings” example, if my task is to have everyone contribute to a meeting, I could tell the team members I expect them to contribute and hope for the best or I could use a polling technique in the meeting to give each attendee the space to speak uninterrupted.

If a task is complex, the “how” could be a process or procedure that helps to complete the task effectively and efficiently. If you have standard operating procedures in place, this is the time to stress their use.

An example could be to identify the resources and process necessary to complete a task before asking who will do it. Leaders get a chance to offer support to the team and may encourage team members to accept a stretch task because they know how they will be supported.


Who refers to the individual and collective commitments or expectations that match your team to the tasks at hand. In most meetings the who stage tells how well we’ve done the other stages. If team members recognize and connect with their purpose, the necessity of a task and the process and resources to get it done, it’s a lot easier to agree to do them. With the clarity you’ve built earlier, it is easier for you to ask for what you want while committing to do what is necessary to support your team. A great question at the end of a meeting is “what have we agreed to do?” to check agreements without sounding like a task master.

Browse our blog for more tips and tricks

And/or let me know of any other useful communication tools that always work for you. I look forward to hearing from you!

Storytelling in presentations

What makes a presentation memorable?

I think you’ll agree with me that a memorable presentation has more to it than the introduction, some main points, a summary, a conclusion and time for questions. The presentations I remember best and enjoyed the most have all had one thing in common – a story. Stories have been used throughout history to teach and using them in a presentation makes it more memorable and more interesting for your audience.

Personalize it

As a company of trainers, we know that personalization is key to successful learning. This is a very sound piece of advice which applies to any form of learning. Personalization draws the audience in, it makes them feel involved. People who care about what you say will listen to you and remember your message. This may be hard to do when reporting on last year’s figures, but with a bit of imagination, there’s always a way.

Watch the experts

The rest of this post is dedicated to the great presenters of TED. This playlist on storytelling has six great videos. The first video in this post is a presentation by Andrew Stanton. It has a particularly interesting opening. The rest of the video is worth watching too. The second video is by Simon Sinek, who talks about inspirational leadership and the golden circle.

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Giving presentations scares me to death!

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Presenting under pressure. Performance anxiety. Stage fright. Call it what you want, but the incredible nervousness some people feel as soon as they stand up in front of an audience is real. And if your audience is your boss, it can really affect how you present. Unless you’re prepared for it.

“You’ve felt it. The knot in your stomach. The sweaty palms. The general disorientation. The feeling you have when someone asks, ‘Are you ok?’ ‘NO, I’m not ok. I have to give this presentation to my boss and I’m terrified!’ You can rest assured. I promise you, you are not alone!”

I am not a fan of the old advice, ‘Imagine everyone in the audience in their underwear.’ Depending on who’s out there, it could get distracting! Most people manage their jitters by doing one thing: They prepare.
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Know your material

There is no greater tool you can have in your toolbox. Having a good handle on what you’re talking about gives you confidence, gives you the knowledge you need to handle any question that comes your way. Don’t just have a ‘general idea’ of what you’re going to say. Script it, if necessary. And whatever you do, don’t just ‘wing it.’ Lots of people try it. And frankly, it fails far more often than it succeeds.

Prepare your material

The old joke goes, ‘How do you get to Carnegie Hall?’ ‘Practice, practice, practice.’ Try your presentation out for people. Ask for their feedback. It seems simple, but asking for help is sometimes the hardest thing to do. Do it in front of a mirror. Save it on a voice recorder and play it back. Ask people to look at your slides (Here’s a good guide to building excellent slides).

Trust your material

Most of the time, your nerves are lies! Believe it or not, most managers/bosses/audiences/groups/colleagues want you to succeed. Do your work before you go in and know (and I admit there is no magic way to do this) that the stress and anxiety you feel is NOT REAL. Take a deep breath and know your audience wants you to do well. And if you feel those nerves again and it feels like the words are coming out of your mouth and you have no control over them, just stop a second, take that deep again and carry on.


Here are just a few posts for you to explore if you want to learn more on this topic.


Sex, stress and public speaking

Challenges of virtual teams

How can you take the stress out of public speaking?

Being afraid of public speaking is common. It’s even common in the business world where presentations are a regular part of life. It’s (wrongly) assumed everyone can do it. So what can you do if you are nervous about presenting? Here are 2 great tips for calming your nerves before your next presentation and a 3rd tip which I came across while doing some research on this topic.

