Tips for Teachers: How to help students deliver effective meetings and presentations in English 

Are your students asking for advice on how to get their point across in meetings? Are they scared of presentations, and unsure how to handle them? Barry Tomalin, the author of Collins Key Business Skills, reveals his coaching secrets below.  

The Director of Cultural Training at IH London, Barry Tomalin is a specialist in international communication, business culture and cross-cultural training. He is also a world-recognised writer, trainer, public speaker and management consultant. You can find more about Barry and his work at www.culture-training.com.

This is the second post in a series of posts for Business English teachers Barry has kindly contributed. Barry’s first post was about the Four Key Business Skills. Keep on watching this space for more!

 

BUSINESS SKILLS AND BUSINESS ENGLISH

Barry Tomalin MA

Our European executives have a problem. They work in international companies and are part of virtual distributed teams stretched all over the world. People I know report to senior managers or have reports based in India, Mexico, the UK, the US, Brazil, Egypt and Singapore.  And they never meet.  Restricted travel budgets and security mean that all communication is by email and telephone conferencing, the ‘conf. call’. Even video-conferencing is rare. There are not enough video-conference studios and not all sites are equipped for videoconferencing.

Everything takes place in English. That is, ultimately, why we are employed. However, English language skills alone are not enough. Our business executive students at CEFR B1 or B2 level are dealing with native or near-native speakers with very different accents in very different countries.

They don’t know the people. They don’t know the country. They don’t know the market. And they don’t understand the accents. So how do you improve productivity and performance in that virtual environment?

Part of the answer is confidence and that comes from learning the same techniques we use in English speaking presentations:

  • Keep it concise.
  • Keep it structured. (Use frameworks.)
  • Use stock phrases. (What the French call ‘automatismes’.)

What does it mean?

KEEP IT CONCISE

Short sentences. Keep the communication clear and simple. ‘Talk like Hemingway’, I often say.  The way to keep things concise is to think of everything you say as a product. A product may be a can of Coke. Think of your sentence as a can of Coke – a definite message, package and presentation.

KEEP IT STRUCTURED

Use a structure in presentations and meetings. If you have a clear structure, it frees you to focus on your content. I worked as a BBC broadcaster and producer for 20 years. Have a structure and then be flexible within that. Remember the lights will go off after 30 minutes or whatever. Have a structure that will deliver in that time.

USE STOCK PHRASES

These are the common phrases everyone uses. If you say, ‘If you would have a questions I would try to answer it after finish my presentation’, we’re all thinking, ‘What kind of a speaker is this?’ However, if you learn the stock phrase, ‘If you have any questions I’ll be happy to answer them at the end,’ everyone’s used to it. They may not even listen but they’ll all get the message: ‘Shut up till I’ve finished!’  Stock phrases free you to focus on what really matters – what you want to say.

HOW TO MAKE A PRESENTATION

I follow Winston Churchill’s advice. ‘Tell them what you’re going to say. Tell them you’re saying it. Tell them you’ve said it.’ On the basis of this we offer a framework, called the 3S Structure, which provides a simple way of organising and delivering a presentation from 3 minutes to over an hour.

As we teach this framework, we can attach to it typical stock phrases that are used in English. Once again, if participants master these they can use them automatically and have time to focus on content – what they want to say.

The 3S STRUCTURE

The three S’s are simple to understand. They are: 

S1 SIGNPOST

S2 SIGNAL

S3 SUMMARISE

S1 SIGNPOST provides the roadmap. S2 SIGNAL tells you where you are in the presentation. S3 SUMMARISE tells you what you’ve learned and explains why it’s important.

Each stage of the 3S Structure has a series of steps. Here they are, with the kind of language I’d expect native speakers to use.

S1 STRUCTURE

  • Introduction                                       Hello, I’m … Thank you for coming.
  • Title                                                     I’m going to talk about …
  • Duration                                             The presentation will last 3 minutes.
  • Main points                                        I’m going to make three main points. 1…, 2…, 3…
  • Questions                                          If you have any questions please feel free to interrupt.
  •                                                              Or: If you have any questions I’ll be happy to answer them at the end.

The important thing is not to miss out any of the steps. Having done this you can move on to S2 SIGNPOST.

S2 SIGNPOST

  • First point                                            My first point is …
  • End first point                                     That’s my first point.
  • Transition to second point               (A sentence or phrase summarising the point).
  • Second point                                      My second point is …
  • End second point                              That’s my second point.
  • Transition to third point                    (A sentence or phrase summarising the point).
  • Third point                                          Moving on to my third point …
  • End of third point                               That’s my third point.

The importance of S2 SIGNPOST is that the audience often loses track of where the speaker is in the presentation. This happens with both native and non-native speakers of English. The use of these devices makes your progression clear.

S3 SUMMARISE

  • Summary                            To sum up, I have made three points. (Use the transition phrases here.)
  • Conclusion                         In conclusion, it’s important to recognise …
  • Thank you                           Thank you very much.
  • Questions                           If you have any questions, I’ll be delighted to answer them.
  •                                               Or:  Any questions?

You’d be amazed how many people forget to say ‘Thank you’ at the end of a presentation. It’s the best way of saying ‘I’ve finished! You can applaud now!’

You can change the language, of course, and you may find some of the language I’ve suggested a bit clichéd, but the formula does work.

OUTCOMES

An increase in confidence is the main outcome of the 3S Structure. Executives, especially at B1 and B2 level, feel much happier about giving presentations face-to-face or in ‘conf. calls’.

Even C1 executives find it valuable as a reminder. One executive even taught it to his son and reported back he got straight As in his English language course. Try it, then change it, if you want to. It will work for you.

 

 

© COPYRIGHT BARRY TOMALIN 2012 (www.culture-training.com)