How do you feel when you are asked to present or do public speaking in English?
Excited? Stressed? Confident? Nervous? Uncomfortable? Blocked?
Being able to present well is a key skill for business people, and yet some experts estimate that as much as 77% of the population has some level of anxiety regarding public speaking.1
However, many international professionals I have met in my coaching need to present well in English as their 2nd+ language, and this can present a real challenge for their confidence, role performance and career prospects.
It all starts with how you kick off to build your audience connection and engagement from the first moments when you start speaking.
So today I want to share with you my recommendations for opening your presentations impactfully in English so you can shape your language to sound professional and confident, even if you are not feeling it 100% inside, yet.
Key techniques and English phrases for opening English presentations impactfully
There are a number of different ways that you can kick off a presentation from the more traditional, expected techniques through to surprising your audience and getting them to sit up and pay attention.
1. Stating your purpose: simple and effective technique. Examples:
- In my presentation I’ll focus on…
- I am pleased to join you today to tell you about…
2. Signposting: a brief overview of the key topics and what order you will go through them. Good for formal presentations and talks. Examples:
- I’ll start with ….., then move onto ….., before finishing with a focus on…..
- I will begin by…., later on I will…, and finally I will….
3. Problem to consider: Ask a question to get the audience thinking so they are involved and engaged in your talk from the start. Examples:
- Imagine that you……What would you do?
- Have you ever found yourself in this challenging situation…?
4. Surprising fact or quote: A technique to shift the audience out of sitting back in their chairs and focus their attention on what you have to say. Examples:
- A recent report published said that….
- It was Oprah Winfrey who said, …..
5. A story: Tell a relevant story from the news, a client or a colleague that illustrates a point you want to share. A way to build a personal connection so individuals can identify with you through shared experiences. Examples:
- I am sure you are all aware that… but do you know the reason why? Let me tell you what happened….
- I was meeting a client the other day and she told me…..
How to practise opening English presentations impactfully
- Think of a presentation you are planning to do.
- Choose your favourite opening technique and personalise it to your presentation.
- Spend a few minutes preparing and writing notes.
- Now record it. Ideally this is on video, but if you are still building confidence with this, then try voice recording only.
- Play back and focus on what is positive about the opening.
- Now make a note of what you would improve.
- Key success criteria include:
- Sounding loud and clear
- Using some level of body language to emphasise key points
- Speaking slowly and with appropriate pauses