1. Know your content

Knowing your content is a must if you want to stay cool, calm and collected when presenting. Conversely, not knowing your content will always create anxiety and stress. You need to take the time to identify your key messages, connect these messages to your audience and build an engaging and easy to follow structure. If you know:

  • what you want to say,
  • why you are saying it,
  • how you’ll say it,
  • when you’ll say it,
  • what your audience might ask,
  • and how you’ll answer these questions…

…then you’ve reduced the chances of something going wrong – and you will have reduced your anxiety and stress levels. This sounds obvious, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been involved in a presentations coaching session only to discover the manager hadn’t really invested enough time in thinking about the content. Knowing your content is key!
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2. Practice your delivery – and practice it out loud

Another obvious, yet often ignored, tip is to practice your presentation aloud before you deliver it. Planning it in your head or on paper is great – but it’s not enough.  I remember learning from a German executive the idea of practising your presentation front of the mirror in the bathroom. He told me that it helped “to see if the words fit his mouth” and “to test the rhythm”. Others who have since adopted this approach have mentioned that they found themselves watching their own body language and it helped them with posture and hand gestures.  If standing in front of a mirror feels a little uncomfortable, then try:

  • recording yourself on your phone,
  • asking somebody you respect to be your audience,
  • or just closing the door and speaking aloud.

3. Have sex, lots of it

In 2006, Stuart Brody, a psychologist at the University of Paisley in the UK, examined the relationship between sexual behaviour patterns, blood pressure, and its reactivity to stress. Stress was provoked and evaluated through public speaking and mental arithmetic activities. Publishing his finding in the renowned New Scientist magazine, Brody found that having regular penetrative sex can help keep stress at bay. Volunteers who had had intercourse were found to be the least stressed, and their blood pressure returned to normal faster than those who had engaged in other forms of sexual activity.

In a nutshell, those having lots of sex were comparatively less stressed by public speaking than those who didn’t. In fact it might be reasonable to conclude that not only can sex help reduce your stress levels but, if you can find a willing partner, it might actually encourage you to make more presentations.

A final word of advice

Each of these 3 tips can help reduce the sense of anxiety and stress that many people feel when having to speak in public. The less nervous you are, the more confident and successful you’ll be on the day.  Just don’t do try all three at the same time.


Here are just a few posts for you to explore if you want to learn more on this topic.

Learning to listen: lessons from baseball, TED talks and an alien life form

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How well do you listen?

Sound matters. In work. In life. Sometimes we forget that. I heard a story recently that was told by a former Major League Baseball player. He talked about a manager he once played for. During practice, the manager would put players in the outfield with their backs to home plate. A batter would stand at home plate and have someone pitch the baseball to him. Baseball bats are made of wood and are roughly 30-34 inches long. The cork-filled, leather-covered ball is thrown anywhere from 80-100 miles per hour. The batter would swing the bat and hit the ball. Now here is the important part:

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Because the player in the outfield had their backs to home plate they had to train their ear to know what part of the field the ball was travelling to, based on the sound created when the baseball made contact with the bat. If you’ve ever seen a baseball game (or cricket) you know you can hear when a ball is hit solidly. But you can’t determine where it is going to travel. This manager wanted his players to hear the contact, and make a split-second decision to race to the position they believed the ball was going, without even seeing it. With practice, players knew exactly where the hit ball was going.

They had to learn to listen.

Are we “losing our listening”?

TED, the great, freely accessible online source for learning, has what I think are two of the best talks around on how to achieve excellent communication. Both are by Julian Treasure, author of an excellent book on the impact sound has on our working lives called ‘Sound Business,’ and both are well-worth watching. In one, he talks about speaking well and in the other, the one I suggest below, he talks to us about listening.

Of his five tips on how to listen better, the final one – an acronym, of course – RASA, the Sanskrit word for ‘juice’ or essence’ is exactly that when it comes to business communication: listening is important, it’s the essence of effective business communication. RASA stands for:


That is, actually pay attention to what they’re saying.


By making natural small noises or utterances like, “ah” or “hmm” or “okay.” You may have also heard it referred to as active listening.


Very crucial to all sorts of business communication, from presentations to negotiations and everything in between. Here it’s critical you are authentic and summarise what you heard – NOT what you wanted to hear.


And finally, ask questions. Find out more. Learn as much as you can about a situation, a trend, a project, a risk, or an opportunity.


Learning to listen starts with recognizing all the barriers we create for ourselves. This is where ALF comes in, and no, we’re not talking about the sitcom character that chased cats. ALF means Always Listen First. Julian Treasure warns us at the beginning of his TED talk that ‘we are losing our listening.’

Don’t lose yours. Listen like a Major League player. And Always Listen First.

