DEVELOPING STUDENTS’ PRESENTATION SKILLS IN BUSINESS ENGLISH
Chernihiv National University of Technology
В статье перечислены основные
составляющие успешной презентации на английском языке: подготовка, язык
презентации и язык жестов, а также рассмотрены основные этапы ее подготовки и
проведения, представлены рекомендации по подбору необходимой лексики и
терминологии по теме презентации, составлении письменного плана презентации и
ее структуры (вступительное слово, основная часть, заключение, вопросы),
использовании визуальных средств, а также правильности оформления таблиц и
использования профессиональной и бизнес терминологии.
Ключевые слова: мультимедийная презентация,
аудиовизуальные средства, бизнес терминология.
days many students sign up
for business English courses because they want to improve their ability to give
presentations in English. Although many of them have a lot of experience of giving presentations, it is clear
that it isn't just language training they need. Some actually know very little about how to give a
good presentation. It is also the case that many teachers feel they have not
had enough real experience in the world of business and in giving genuine
presentations themselves, and therefore they do not feel confident when
training individuals in this area. Here I would like to look at what is involved in training students to give
better, more effective presentations in English.
What is involved in communication?
We can divide communication into
three main categories:
1) the words we say; 2) how we say them, 3) body language
All these factors play a vital role when
we communicate, whatever the situation (a business presentation, a job
interview, a first date, etc). However, if we look at how much each factor
contributes to communication, we find the following:
words we say 7%
we say them 38%
As language teachers, we mostly tend
to concern ourselves only with the first two, but it is actually vital that we
look at all three. Let's
examine them in order of importance.
language (non-verbal communication)
Many studies carried out in the
field of communication have demonstrated the power of body language. To show my
students how important it is, they
recommend using a task from
training in Neuro-Linguistic Programming. This is a
powerful activity, so everyone should be careful. It should always be conducted with humour,
but it shows the potential impact body language can have when giving a
Ask a student to choose a topic that
they can speak about comfortably for about one minute (e.g. a hobby, a topical
news story, their favourite soap opera, etc). Tell them they will talk about
this for a minute and they will do it twice.
The first time you listen, act uninterested. Look at your
watch, scratch your head, avoid eye contact and yawn!
The second time you listen, do the opposite: act
Ask how the speaker felt both times.
You will probably find that the
speaker felt quite aggrieved at the negative messages you were sending out
though your body language the first time they spoke. They may even have found
it difficult to continue. The second time, they will undoubtedly have felt much
more comfortable; your positive body language will have made it much easier to
speak and to keep going.
Another idea is to try a gesture
drill. Ask your students to read the following sentences aloud to one another,
paying special attention to using hand gestures and body language to help
convey the meaning:
This is a small investment in your time and money, hut I
hope it will give you a big return in the classroom.
Their manager is extremely tall and weighs 150 kilos! He
has short hair, a scar on his chin and plenty of energy.
Both these activities will help to
raise awareness of how important body language is when we give a presentation,
and should also create a lot of laughter.
How we say the words
Let's turn now to how we say words,
or pronunciation. When training students to give better presentations, we need
to look at the pronunciation of individual sounds, word stress and sentence
An error in an individual sound in a
word can cause misunderstanding. It is always useful to do some minimal pair
work with sounds which cause problems for your particular students in order to
avoid errors such as these:
They are flirting on the
stock market. (instead of floating)
Dr Stroganoff’s popper is on
change management. (paper)
The national walkers' party
is on strike. (workers)
We need to pull our resources. (pool)
As you can see from these examples,
the whole message can change if there is an error in an individual sound.
It is a good idea to familiarise
your students with the phonemic chart. This will allow them to identify which
sounds they find problematic, both in terms of production and recognition.
Knowing the phonemic chart will also help them to check the pronunciation of
new words in a monolingual dictionary.
A few years ago, a student told me
that his boss was a 'very impotent man'. I was naturally
surprised at this news, which suggested to me that he had a very open
relationship with his boss: one in which they could talk about anything! Of
course, what he wanted to say was that his boss was important.
Here, it was a mistake with the word stress that caused the misunderstanding,
rather than an error in an individual sound.
It is particularly vital that
students get the stress right in key business terms which will be central to
any presentation, so you need to train them to look for tendencies and patterns
so they can identify the correct stress in new words they come across.
