Public Speaking

Public Speaking & Presentations for Non-Native Speakers of American English

There’s no shortage of information on how to give a presentation or how to be a good public speaker. The suggestions, examples, advice, and descriptions run the gambit from videos to how-to guides to checklists.

If English isn’t your first language, however, you might need to concern yourself with a different kind of thought process.

Are there any words you just can’t pronounce?

  • If you struggle again and again with the same words, find an alternative or a workaround so you don’t have to say that one “word” or “words” that really throws you off your game! Plan ahead so you don’t stumble each time and have difficult recovering, causing you to lose credibility with your audience.

Do you have a hard time introducing topics and/or seguing from one topic to another:

  • If you find yourself struggling or repeating the same words over and over, like “next” or “and then we come to”, actually take some time to script your “connecting language.” What are you going to say “between the slides” to shift the audience’s perspective. Can you prepare them for what comes next and “reframe” it so they can embrace the new ideas fully when you get there.

Do you make a lot of grammatical mistakes when you talk?

  • You may feel you’re just not sure your saying it right, or you may get feedback from people that you speech has some “issues.” You can start by recording it to see if you hear the mistakes. Awareness is the first step to creating change. Once you hear the mistakes, look for patterns. Let’s say it’s subject/verb agreement or sing/plural, so you might find yourself saying things like “these process is hard to follow” or “many concept.” The key hear is to document your mistakes, say them correctly, and then catch yourself each time you do it incorrectly, and make the correction in real-time outloud (while practicing, obviously not in front of an audience).

Do you feel like you have to read a script or memorize your talk word-for-word?

  • If extemporaneous speech just isn’t your thing, that’s ok. Prepare. Prepare well. Research, draft, summarize. Write down not just the words you will use, but the connecting words that precede and following. If you are doing to talk about a “procedure” include words like “implement the procedure” so you know to use the article and you have the right word, or “analyze it item by item” using the word “by” to insure you don’t ad-lib and choose the wrong connecting preposition. Details matter when you speak publically. You don’t want to sacrifice credibility by getting sloppy. But you don’t have to memorize a script either! Try to talk from main ideas. Draft “talking points” and address them. Practice speaking correctly but freely and record yourself when no one is around and then practice in front of others. Don’t wait until you are in front of your target audience or you will feel like you wish you had a script! If you are prepared with what you want to say, it will be easier to say it correctly.
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