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Effective introductions when presenting in English

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If you are nervous about presenting in English, making an effective introduction is especially important. An effective introduction will help your audience know what to expect and it will help you feel confident.  Once you’ve started well it is easier to keep going – and don’t forget that your audience is there to listen to what you have to say and not your English!

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Effective introductions for beginners – the 3 Ps

This simple technique always works. When you are presenting in English (or in any language) your introduction needs to answer three questions:

  1. Why are you standing there presenting? What is the purpose of your presentation?
  2. What are the steps in your presentation? What is the process you will follow?
  3. Why should your audience listen to you?  What is their payoff?

It doesn’t matter if you are introducing your team, presenting a process or giving an update on a project – the structure is the same. The 3Ps help you remember this structure, and if it helps you when you are nervous, why not use the three keywords?

Presenting in English – an example of the 3Ps in action

“Good afternoon and thank you for coming.  The purpose of my presentation today is to update you on the factory acceptance test.  The process I will follow is to first review the agreed schedule, then talk about the tools we are using and finally we will look at two problems we have found and how we will solve them.  This will take me 10 minutes. Why should you listen?  Well, your payoff is that you will be confident that we can complete the FAT on schedule and that everything is under control.”

Simple, clear and effective

If you follow this structure, your introduction will be simple, clear and effective.  Most importantly you can concentrate on what you want to say, and stop worrying about the English.

Good luck, and why not let me know how it works for you?

Presentation Fillers: 4 Quick Tips to Help

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Are you using too many presentation fillers when presenting?

Have you ever given a presentation and started using words like ‘umm’, ‘erm’, ‘well’, ‘I’m not sure’, ‘maybe’, ‘how can I put this’, etc. because you didn’t know what to say or how to answer someone’s question? Have you thought about the effect this has on your listeners? You want your listener to think that you know your topic very well, that you are well-prepared and that your English language skills are very good. Unfortunately, words and phrases like the ones above (which are called fillers) can leave your listener asking themselves why they should listen to you if you don’t really have anything important to say. Even worse, your audience might start focusing on these words instead of the topic of your presentation. That’s why it is important to know how to act when giving a presentation. Here are some tips for you to remember so your audience doesn’t get distracted by your words instead of hearing and remembering your intended message.

4 Tips to help decrease presentation fillers

1.  Know your material. This includes your slides, but also the English words you use on them, other jargon (or specific language) which is important to explain your product or strategy as well as verbs to make your presentation active. Using all of these correctly will reduce the need to use fillers because you are knowledgeable about your subject.

2.  Anticipate questions. Think about possible questions the audience might ask and the answers you might give before the day of the presentation. You might think this is a waste of time, but if you can anticipate the ideas and the vocabulary you might need in advance, you won’t need to use a filler phrase to gain time.

3.  Practice your presentation in advance.  While you might not need to memorize the presentation, you should go through it at least once before giving the presentation, (the more often, the better, however). Practicing the presentation means that you have said what you want to say out loud, that you have thought about your introduction and conclusion and that you have practiced using the visual aids, (slides, props, flipchart etc.) while speaking. This is not always as easy as it looks, especially while doing everything in another language! (For those of you who have a Target Incorporate Trainer in your company, you can ask them to help you with this).Contact us now

4.  Be comfortable with silence. Perhaps this sounds silly to you, but some people use fillers simply because they don’t like silence. In today’s world of constant sounds, it is an easy trap to fall into. This doesn’t mean, however, that saying something without content is better for your audience than saying nothing at all. Everyone, including your audience, needs a chance to think and organize their thoughts before responding to or asking a question. Allow them to do this without interruptions!


Finally, some words of advice. Don’t worry if you still use presentation fillers occasionally. Even native speakers sometimes use them. What’s most important is not to overuse them. Let us know if you have any comments below and good luck on your next presentation!  Also, check out our seminar on Presenting with IMPACT to get better results with your presentations.

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Head, Hand & Heart: 3 elements all presentations need

Every presentation is different. Or is it? In this short video, Chris Slattery, Managing Director and training enthusiast, outlines the three elements all presenters need to keep in mind to make sure their presentations runs well. By keeping the key elements of head, hand and heart in mind even the most inexperienced presenter can deliver a clear and memorable message.

Discover more about how we integrate the Head, Hand and Heart model into our seminars here.

Presentation slides: 4 Keys to Keeping Attention

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4 Keys to good presentation slides

Creating presentation slides that summarize your points but still keep your audience’s attention isn’t easy. Ever try talking to someone who is busy reading a book? It’s not easy to get and hold their attention, is it? This is what happens when you stand up to make a presentation and your presentation slides are full of text. The audience will be splitting their attention between trying to read and trying to listen. You should keep your text to a minimum, and never just read from your presentation slides. So, to ensure that your slides support your message rather than distracting from it, here are a few tips.

