If you are working for a global company, you may be asked to present at a conference or seminar to people representing different regions of your company abroad. You will have to change up your presentation style for your international audience and you might have to change the language as well. Learning and speaking a foreign language is not an easy task. Public speaking is also challenging enough in a native language. When you combine the two, public speaking and speaking in a foreign language, it can seem quite scary. A common language choice for international conferences is English, but depending on the audience and location of the event, it could be Spanish, Russian, French, or many others. The conference organizers chose you to be a speaker so you probably have a moderate to high level of proficiency in the language of the event. The organizers have faith in you so you should have faith in yourself!
The preparation steps are the same for any presentation, but add some extra time for proofreading and test runs. Here are a couple ways to practice and prepare before you give your speech in a non-native language.
Know the audience
Survey the audience and know the general demographics of the people who will be in your audience. You may have learned English through music and old American films, but if your audience did not grow up in an English-speaking environment, then they might be confused with a reference to your favorite movie character, Forest Gump. When speaking to a very diverse audience, remember how hard it was for you to master the language and be considerate that the audience might have a proficiency level slightly below yours. Don’t simplify the speech too much, but keep all of these details in the back of your mind.
Write it down
Try not to write the speech down in your native language, but instead, write it out in the language you will present in. You don’t want to directly translate your thoughts word by word because you might have difficulty maintaining the flow of your speech. As you begin writing, pretend that you are speaking the words and write down what you would say. This will help you think about certain points that you might have trouble explaining in the foreign language. When it comes time to present, you won’t read the speech word-for-word as you wrote it down, but you will have a better idea of topics you need to spend more time preparing.
Once you write down the speech, ask a native speaker to proofread the speech. If it is possible, try to meet in person or via videoconference with a native speaker to have him or her hear your speech before the event. If either of you have questions about something, you won’t have to wait around for an email response and you will be able to discuss comments more thoroughly.
Another great way to practice is to record yourself. This is a fantastic way to improve upon your accent as well as simulate the real speaking environment. If you do not have a native speaker available to look over your written speech, consider sending your recording to any friend, family member, or colleague who is proficient in the language of the event. Welcome any feedback and don’t be offended if someone finds several mistakes. You want to look professional in front of your audience and the more you refine your speech before the event, the more confident you will feel as you deliver the speech.
Transcribe last minute notes
On the day of the event, create a short outline of the topics you will cover and present. Think over the content and write down any words or phrases that you often forget or mispronounce in the foreign language. Look over the list a couple of times until you master it, and then relax. Try not to be stressed about delivering the speech. Even if you make a few mistakes, people will be understanding and everything will be okay!
Good luck! You will do great!
Image courtesy of Markus Koljonen
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