ESL Public Speaking: How to Overcome Your Fear Of Presentations If English Is Not Your First Language
The idea can cause both ESL and native speakers alike anxiety by simply thinking about it. Unfortunately, soft skills such as giving presentations are extremely important in today’s workplace, and as such must be refined.
This is especially true for those looking to learn business English and work in the U.S.
There are many foreign-born professionals who speak fluent English, yet still have trouble when it comes to presenting publically in front of crowds – large or small. Multiple factors can be attributed to this such as performance anxiety, and the fears of making grammatical mistakes, choosing the wrong words, or mispronouncing words.
To start, let’s check out a few tips to address ESL public speaking fears that can be done easily anytime, anywhere!
3 Tips For Reducing ESL Public Speaking Fears During Presentations
One of the biggest ESL public speaking tips we can offer is based on a very common mistake speakers make when preparing for a presentation - memorizing a presentation like it’s a script. Not only does this make you sound robotic when presenting, but it can also do more harm than good if you forget a word or section mid-presentation, and are unable to continue on.
While some feel more confident memorizing presentations – thinking it will ensure prevention of poor grammar and word choice, and allow them to practice saying words that have difficult pronunciations – it is not the most effective method for practicing public speaking.
So how do you prepare for an event in which you will have to perform public speaking, while still ensuring you:
- Remember all the talking points of your presentation
- Don’t make grammatical mistakes
- Use correct wording
- Don’t fumble over words that are difficult to pronounce?
We have a few more ESL public speaking tips to help you out in each of these aspects.
Practicing Your Talking Points
Write out your whole presentation – everything you want to say included. Then, take that script and reduce it down to a few bullet points per topic. You can then practice discussing each of those bullet points without looking at the full script. If you get lost or can’t remember what you want to discuss, only then refer to your script. This will help you in a few ways:
- By allowing you to sound more natural when you’re presenting (think of it like your speaking to a good acquaintance, instead of reading off of a PowerPoint deck)
- Help you practice thinking on your feet, and not getting tripped up if you forget certain words (or sometimes even whole points) – remember the audience doesn’t know what you’re going to say; only you do. If you forget something, keep moving and circle back around if/when you remember the point. If you don’t, the audience will never know!
If you have a good amount of time before you’re supposed to give your presentation, periodically running through the talking points in your head throughout the day – like you were simply conversing with a friend – will help you get more comfortable with the content of the presentation.
If it helps, you can also carry notecards with your talking points in the days leading up to the presentation, allowing you to pull them out and practice at any time.
Practicing Your Grammar and Wording
As mentioned above, take your presentation and write the full script out. In doing so, you will be able to process your word choice and grammar while you write. Then, when you begin practicing your talking points (remember, no memorizing the script) you will recall what you wrote down.
In the end it comes down to practice, practice, practice.
The more you rehearse your presentation beforehand, the more you’ll notice when certain words or phrases sound unnatural. It is always best if you can either do your presentation in front of a friend (preferably one who is also fluent in English, or a native English speaker so they can help point out mistakes), or record yourself presenting and listen after for any grammatical or wording errors.
If you find there is a section of your presentation that you are having trouble conveying properly, re-word it using simpler language. Then, create and practice a talking point using that simpler phrasing. Your audience won’t know that you did, and you will have the dual benefit of being able to talk about it more easily, and having a higher chance of your audience understanding what you’re discussing.
Practicing Your Pronunciation
Building off of our last tip, before any presentation you should practice your talking points multiple times. That way if there are certain industry terms, or words in general, that you have trouble with; you will give yourself ample opportunity to recite them.
Again it helps if you give a practice presentation in front of a friend or colleague who can help you with pronunciation, but you can also record yourself and listen carefully to make sure everything sounds clear.
Remember – even if you practice, mistakes can happen. If during your presentation you mispronounce something, there is nothing wrong with pausing, correcting yourself, and moving on. Errors like these happen to both ESL and native speakers all the time – correcting yourself will ensure clarity for your audience, while simultaneously demonstrating your knowledge of the correct pronunciation.
What if I Still Need To Work On My English Language Skills, Or If I Want Training?
Our tips above are mainly beneficial for advanced English speakers, practicing on their own. However, there are also ways in which beginner level speakers, and those who would prefer group settings, can work on ESL public speaking skills specifically. Business English classes are a good example.
Business English training programs provide ESL learners the ability to learn practical and real-world applications for a variety of skills, including presentational speaking, email and memo writing, phone conversation skills and more. This is done through language practice and role plays with other ESL learners.
Language Connections offers an eight week, Business English Course that covers these topics and more. Our class sizes are small, and taught by native English speaking professionals. This allows you to learn current workplace language and behavior, and get the one-on-one time you need with your instructor.
Public speaking is an important skill for everyone to have. By following these tips, and improving your English speaking skills through Business English classes, you’ll be well on your way to defeating your fears, and sounding confident and professional in all your business presentations.
Register for the next Business English Course on our website now: http://languageforprofessionals.com/business-english-program/program-overview/
For more information contact our Language Training Department:
Phone: (617) 277-1990