How to prepare better presentations in English (and save time too)

By 9 April 2018 Video lessons 6 Comments
prepare better presentations in English

Hey there, and welcome to Speak English with Christina, where you’ll have fun becoming fluent in American English. I’m your English coach Christina and let me ask you something: When you have to do a presentation in English, maybe at a scientific congress or a business conference, how much time does it take to prepare your presentation?
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Probably more time than you’d like! Well today, you’ll learn how to save time and create a better presentation in English.

Let’s go!

In my career, I’ve presented at dozens of international conferences. I mean, isn’t it exciting to share your research and results with colleagues?

But it takes so long to prepare the presentation. For a 30 minute talk, maybe you spend weeks, or even months preparing. Plus it’s in English, so you take more time than in your native language. Let me share with you some techniques I use to save time preparing presentations.

Do your homework first

The first thing is look into the logistics. Who are you presenting to? What is the key message you want them to remember?

Why is it important to them? In fact, I would even recommend writing this at the top of your notes before you even start planning your presentation. This will guide you to help you focus, and avoid trying to include too much information, which we’re probably all guilty of (at least me…)

Start with pen & paper, not PowerPoint

There’s a quote that we attribute to Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the United States: “Give me 6 hours to chop down a tree, and I’ll spend 4 hours sharpening the axe.”

Basically, when you have to do something, it’s worth investing the time in preparing, so the real action is easier, quicker, and more efficient. We’re not cutting down trees, but the idea still works. Don’t rush to create your PowerPoint slides.

Get a good old pen and paper (or note cards) and brainstorm the ideas you want to include in your presentation. Organize your ideas coherently. Make sure the information flows logically. Maybe even ask a colleague to look at your outline and see if it seems logical.

But spend maybe 15% of your presentation preparation time just on organizing your ideas. It’ll save you time in the next steps.

Write your script

Yes, write your script. A lot of times you might hear advice like “Don’t write your script!” or “Just write notes!” I think in my 14 years of coaching clients, 99% of them say they write scripts.

Honestly, if it helps you to write a script, do it. But notice I said write a script, not read a script. This is just part of your preparation, to make you feel confident before your presentation.

Plus, if you write a script, you can send it to a colleague or an English coach so they can help you correct any mistakes, or offer advice on clear organization.

Another advantage of writing your script?

You can see where the transitions are. When you’re doing your presentation, it’s important to use signposting language –the expressions that clearly indicate transitions. You will seem organized, confident, and your audience will follow your ideas more easily.

Practice, round 1

After you’re comfortable with your script and the organization of your ideas, practice. Read your script out loud a few times to get the feel of your presentation. Of course, the day of your presentation you won’t read your script, but for now, it’s ok. You’re preparing.

So read it out loud. Stand up and pretend you’re giving your presentation. If your ideas feel disconnected and your transitions are awkward, change them. Eliminate anything that makes your presentation hard to follow. And practice again. In fact, this practice round 1 should take about 25% of your total preparation time.

Create your slides

Finally, you can play with PowerPoint! Woohoo! Fonts, colors, slide backgrounds… Sorry, I get excited about creating presentations sometimes.

But now that you’re sure of the message, ideas, and structure of your talk, it’s time to create your slides. Notice that creating slides is one of the last steps. Because you’re pretty sure of what you’re going to say now, you don’t waste any time creating slides that you don’t need.

And here’s a tip to make your transitions smooth. Create transition slides!

For example, put in big print the exact transition phrase you’ll say on one slide, and on the next slide, the main subject of the next part of your talk. It’ll look like this:

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 11.13.50
“Now, let’s move on to…” – “The difficulties scientists have to present in in English”

It adds clear structure for your audience, it adds a bit of suspense as you transition, and for you, you’re sure to get the phrase right! So fire up PowerPoint and let’s make some slides!

Practice, round 2

Now that you have your slides, it’s time to practice again. Several times, in fact. And this time, without your script. The idea here is to progressively reduce your complete script to just enough notes to guide you in your presentation.

You can add notes in the “presenter notes” part of powerpoint, or use index cards. Just remember to put numbers on them! This way, if you drop your cards, it’s easy to put them in the correct order!

This is your final practice round before your talk. And by round, I mean, it might be several days of practicing, a few times a day.

Like practice round 1, this 2nd practice round should also represent about 25% of your entire preparation time.

So yes, that means that 50% of your entire preparation time is dedicated to practicing.

Because what’s the best way to be sure you sound good speaking English? Practice, practice, practice!

Now, what about you?

How often do you give presentations in English?

Tell us about a presentation you did in the past in English.

It will be interesting to see what you’re an expert in! Share it with us!

And to better understand Americans’ accent when they ask questions at the end of your presentation, get my American Accent Survival Kit.

You’ll start to better understand Americans when they speak fast, thanks to a full comprehension and pronunciation lesson, plus a worksheet to test your comprehension. Just click here to get it!

Thanks for watching Speak English with Christina, and I’ll see you next time!

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