Boost up your speech skills



16.1. Listening Development

Assignment. Listen to the recording to Unit 16 looking at the language of presentations. Business English expert David Evans reassures listeners claiming that presentations don’t have to be such a huge ordeal if the presenter is properly prepared. Do the tasks below.

1. Two examples of the beginning of presentations are given. Say what they have in common.

2. That is a typical pattern to begin a presentation. Listen to the first two examples again and put down the exact wording at each stage.

The purpose of today’s presentation is… Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen… I’ve invited you today to have a look at my findings… I’d be very happy to invite you to ask questions at the end of the session and I’m sure there’ll be plenty of time for us to discuss… Ladies and Gentlemen…
I hope my presentation isn’t going to take long and that you will find it interesting… At the end I’d be happy to answer any of your questions… Let me begin by explaining that I’d like to talk about ...; Secondly, I want to cover …and, finally, I would like to finish off by… Thank you for finding the time to come and join me for this presentation… First, I’d like to have a look at…; then…..; and thirdly …
My name is..; I’m a …(position)..; Many of you have seen me shadowing you in your jobs.. Thank you very much for coming along here today..
Standard stagesPresentation 1Presentation 2
Saying thanks for coming
Stating the purpose of the presentation
Giving the outline of the presentation
Inviting questions from the audience
3. The body of a presentation is its main part.

4. Presenters resort to visual aids to illustrate their points.

Presentation 1

, you can see that our sales topped 50 million the year before last. Then last year sales dropped to 40 million with a slight recovery at the end of the financial year. However this year sales have continued to drop to an all time low of 30 million. Now, let’s As you can see we have 25% of the market share, 10% down on last year.”

Presentation 2

how important internal communications are, is shown by some findings from research that we have recently undertaken. Good communications is a very key factor in staff motivation. , you will see how important it is to get the basics in place. You need to identify your communication requirement, agree your objectives and success criteria, identify your target audiences, define the content of your message, and determine the style of delivery. the communication process is when all those basics fall into place naturally.

6. How do presentations typically end?
7. How did Tim signal that it was question time?
8. What did Tim say handing the questions to make those who asked them feel valued and wanted?

16.2. Vocabulary Enrichment

Assignment 1. What are the purposes of these expressions? Which of them are synonymous? Which of them are used when showing visuals (charts, graphs, diagrams, etc.)

  1. I'd like us to focus our attention on ...
  2. What is interesting/important here is ...
  3. I'm sure the implications are clear to all of us ...
  4. The figures in this table show ...
  5. It is important to notice that ...
  6. The take-home message here is ...
  7. We can conclude that ...
  8. This chart compares ...
  9. I'd like you to think about ...
  10. If you look at the top right-hand corner ...
  11. The lesson we can learn from this is ...
  12. The blue dotted line represents ...
  13. The top half shows ...
  14. Now, I'll show you ...
  15. Let's move on now and look at the figures for ...
  16. The significance of this is ...
  17. I would like you to concentrate on this green column ...
  18. The next overhead shows ...
  19. As we can see ...
  20. The vertical axis represents ...

Assignment 2. Put the following phrases from a presentation in the right order.

  • I’d like us to focus our attention on two things on this chart.
  • OK, let’s get started. Can everybody see?
  • Right, that brings me to the end of my presentation.
  • Right, let’s begin with the first slide.
  • I’ll come back to this in a moment.
  • Now, do you have any questions?
  • This leads me to my third point, which is …
  • Just to summarize the main points again before I finish.

Assignment 3. Fill in the gaps with the prepositions.

  1. Take a look this picture. What does it tell you our company?

  2. I've divided my talk four main parts.

  3. Right, let's begin the first slide.

  4. Let's move the second point.

  5. This leads me my third main point.

  6. I'll come this in a moment. ('on' is possible in #6, but isn't the answer here.)

  7. My own view this is simple. (‘of’ is possible in #7, but isn't the answer here)

  8. I think there are three questions to focus .

  9. As you can see this next slide, ... I ('in' is possible in #9, but isn't the answer here.)

  10. So, conclusion, I hope that my talk has given you a good overview our company.

  11. Thank you all coming.

  12. Here's my email address case you want to get touch.

Assignment 4. Complete the sentences with the pairs of words.

anyone /comments brings / end digress / moment examine / detail explain / again
explain / concrete highlight / diagram question / opinion scope / afterwards time / question
useful / background start / introducing
1. Let me ...... by ...... myself.
2. Just to ...... for a .......
3. It might be ...... to give a little ...... here.
4. Let's ...... this in more .......
5. Let me ...... with a ...... example.
6. I'd like to ...... two things on this .......
7. Does ...... have any ......?
8. Right, that ...... me nearly to the ...... of my presentation.
9. Sorry, can you ...... that ...... ?
10. That's an interesting ....... What's your own ......?
11. I think that's outside the ...... of this presentation, but I'm happy to discuss it with you .......
12. OK, I think there's ...... for one last .......

Assignment 5. Select the correct words in this extract from an internal presentation.

This next chart shows sales for our two main product lines, the Micro range and the Neka range. the scale on the vertical .

