I am by no means bilingual when speaking in French. I get by. However, I’ve been asked to present myself and my career at a convention for HR personnel in French. I have to admit, I am very very nervous!
Presenting in English is difficult enough and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone without at least a modicum of skill in another language. Presenting myself and my career is even more difficult (I am never confident singing my own praises, as it were). Then to do it in another language? Well, let’s just say it’s going to be tough.
I’ve prepared my presentation of course. I’m only speaking for 20 minutes, so not so many slides. I’ve also had them checked over by a French colleague, to make sure that the few words on the slides are perfect, at the very least. I’ve also been assured that no-one will expect me to be fluent. Having said all of that, the temptation to put more text on my slides to help me on the day is extreme.
My big worry is the question section afterwards. I’m quite used to the Parisian accent now, and some other accents in France can be quite strong (just like the North of England). No doubt I will be asking people to repeat themselves frequently! So, what can I do?
Knowing who you are presenting to, what their concerns and interests are, is key to preparing content that will deliver. I am of course checking the content with the conference organiser as well as with my colleagues, to make sure that what I am presenting is what the organisers have in mind.
I do not want my presentation to be an unwelcome surprise to the participants, I want to meet my audience’s needs! When a presentation is a surprise, the audience participation can go either way. I want the audience to be engaged and listening. This will happen more readily if they are ready to hear the content.
I will probably try to get to know some of the participants the evening before, even if it is just grabbing a coffee with some of them. If I have a few friendly faces in the audience, it will help. It will also help me to pitch my presentation at the right level on the day.
Step 2: Structure & formatting
Once I knew what I wanted to deliver, I structured it. You might think that this is obvious, but for a non-linear mind like mine, that can easily divert onto another topic, it is vital. I’ve added one or two stories to help engage the audience as well.
I have also made sure that I know the content like the back of my hand so that I can react quickly in case of a problem or a difficult question.
The slides also look great, formatted to my high standards – as this will help boost my confidence!
Step 3: Preparation & practice
Now that the slides are ready, I am going to practice, practice and just in case, practice some more. I always do this anyway, but I will be putting in extra time for this presentation, due to the language.
Unfortunately, I’ve never been to this venue before, but I am arriving the night before, so I will get the opportunity to practice in the room beforehand as well. Overkill? Perhaps. Necessary? Most definitely! Knowing the size of the room, the audio equipment involved etc., will help boost my confidence. If I go in blind, it is just one more thing to worry about.
I’ve also got my favourite, confidence boosting suit and jacket ready. I’ve even got a backup presentation ready on a memory stick – just in case!
Please note that I will not be memorising my speech though. I don’t want to sound rehearsed or like a robot. Instead, I will make sure that I keep to the planned structure and memorise just a few key points.
Step 4: Calm and deep waters
- Deep breaths
- Drink plenty of water
- Smile. If you look confident, people will assume you are. A smile invites the participants to join you in your storytelling.
- Use of Pauses – to ensure I am not talking too fast!)
- Eye contact
- Be aware of my body movements
What do you think? Any other tips and tricks?