Top Tips for giving presentations in a second language

March 3, 2021

     By Duncan Green     

Generally, I seem to lead a bit of a charmed life on twitter. I know it’s supposed to be full of angry trolls, but my experience is much friendlier than that. I often tweet questions or appeals for advice, and sometimes people really come through.

My latest exercise in canvassing the wisdom of crowds was asking for their top tips for giving presentations in another language. I pride myself on being a reasonable Spanish speaker, but there’s no question that giving a talk or a powerpoint is different for me en español. More stressful. I’m not as smart, can’t think on my feet, sometimes say really weird or embarrassing things (OK, maybe not that different then).

Here’s what the tweeps came up with, divided up roughly into how to prep, how to speak, and how to manage the interaction

How to Prep

Write out the talk, practice out loud, maybe even record it in advance and get a native speaker to listen and point out any major no-nos.

Get into role: read something in the same language beforehand to get your linguistic juices flowing; write down a list of keywords on your topic (on paper or in notes on your slides), but also linking phrases if they don’t come naturally

How to Speak

Swallow your pride/don’t take yourself too seriously – apologise in advance; give the audience permission to laugh at your blunders. Don’t try and tell jokes – in this language, you are the joke. Get over it. In fact, use it to engage people.

Repeat yourself more often, in different ways, so if one version is complete gibberish, the other might still land.

Visuals: lots of pics, a roadmap you can come back to, enumerated lists. They can all help guide the bewildered audience through the linguistic torment of your presentation.

Managing the Interaction

Hand over the stick earlier. Invite native speakers in the audience to give their views on points where you are stumbling.

One question at a time at Q&A, and better to ask your host to translate (if they can) than answer a different question to the one asked…..

Fantastic advice – thanks to Alistair Leadbetter, Deborah Doane, Peter Evans, Milenko Fadic, Oscar Gomez, Dan Honig, Matthieu Lohr, Marinke van Riet, Haley Stevenson, Sofia V, Linda Yohannes

And now over to the rest of you to add your thoughts

And just because I haven’t reposted it for a while, and it’s vaguely relevant, here’s a table of What Brits Say v What They Mean…….

What Brits say versus what they mean
March 3, 2021
Duncan Green