It shows the number of sold in thousands per month.

I'd like to your attention firstly to the black line, which shows sales of the Micro range. You can see how last year sales all through the year. Since the beginning of this year they to rise, of at a slower pace.

On balance, these results are good – is what we like to see. This generally positive picture is the performance and reliability of the Micro range, and the fact that our competitors have been slow to respond. , we cannot be complacent. We have to build on this success going forward, and I want our sales teams to really focus the Micro range the next few months.

I'm going to set an ambitious target – to take sales of Micro products from their current level of 30,000 per month a of 35,000 by the end of the year.

OK, now let's the purple line on the chart, which shows sales of the Neka range. As you know, we launched this range in December of last year, and sales immediately. For the first few months things . We were expecting this because we a lot of market research before the launch. , for no obvious reason, there a in sales in recent weeks. The question is this: can we find out the and what can we do it?

In a moment I'm going to open up the discussion and ask for your . But the implications are clear: it's that we won't meet our target of 25,000 the end of the year.

Assignment 6. The language of trends is used to describe movements in financial indicators (e.g., profits or costs), sales and marketing indicators( e.g., sales and market shares), and economic indicators (e.g., interest rates and unemployment, etc.) Draw charts next to explain these group of words.

  1. Movement up and down: go up, increase, rise, go down, decrease, fall.
  2. Smaller movement up and down: edge up, edge down, dip.
  3. Stability and instability: stay the same, be flat, fluctuate, vary, move within a range.
  4. Larger movement up and down: double, take off, boom, increase tenfold, halve, plunge, crash.
  5. High points and low turning points: peak, reach a peak, hit a low.
  6. Individual points on a graph: stand at, be above, be below.
  7. Change in size: grow, expand, shrink, contract.
  8. Good / bad: improve, get better, recover, deteriorate, get worse (mind the difference in showing how sales improved, and how inflation improved).
  9. Speed: quickly, rapidly, gradually, steadily, slowly.
  10. Amount: considerably, significantly, moderately, to some extent slightly, marginally.

Assignment 7. Translate into English

  1. Sales (оставались) at €1.2m.

  2. Sales (выросли) by €0.2m that is by 25%

  3. Sales (поднялись с) €2.2 to €1.4m.

  4. There was an (рост) in sales of €0.2mю

  5. Things were easier in the company a few years ago, while profits (возрастали).

  6. Before the CEO resigned profits (уже упали) by 20% in a year.

  7. Prices (поднялись) lately because of higher materials costs.

  8. Our competitors (столкнутся с) the same problems as us.

  9. Sales rose (на) 2% last quarter.

  10. Profits have plunged (значительно) this year.

  11. Inflation (ухудшается) at the moment.

  12. I'm sure it's (достигнет своей низшей точки) next month.

16.3. Reading Improvement

Assignment 1. In her blog Olivia Mitchell explores what audience members remember from three keynote presentation at a conference. Read through her survey and say how you understand the underlined words without looking them up in the dictionary.


Nigel Holmes

Nigel Holmes is a phenomenal graphic artist who used to be Art Director for Time magazine. His presentation didn’t start well – there were a few technical hitches and it took him some time to hit his stride, and even then he wasn’t a hugely energetic speaker. When I asked people about Nigel’s presentation, they often mentioned the slow start, but then they went onto say that they loved what he showed us, and enjoyed his quirky brilliant mind. Every person I talked to had a different take on what was the point of Nigel’s presentation, depending on what had most relevance to them.

Carmen Taran

Words such as sparkling and scintillating were created to describe speakers like Carmen. Everybody I spoke to loved her as a speaker. One person said “I don’t care what she talks about, I’ll listen to her”. They often mentioned what she was wearing – a gorgeous cream and gold jacket over cream trousers. Then they mentioned her slides – how polished and beautiful they were. I had to prompt people as to what they remembered from her presentation. As with Nigel’s speech, everybody gave me a slightly different answer.

Garr Reynolds

Garr presented to us via Skype. Audience members were immediately able to say to me that Garr’s message was “Be like bamboo”. And they knew what the metaphor meant – be flexible and adaptable like bamboo. Garr made 10 points elaborating on this bamboo metaphor. When I prompted people to recall those 10 points, most people could recall only one or two.

Garr’s bamboo metaphor also elicited some strong reactions. I was talking to two women and one said to me “We’re adding a room to our house and the floor is bamboo. I felt so pleased that we’d chosen bamboo – it’s strong but flexible.” Then the other woman erupted: ‘I hate bamboo. Our neighbor has a forest of bamboo and it keeps sprouting up on our lawn. We just can’t get rid of it. I hate bamboo!” Neither of these two women could remember any of Garr’s points.

