When you stand up for an oral presentation, you want to feel like a rockstar.
Confident. Cool. Ready to blow the audience away.
That is the ideal situation, anyways.
In real life, most people—even native English speakers—feel totally the opposite before an oral presentation.
Nervous. Self-conscious. Scared the audience will fall asleep.
Most of us have been there. Every student and professional, at some point, will have to do an oral presentation. Of course that includes English language learners. In fact, oral presentations might happen more often in an ESL class because they are a good way for teachers to assess your speaking and writing skills.
This article will provide a six-step example of how to ace your oral presentation in English. We will provide key English phrases, tips and practice techniques you can use for any presentation you have coming up.
Soon you will be presenting in English with the confidence of a rockstar!
Follow This Example to Rock Your Oral Presentation in English
Every country has different cultural standards for communication. However, there is a general consensus in English-speaking colleges and universities about what makes a good oral presentation.
Below, we will show you how to write a presentation in English that your listeners will love. Then we will show you the English speaking skills and body language you need to present it effectively.
1. Introducing a Presentation in English
Having a strong introduction is extremely important because it sets the tone for the rest of the presentation. If the audience is not interested in your presentation right away, they probably will not pay attention to the rest of it.
To get everyone’s interest, try using attention-grabbing language. If your introduction is engrossing enough, the audience will not care if you have an accent or mispronounce a few words. They will want to learn more about your topic because you did such a great job of making them interested.
Here are some example ideas and phrases you can use in your own presentation introductions:
- Start with a story or personal anecdote, so the audience will be able to relate to your presentation.
“When I was a child…”
- Mention a startling fact or statistic.
“Did you know the U.S. is the only country that…”
- Have the audience imagine something or describe a vivid scene to them.
“Imagine you are sitting on the beach…”
- Show an interesting picture or video on your presentation screen.
- Introducing yourself can also help make the audience more comfortable. It does not have to be anything fancy.
“My name is John and I am…”
“I became interested in this topic because…”
2. Supporting Your Claims with Evidence
If you have written an essay in English, you have probably had to do some research to provide statistics and other facts to support your thesis (the main point or argument of your essay). Just like those essays, many oral presentations will require you to persuade someone or inform them about a topic.
Your presentation will need background information and evidence. To persuade someone, you will need convincing evidence. No one will be persuaded if you simply say, “We need to stop global warming because it is bad.”
At the same time, it may be hard to express your thoughts or argument if English is not your first language. That is why doing research and finding credible sources is extra important.
Using information and quoting from sources can make your presentation much stronger. (Of course, always remember to cite your research properly so you do not plagiarize!) If you are not sure how to go about researching or where to look for evidence, the University of North Carolina’s Writing Center provides some excellent examples here.
After you have done research, add a section or a slide that specifically gives facts or evidence for your topic. This should be somewhere in the middle of the presentation, after your introduction but before your conclusion or closing thoughts (basically like the body paragraphs in an essay). This will help keep your ideas logical and make it a really effective presentation.
3. Incorporating Persuasive Language
Specific evidence is crucial for a persuasive argument. But to truly impact your audience, you need to speak persuasively, too.
Need some vocabulary that will catch everyone’s attention? According to Buffer, the five most persuasive words in the English language are surprisingly simple:
- Free (this one is less relevant to oral presentations, since it is used in the context of persuading people to get a product)
Using these words in your introduction and throughout your presentation will help keep the audience engaged.
For example, if giving a persuasive speech, speaking directly to the audience will have a better effect:
“To help lessen the effects of global warming, the planet needs you.”
4. Using Logical Flow and Transitions
As an English learner, was there ever a conversation that you could not follow because you had no idea what was going on? A language barrier often causes this confusion. However, even if your English is fluent, this can also happen when ideas or information are presented in an order that does not make sense.
This applies to presentations as well. If the sequence is illogical, the audience may become confused. It is important to have a clear sequence of thoughts or events. A distinct beginning, middle and end with logical sequences is needed for your audience to follow along.
As an English language learner, you may not be familiar with certain transitional words or phrases. Below are some example English words and phrases to use as you transition through your oral presentation.
General transitions that show sequence:
- In addition/additionally…
When you are nearing the end of your presentation, it is important to let the audience know you are going to finish soon. Abruptly ending the presentation may confuse the audience. Or, the presentation may not seem as effective. Just like with introductions and transitions, there are certain phrases that you can use to bring your presentation to a close.
Phrases to conclude your presentation:
- To conclude/In conclusion…
- To sum everything up…
5. Speaking Clearly and Confidently
You may be self-conscious about your ability to speak clearly if you are not fluent in English or if you have an accent. But let us be honest. Many people do not have long attention spans (the length of time someone can focus on one thing), so you will need to keep their attention during your presentation. And to do this, you will have to enunciate (speak clearly, loudly and confidently).
Do not expect this to just happen on the day of your presentation. You will need to practice ahead of time. Here is how:
- Pay attention to how your lips, mouth and tongue move. Practice saying different sounds and words over and over in front of the mirror, or have a friend watch you. What shapes does your mouth make? When does your tongue raise or flick? How can you change those movements to make each word sound clearer?
- Listen to others speak English so you know how it should sound. You can do this with friends or by listening to English audio or watching TV. You can even slow down audio recordings so you can really hear how different sounds or words are supposed to be pronounced.
FluentU is an especially helpful tool for this type of listening practice. It provides authentic English videos, like presentations, inspiring talks, news reports and more, that have been transformed into a language learning experience.
You will build your vocabulary as you watch—just click the interactive captions for an instant definition and native pronunciation of any word. The videos are relatively short and are organized by genre and learning level, so it is easy to find a video that works for your presentation practice. With the FluentU mobile app for iOS or for Android, you can find time to practice anywhere even during the busiest school or work day.
Plus, FluentU has tons of other videos like funny TV clips and action-packed movie trailers. It is an entertaining but effective way to learn English the way native speakers really use it.
- Record yourself when you practice your presentation. This will help you get a better sense of how your mouth moves or how you pronounce words. You will also see what kind of mistakes you made and will be able to correct them.
- Along with enunciation, it is important to practice speaking slowly. Nerves can make us rush through things, but the audience may not understand you if you speak too quickly. Try reading your presentation for a couple minutes a day to get used to speaking slowing.
6. Making Eye Contact
In American society, it is important to keep eye contact. It is considered rude to not look someone in the eyes when you are speaking with them. Avoiding eye contact (even if it is unintentional or out of embarrassment) might frustrate your audience.
Therefore, when giving your oral presentation, you will want to try to make eye contact with your audience, especially if you are in the U.S. The audience will not feel appreciated if you stare down at your note cards or at the presentation screen. They may become bored. Or, they may think you are not confident in your work—and if you are not confident, they will not be, either!
Here is an example of a speaker demonstrating eye contact during an English presentation. Notice how he is careful to make eye contact with all audience members, looking left, right and forward throughout the presentation.
Following the tips in this article will help make your oral presentation great. Who knows, maybe your teacher or professor will use it as an example for other students!
As an added bonus, all of the skills needed for a good oral presentation are needed in everyday English. Speaking clearly, making eye contact and having a logical flow of ideas will help you communicate better with others when you are speaking with them in English. In addition, knowing how to write an introduction, use attention-grabbing language and provide evidence will help you in English classes. You will be able to get a great grade on your presentation and improve your overall communication skills.
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