1.bmp3 main points per slide, one sentence per point. If there is too much information on the slides, your audience will not be able to concentrate on what you are saying as they will be trying to read the slides.


2Slides should NEVER include paragraphs.  You are the presenter; the slides support you, not the other way around.  If you need a lot of text, you should be sending a report or email. They should not contain information that the speaker or audience needs to spend time reading.  This information can be included in the handouts.

387% of the information we process is through what we see, 9% is through what we hear and 4% is from other senses1.  If you want people to listen to what you are saying and to understand it, don’t ask them to read at the same time.  If you want them to read, perhaps you should email them a report instead.

4When you want to talk, try adding a blank slide into your presentation – they will have nothing else to look at so they’ll concentrate on you.




Your presentation slides support your message, they don’t tell the whole story for you! Let us know what has worked for you in the comments area below.

[1] Sheldon Press; Pease, Alan; “Body Language, How to read others thoughts by their gestures”

4 Ds of Presentations

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Do you know the 4 Ds?

You are a good presenter — you are engaging, funny and energetic. You like the challenge of speaking in public and you are good at it. Yet you have the feeling sometimes that you could be doing more or doing things differently.  There are some situations in which you connect better to the audience than others and you feel you can do better.  You can do this by paying attention to the 4 Ds:
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Development – Design – Delivery – Debriefing

The 4 Ds of presentations


There is no “one size fits all” solution for what to do to make a good presentation. Success depends on the audience and the situation as to what techniques are more likely to work and what aren’t.  That’s where the first D comes in, Development. In this sense, development means developing your understanding of the context of your presentation before moving on to designing the content. The more special the situation or presentation is for you, the more time you should invest in understanding what may happen before it does. Are key decision makers warm to the idea you are presenting or not? Does the audience have mixed opinions? What goals unite you and the audience in ways they can appreciate? Is the audience expecting a lot of data? How formal or informal do they expect you to be? Knowing the answers to these and other questions can lead to a refined message and different design and delivery behaviors than you may be used to.


You know the importance of a good looking presentation. Many companies recognize the importance of presentation design so much that they hire professional designers to produce them. That means sometimes presenters are asked to present presentations they didn’t personally create. Often they are produced to fill a function, like introducing your company, not meet the needs of a specific audience. Generic presentations mean the presenter needs to work harder to make the material relevant to their audience.  The key in design is, if the information shared is important to the audience, they will pay attention to it. The best format helps but the relevance of the information makes the difference.


Certain delivery techniques can help us deal with the prepackaged design situation effectively. We can draw our audience’s attention to a special part of a slide by using a pointer and the phrase “Let me draw your attention to…” if there is too much information on the slide. You can tell stories to bring meaning to data and you can relate charts and graphs to the experiences of your audience without changing a slide. The results of your development work will point you in the best direction. If you need to do something for the audience that is outside of your comfort zone: practice, practice, practice. The more you practice a different style the more comfortable you will become.


Getting feedback from your audience about your presentation is important to continual process improvement. This means getting feedback solely about the presentation itself and not its outcome. This can be difficult to do yet there are some ideas worth considering. Have a third party write down the audiences’ questions for review after the presentation. Ask audience members about specific delivery behaviors you are working on, like eye contact, controlling your movements and how you use your hands rather than simply asking them what they thought of the presentation.

Increase your chance of success

The 4 Ds of presentations; Development, Design, Delivery and Debriefing, can help you tailor your presentations to specific audiences and make the appropriate adjustments in your style to increase your chances of success. Let us know some of your experiences in the comments area below.


Here are just a few posts for you to explore if you want to learn more on this topic.

Asking Good Questions in Presentations

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3 Quick tips on asking good questions in presentations

Asking good questions during a presentation can be difficult. If you haven’t understood a point in the presentation, it is likely that other people in the audience will be thinking the same as you. You don’t want to leave the presentation with a question mark in your head so it is important to ask your question. Other people in the audience will likely be pleased that you have asked.  Here are 3 quick tips on asking good questions in presentations.

1.  Prepare

Write your question down before you ask it. This will allow you to reflect on your question before you ask it, as well as giving you time to check to see if it is understandable.  Also, some questions sound good at first, but you may reconsider asking them after a minute of thought.

