Conferences can make anyone nervous.
Especially if you’re giving a presentation or organizing one of the events. But even if you’re just participating, you might feel stressed or overwhelmed.
Are your English skills ready for all the networking and strategizing? Or even just the social hours?
Well, they’re about to be.
In fact, you’re about to learn how to totally impress your peers (and maybe a future employer!) when presenting or participating in a conference in English.
In this post, I’ll show you how you can easily ace your next conference if English isn’t your first language. We’ll start with the tips below, then show you some incredible courses, books and other materials to help you prepare your English for a successful conference.
Tips to Ace Your First Conference
Certain basic strategies will help you build confidence and effectively participate in any conference you’re invited to.
- If you’re presenting a paper, proofread and re-check it several times. Members of the audience are sure to be experts, and you don’t want to be accused of plagiarism or of making mistakes.
- If you’re speaking on a panel or at a meeting, organize your material. Sometimes you might get carried away and forget what you really wanted to say. So try to organize your thoughts into bullet points on a paper, so you can refer to it, if you need to.
- Anticipate questions. Try to anticipate (guess/plan for) the kind of questions you might receive at the conference—whether you’re presenting on a topic, or just describing your work to people you meet. Try to cover all bases, so that you can be better prepared and more confident.
- Ask questions, too. Don’t disappear after a presentation/speech is over. Follow protocol, listen to what other people are saying, and ask relevant questions.
- Network! You’ll probably meet a lot of important industry professionals and other people with whom you’ll want to remain in contact. So don’t shy away from interactions.
Go up to them, introduce yourself, give them genuine compliments and offer them your business card. Take the initiative and speak up first.
Got a Conference Coming Up? How to Prepare Your English for Success While You’re There
The resources curated below will give you all the training you need to ace your next conference. However if there are specific areas of weakness that you want to focus on (such as research or writing) you can pick the ones that you feel will be most useful. I’ve also included a mixture of free and paid as well as offline and online resources to suit the different needs and budgets of business English learners.
1. Comprehensive Resources to Get You Started
If you’ve never been to a conference before, or you’re finding it difficult to get used to workplace culture, you can try reading this incredibly helpful book. It was written specifically keeping in mind the needs of non-native English speakers and is available for purchase on Amazon.
You’ll learn exactly how a conference works and what to say at each stage of the conference. As the title suggests, it’s also invaluable if you’ll be presenting at your next conference. You’ll learn how to avoid common errors, address questions and keep your audience interested in what you have to say.
The success of any conference relies on both your speaking and writing skills. If you’ve prepared an amazing presentation but you don’t have the natural English skills to deliver it, then all your hard work will go to waste. That’s why being able to speak correct and fluent business English with confidence is a must. And when it comes to achieving that goal, FluentU is one of your best and affordable options.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like business dialogues, inspiring speeches, news and more—and turns them into personalized English lessons.
FluentU has a huge collection of English videos that people in the English-speaking world actually watch.
More to the point, FluentU has an entire business category filled with authentic business-related videos covering six language levels.
To show the variety of videos even inside this single category, real-world business videos on FluentU include “Introducing Business Colleagues,” “Business Buzzwords,” “Control Your Inbox!” and “What Warren Buffet Thinks About Cash.”
An added bonus is that if you want to work on other topics later, simply use the same, familiar FluentU platform to learn with videos from other categories, such as “Science and Tech,” “Politics and Society” or mix it up with “Arts and Entertainment” or “Health and Lifestyle.”
Every spoken word is subtitled, complete with an in-context definition, image and multiple example sentences.
All you have to do is tap or click on one of the words in those subtitles to get more information. For example, if you tap on the word “brought,” you will see this:
Plus, these great videos are all accompanied by interactive features and active learning tools, like multimedia flashcards and fun games like “fill in the blank.”
If you are interested in watching fun, relevant videos and practicing language actively in the process, be sure to create a FluentU account and try it out on your computer, iOS or Android device!
If your work keeps you busy for long hours, you may not have the time for a full language course. But you can always use your traveling and even your free time for learning by listening to podcasts. Business English Pod is one of the best language learning podcasts out there and they have quite a few lessons on conferences.
This audio lesson “Opening Presentation” will be especially useful if you’ve been asked to host or deliver an opening speech at a conference. You’ll learn tips from actual native speakers at company conferences.
Similarly the lesson “Actively Participating” covers all you need to know about asking engaging questions, connecting with people and making the most of your time there. If you sign up to be a premium member you’ll also have access to mobile quizzes, study notes and extra material to further help you out.
2. Courses to Help You Research and Prepare for a Conference
Some of you may already be brilliant speakers, but writing in business English may seem like a terrifying task. Whether you’re speaking on an issue or actually presenting a paper at the conference, you’ll still need top-notch research and writing skills to succeed.
This series of courses on academic writing can be really useful, because you’ll learn U.S. academic and professional standards for research. You’ll also learn how to organize your ideas and opinions into a coherent essay, express your findings using the right terminology and cite your sources in the correct format.
If you’re concerned about your topic of presentation or you aren’t sure how to handle it, this course should guide you on every step. It’s offered through the popular online education platform Coursera, which means you’ll be working with top-quality instructors and you can even get a certificate to put on your resume when you’re done.
Every conference includes a huge amount of planning and organizing. If you’re involved in a conference as one of the organizers, this course (another great one from Coursera) will provide some crucial information.
You’ll learn how to carefully plan and organize an event, write conference announcements and deal with unexpected problems.
Even if you’re not planning the conference, this course will be valuable. You’ll pick up tips related to negotiating with people and exchanging information, which will help you interact with guests at the conference and make worthwhile connections there.
3. Courses to Help You Communicate Effectively at the Conference
This course is perfect for non-native speakers looking to improve their English for public speaking at conferences. However to get the most out of this course, you need to have some knowledge of the language already, preferably at least pre-intermediate level (if you aren’t sure, you can even check your language level online).
This course will cover techniques to deliver excellent presentations and how to keep your audience interested in you. There’s a focus on vocabulary and certain “attention-grabbing” tactics.
You’ll learn how to effectively begin and end a presentation, add structure so people can follow you and incorporate open and rhetorical questions into your speech.
This course is offered through Udemy, which means you get lifetime access to the course material once you sign up.
Communicaid is another wonderful resource to improve your English for conferences and presentations, as well as your business English skills in general. The best part is, you can be based anywhere in the world and still get access to the learning material and the courses can be personalized as per your requirements.
So, the more specific your needs are, the more you can get out of it.
Their “Presenting in English” course, in addition to preparing and structuring your speech, covers non-verbal communication. You’ll also pick up skills for using humor and managing the rhythms and intonations of your voice to keep the audience hooked.
There are practice activities and you’ll get constructive feedback from the trainers.
They also have courses on “Presenting to an International Audience,” “Effective Public Speaking” and “Presentation Skills Coaching.” The last one even comes with one-on-one coaching from a professional.
In short, in order to ace your first conference, you need to prepare strategically. If you’re presenting a paper or delivering a speech, start preparing for it in advance, instead of leaving it to the last minute. Give yourself enough time to cross-check and proofread, and keep polishing and practicing it. Once you’re there, make sure you network with people, ask questions and make important connections that may be useful later. Above all, if it’s your first time, just treat it as a crucial learning experience and give it your best shot.
Archita Mittra is a freelance writer, journalist, editor and educator. Feel free to check out her blog or contact her for freelancing/educational inquiries.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.