How to Present Like a Thought-leader – Regardless of Your English LevelAug 03, 2020
At the end of your engineering presentations, what happens when you ask if there are any comments or questions? Is there silence?
Presentations, in the broader sense, include much more than standing in front of a group of people and offering a monologue of your thoughts. Presentations can include anything that you can prepare for, including an important meeting, a job interview, or an important discussion.
The key for non-native English speakers is preparation. A little preparation can dramatically improve your comprehensibility because your brain is not required to multi-task quite as much. Therefore, you can focus on enunciating your words, as well as conveying the underlying message with appropriate word choices and intonation.
Sometimes preparation can be as quick and easy as bullet points on a stick-it note. Being organized in how you present your thoughts sends a powerful message of professionalism. Use words like first, then, next, finally. This will help your listener(s) understand and remember your message more easily.
Any questions or comments anyone? ……. If your team or external audience is not engaged enough with your message to contribute comments or ask questions, your presentation may not be 100% comprehensible, or worse yet – it may be boring!
Should you have the advantage of written presentation notes, there are a number of strategies that you can employ.
- Silence is Golden! Pay special attention to commas and periods – they are the gift of pauses that your listener(s) require to catch up and process what you are saying. In addition, it can be very effective to be silent for a second or two after conveying persuasive or important information. Strategically placed silence is a multi-faceted art, which can make you more empathetic, persuasive, credible, and effective.
- Slow Down! Virtually all of my clients improve their comprehensibility by just slowing down.
- Video record your practice time! Here’s some good news for you - language is much more than just words. First, the English language offers its listeners a buffet of rhythm and stress patterns, and the key is to choose appropriately. Then, think about how you FEEL about what you’re presenting. For most non-native speakers, it’s a good idea to express your feelings more strongly than you think you need to in order to make an authentic connection with your audience. Finally, observe and self-evaluate how you sound and look - not the words.
At the end of your presentation, are you relieved when nobody asks any questions? If so, you cannot possibly present yourself as a thought-leader.
Ask yourself some questions.
- Do you sound interested in your topic when you’re presenting? (very basic, but challenging when one is speaking in a second or third language)
- Do you sound delighted, angry, upset, determined, inspirational…? If your presentation consists of just words, you will not be very effective. To persuasive, relevant, and engaging, we need to convey some sort of emotion.
- Have you effectively conveyed what’s important in your presentation? Not all words are equally important, and not all facts are equally important. English listeners expect the speaker to distinguish between what's really important and what’s just nice to know. Remember: The stress pattern of your sentence conveys what’s important, as well as how you feel about what you’re saying.
- Is your presentation boring? Is your presentation made up of solely facts, statistics, and policies? Or does it also include why the facts are important to you and your audience? Does it include stories or anecdotes that bring the facts alive? Is there a human connection that allows your audience to connect with the importance of your message?
Do you sound and look like a confident engineering thought-leader when you’re presenting? Confidence not only establishes the persona of professionalism and credibility, but also fosters a sense of confidence in you by others. Smile and make eye contact. Never make self-critical remarks. Have a sense of humor if you make a mistake. These attributes will give you an air of confidence and professionalism. And remember - giving a presentation is a service to others, which they will appreciate.
How do you feel right now when you are preparing your presentation? Do you feel blocked, frustrated, or nervous? Do you prepare all of the technical data and then turn off the computer because you really don’t know how to finish it? How would you like to feel when you step away from the lectern or boardroom table after delivering a presentation? Would you like the voice in your head to be saying “yeah, I nailed that one!” or “My job is so rewarding – I think they really understood and liked my proposal.” Or “It really feels great to be the one that people look to for solutions that move projects and corporate goals forward.” I’ll give you a hint: The presentation introduction is the key to a really engaging presentation that is memorable.
Every great leader has help (a coach or mentor who provides feedback) to get to the top and to consistently deliver optimal results in his or her leadership role. If you found this article helpful, I invite you to continue the conversation with me.
Practice Tip: Consider joining Toastmasters! Toastmasters is a non-profit organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. This is an amazing organization of people who support one another on a journey of communication and leadership excellence. Practice will undoubtedly improve your performance and confidence. To find a club at a convenient time and location for you, check out their website: http://calgarytoastmasters.com.