3 Common Mistakes You Might Be Making As A Non-Native Presenter in English

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3 Common Mistakes You Might Be Making As A Non-Native Presenter in English

I have to say, I really admire my clients because I understand that presenting in a second (or third) language can be challenging. But time and time again I see the same ‘mistakes’ being made.  

In this post I want to highlight three common issues I see and give you some guidance as to how to avoid them in your future presentations.

1. Not using enough signposting phrases. 

Signposting phrases are those phrases that guide an audience through your presentation, telling them what’s coming next, where to look on your slides etc. They’re also referred to as transitional or linking phrases. These phrases are powerful as they give structure and space to your speaking. 

If you tend to use the same words as you move between points in your presentation, it’s time to expand your vocabulary here. I suggest you aim to learn just two or three signposting phrases at a time and make a conscious effort to include them in your next presentation. 

You can download a list of signposting phrases from my website in the ‘Language for Presentations’ section here.

2. Overuse of ‘fillers’

Common filler words are those such as ‘ok’, ‘well’ or ‘so’. Filler sounds might be ‘ah’ and ‘umm’. Fillers tend to be used unconsciously, especially when searching for the right word or phrase. While native speakers also use fillers, I tend to observe my non-native English-speaking clients use them more heavily. This is understandable due to uncertainty about the language. 

To reduce and eventually eliminate any fillers, first get some feedback to identify them. Another strategy for raising your awareness of which fillers you’re using is to record yourself giving a presentation. I know this is uncomfortable for many people but it’s one of the most effective tools for identifying where you need to improve.

The next step is to replace your filler sound or word with silence. You then use the silence (a pause) to think. Generally, presenters don’t pause enough in presentations; audiences need pauses to give them space to assimilate what the presenter has just said. The bonus here is that when you pause, especially if you do it with a calm energy, you come across as a much more confident speaker.

To clarify, the occasional use of a filler word or sound is not a problem, we’re human, we all use them. However, if you overuse fillers it can end up distracting the audience and detract from your authority as a speaker.

3. Ending abruptly

I’m not sure whether this is because you want your presentation to be over as quickly as possible or whether you’re not in the habit of wrapping up with a summary and conclusion but to just stop speaking is NOT the way to end a presentation. Subconsciously, the audience feels a disappointment, an anti-climax to your ‘presentation performance’ if you just stop speaking. 

On a more rational rather than emotional note, your audience needs to be reminded of your key points via the summary. They also want and need clarity around any next steps after your presentation. You can provide this in your conclusion. A conclusion is the closing message and should follow on smoothly and logically from your summary.

For more guidance on how to finish your presentation professionally, check out my blog post ‘How to end your presentation like a professional’.

It’s very easy to continue doing what you’ve always done when presenting. But just having some awareness of some typical issues that non-native English speakers have and then taking simple steps to address them, can go a long way to improving your performance and building your self-confidence.


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My mission is to help employees in multinational companies learn the skills and techniques they need to give outstanding presentations in English and receive the visibility and recognition they deserve.

feel confident and engage with your audience Janice Haywood