2.  Provide context

Some presentations are long and your question may be related to a topic covered 10 minutes ago. Provide some context of what the topic was or what point you are addressing. This will help both the person who is answering the question and the rest of the audience understand what you are talking about.  It also shows that you have been paying attention and are following the presentation.Contact us now

3.  One question

Try to ask just one question instead of clustering your questions. If you ask a lot of questions all at the same time, it can confuse the presenter and you probably won’t get the detailed response you are looking for.  If you have a two or three part question, wait until the presenter answers the first question and then ask your next question.  They may answer your second question in their first answer.

If you have any more tips on asking good questions in presentations, please let us know in the comments section below.

Handling Difficult Questions in Presentations

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How are you handling difficult questions in your presentations?

So you’ve spent hours preparing your slides, practicing in front of the mirror, and learning the material you are presenting inside and out. The big presentation comes and you breeze through it confidently and calmly. You are about to finish up and just quickly ask the audience if there are any questions.

“Any questions?  Ok, if not then…”

The difficult questions then arrive, one after another. Questions that you are not prepared for, don’t have the answers to, are not completely clear as to what they mean, etc. It has happened to us of all in one form or another, and is perfectly normal to presenters of all experience levels. What helps separate good presenters from “not so good” presenters is the ability in handling difficult questions professionally and effectively. Here are some quick tips to help.
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When handling difficult questions…

1.bmpThank the person for their question

“Thank you for your question.”
“That is a really good question and I am glad you asked it.”

2Clarify that you understand the question if necessary (or to buy some time to come up with a good answer).

“So, if I understand you correctly, you are asking me if we…….”
“Just to make sure I give you the correct answer, are you saying that if……”

3Answer with one of the 3 options depending on the question:

Admit that you don’t know the answer and turn it over to the audience to help.

“I’m afraid that isn’t my area of expertise, but I am sure someone else here may know the answer to that.”
“Can anyone help answer that question?”

Admit that someone you work with would be better suited to answer that, and you will consult with them and get back to the person.

“Unfortunately I don’t have the answer for that now, but I have a colleague that can answer that question.  Can we meet after the presentation and exchange contact details?  I will then ask him and get you the answer right away.”

You need more information on the question, it is a private question, or you don’t have the time to answer it in front of the whole audience.  Ask to meet later.  

“I think it would be better if I got a little more information from you to help answer that question.  Can we meet after the presentation at lunch?  I would be happy to get you more information then.”


Question:  “Do you have the latest forecast sales figures for the 3rd quarter?”

Answer:  “Thanks for your question.  Just to make sure I give you the correct answer, are you asking for the forecast sales figures for the German location or the total figures worldwide?  (Clarification given by person who asked question) Unfortunately I don’t have the answer for that now, but I have a colleague who can answer that question.  Can we meet after the presentation and exchange contact details?  I will then ask him and get you the answer right away.  (Person agrees)  Great, thanks for the question.  Any other questions?”

Keeping these things in mind when handling difficult questions in presentations will allow you to seem more prepared and make your presentation go more smoothly. Want more info on how to be a better presenter?  Click here.


Presentation Introductions for Beginners: The 3 Ps

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Presentation introductions for beginners

Do the thoughts of presentation introductions make you nervous? Does the idea of speaking in front of people make your mouth go dry? Well keep reading …
If you are nervous about presenting in English, making effective presentation introductions is especially important.  Effective presentation introductions will help your audience know what to expect and it will help you feel confident. Once you’ve started well it is easier to keep going – and don’t forget that your audience is there to listen to what you have to say and not your English.

The 3Ps

A colleague shared this simple technique with me, and it always works. When you are presenting in English (or in any language) your introduction needs to answer three questions:Contact us now

  1. Why are you standing there presenting? What is the purpose of your presentation?
  2. What are the steps in your presentation? What is the process you will follow?
  3. Why should your audience listen to you?  What is their payoff?

It doesn’t matter if you are introducing your team, presenting a process or giving an update on a project – the structure is the same. The 3Ps help you remember this structure, and if it helps you when you are nervous, why not use the three keywords?

An example of the 3Ps in action

“Good afternoon and thank you for coming.  The purpose of my presentation today is to update you on the factory acceptance test.  The process I will follow is to first review the agreed schedule, then talk about the tools we are using and finally we will look at two problems we have found and how we will solve them.  This will take me 10 minutes. Why should you listen?  Well, your payoff is that you will be confident that we can complete the FAT on schedule and that everything is under control.”

If you follow this structure your presentation introductions will be simple, clear and effective.  Most importantly you can concentrate on what you want to say, and stop worrying about the English.
Good luck, and let me know how it works for you in the comments area below.