Students also need to know that
putting the stress on the right word within a sentence can help us put our
message across, but putting it on the wrong word can alter the message
completely. Look at the different ways of saying this sentence and how the
meaning is changed when the words in bold are stressed.
Margaret bought a brand-new red BMW. (not
Margaret bought a brand-new
red BMW. (she didn't steal it)
Margaret bought a brand-new
red BMW. (rather than a used one)
Margaret bought a brand-new red
BMW. (not blue)
Margaret bought a brand-new red BMW.
(not a Ford).
It is useful to tell your students
that the pitch, tone and speed of what we say can also influence our message.
To highlight this, write a number of states, feelings and emotions on the
board, such as: interested, bored, happy, frustrated, hung-over, afraid,
confused, threatening, exhausted. Then ask your students to try to
communicate one of these by simply saying Good afternoon to each other. They
will notice how they have to change their voice to convey these different
Another important technique to train
your students in is 'chunking', as suggested by Mark Powell in Presenting in
English. To do this, record your students reading a text, preferably part
of a presentation if possible.
Then get them to go back through the
text and draw a line where they feel a natural pause should occur. Pauses
should generally occur after a sense group or full meaning phrase, but they can
also be included for impact. Record the students reading the same text a second
time, this time including the pauses. They will notice the overall pace is
slower and much easier to understand from a listener's perspective.
Also, if some kind of pronunciation,
vocabulary or grammar error is made by the speaker, including logical pauses
will allow easier processing for the listeners and will give them time to
'catch up' with what is being said.
The words we say
When looking at the actual language
we need to focus on, I think it is important not to concentrate too much on
grammar. The last thing students need to worry about is whether they should use
the present perfect or the past simple in the middle of a presentation. Perfect
grammar is not the key to successful communication, or to giving an effective
Instead, I focus on two main areas
which students struggle with when preparing to give a presentation in English.
These are signposting, and the language of graphs and charts.
The language of graphs and charts
Many students come to class with
only two words to describe charts and graphs: increase and decrease. They
should be explained that these can be used as verbs and nouns (with a change of
stress), and then introduced
some adverbs and adjectives to accompany them, such as sharp/sharply,
slight/slightly, dramatic/dramatically, gradual/gradually.
Students can also be asked to match
phrases to different points on a graph. This activity is really useful for
Points to remember
The question and answer session
This part of the presentation
strikes fear into the heart of many students as they need to interact with the
Remind them that there are basically
four types of questions:
good questions, difficult
questions, unnecessary questions, irrelevant questions.
Arm your students with some fixed responses
to these different types of questions. Here are some examples suggested by Mark
I think that raises a different
Interesting! What do you think?
I think I answered that earlier.
Ask the students to match the
responses to the particular type of questions you can then practise with some
real questions of your own.
Here is some advice to give to
students on using visual aids, particularly PowerPoint slides:
Keep the information on each slide
to a minimum! The 7/7 rule is useful here: a maximum of seven words on seven
When you want the attention turned
back to you, get rid of your visual aid. By pressing the H-'key on the
keyboard, your PowerPoint presentation will go to a blank white screen (press B
and it will go black). All eyes will then be on you.
Talk to your audience, not your
visual aid. Also, when presenting in English, try to stand on the right of the
screen. English is read from left to right, so after your audience has read
each point, their focus will naturally return to you.
It is vital that presenters adapt
their presentations to the audience. Different companies, countries and
cultures approach business in different ways, so we need to be aware of how
these differences impact business interaction and draw this to the attention of
our students. The more aware business people are, the more successful their
meetings, presentations or negotiations will be.
So, as we can see there is much more
involved in training students to give better presentations than just teaching
them language. As teachers
who have only known ELT as a career, we can sympathise with those ETT
professionals who do not come from a business background, but are often called
upon to teach those who are. The ideas presented here can be taken into the
classroom the next time the needs analysis comes up with presentations as a
1. Celce, Murcia, Marianne. 2011. An article by John, Ann
M. English for Specific Purposes: Tailoring Courses to the Outside Business
World. Thomson Learning Inc.
2. Frendo, Evan. 2010. How To
Teach Business English. Pearson Education Limited.
3. Hubbard, Routh Shagoury. 2009. The Art of Business English Classroom
Inquiry. A handbook for Teacher Researchers. Heinneman.
Leo. 2010. New International Business English. Cambridge University