My take-aways

  1. You don’t have a second chance to make a good first impression, but the cleverness of that saying has eclipsed the broader truth – that you have many chances to correct that first impression. Your presentation is not ruined if you make a bad start.
  2. Your message, your slides and your delivery need to be balanced. You don’t want your presentation to be like a movie where people only remember the awesome special effects. Your slides and delivery are there to serve the message.
  3. If you don’t present a clear overarching message, your audience will choose (sometimes randomly and unconsciously) the message they take out from the presentation or they may not get any message at all. For most types of presentations, I believe it should be you, the speaker, who decides what the overarching message is. I’ve said “most types of presentation” because I can see that it could be a valid approach to give a speech from which each person takes a different message – depending on what is most important to them.
  4. When you choose a metaphor as your overarching theme, beware of the baggage your metaphor may carry. It might be necessary to acknowledge possible preconceptions at the beginning of your presentation so that your audience can put their reactions to one side and focus on your message.
  5. If you cover many points of equal importance and at the same hierarchical level, your audience will have difficulty remembering them all.

Check the meaning of the underlined words in the dictionary to see how close you were to understanding them. Think about what helped you understand their meaning without knowing the words themselves.

Assignment 2. Read the text below and summarize the ideas expressed in t in 5 sentences.


A lot of us teach presentation skills. And a lot of us give presentations or watch other people giving them. We all have opinions about what makes a good or bad presentation.

I was watching someone teach presentation skills the other day. And I watched as they ground out the “rules” of a good presentation. You know the sort of thing: only use a font size of 24, only use a maximum of three bullet points, seven words per line, use pictures as much as possible, tell stories, and so on.

One of the rules this person trotted out was the old myth about how words only account for around 7% of the message, and how tone of voice and body language accounts for 93%. The research carried out by Albert Mehrabian, which is probably where these figures originally came from, never made general claims like this, but was looking at specific contexts.In fact, there has even been a campaign over recent years to try and rid the world of this particular myth – see this post on Olivia Mitchell’s excellent blog, for example.

The way I see it, a good presentation doesn’t depend on these sorts of things, but on whether or not the presenter gets his or her message over to the audience. And there are lots of different ways this can be done successfully – it depends totally on the situation, the presenter’s personality, the audience and so on. Font size depends on equipment available in the room, not on a “rule”. Pictures and beautifully designed slides are great, but most of the people I work with have to operate within the confines of corporate design, and don’t have the time or resources to prepare works of art. Anecdotes are appropriate for some audiences, but can be disastrous for others. Tone of voice and body language are important, but engineers trying to understand the intricacies of a new widget are probably focussed on the content, not the speaker.

For me the nail in the coffin came after the session, when the trainer said to me: “These people are so boring. And their content is so boring. That’s the problem with working with geeks.” But she had ignored what I think is the fundamental issue – her learners were dealing with content aimed at a particular community of practice, and not at providing an interesting talk for the trainer.

I guess it all comes back to needs analysis again, which is at the heart of ESP and business English training. One size does not fit all.

Assignment 3. Fill in the gaps with the following headlines from the article on how to make your body language in public speaking more expressive.


A. Vary your gestures B. Empty your hands C. Keep your hands free D. Move your feet E. Talk to one person at a time

The secret to curing boring body language in public speaking is to replicate the state you’re in when you’re in an animated one-on-one conversation. When you’re in that state your gestures unconsciously complement what you’re saying and give your message energy and persuasive power. You’ll look and feel more confident. And there’s even evidence that natural gesturing makes you more fluent. Here’s what to do to develop natural, expressive body language when you’re speaking. Follow these five steps and you’ll develop natural body language that will add energy, engagement and persuasive power to your presentations.

1. ...

Put down anything you’re holding, whether it be a pen, the remote or your notes (once you’re gesturing naturally you can hold your notes or the remote, but for the moment they just make the task of freeing up your gestures more difficult).

2. ...

Holding your hands together, putting them in your pockets, or hanging onto the lectern will stop you gesturing.

So where should you put your hands? For the moment just let them hang loosely at your sides (this is a default position – this is not where your hands will stay). I know that this feels awkward. You probably feel a bit like a gorilla! But have a look at the photo to the right… do most of these global leaders look like gorillas? No. The only one who looks awkward is the one who doesn’t have his arms hanging loosely at his sides!

Your hands will probably creep together without you noticing. When that happens, immediately separate them again.

OK. We’ve got rid of the barriers to expressive body language. Now what?

3. ...

When you’re in a one-on-one animated conversation, your hands naturally gesture. So kick-start your hands into gesturing by replicating that animated state. Do this by looking at one person and feeling in that moment that you’re just talking to them – and to no-one else. At the end of a phrase or short sentence, talk to someone else in the audience. But always be talking to someone).

4. ...

To enlarge your body language, move your feet. You could for example, move towards the person you’re talking to. The larger body movement will free up your body and will encourage you to make larger gestures.

5. ...

Once you’ve opened up your body language, check that you’re not making repetitive gestures. Either ask someone to give you feedback, or video yourself. In my early public speaking days, I watched back a video and saw that my most common gesture was moving my right arm from the elbow outwards – like I was constantly opening and closing a door. Once I was aware of it, I caught myself doing it and was able to change what I was doing.

Remove distracting and repetitive gestures but don’t try and choreograph what you’re saying with specific gestures. It will look forced and unnatural.

16.4. Writing Enhancement

Assignment. To design your presentation, write down your ideas for each component below. If useful you can further develop the body of your presentation choosing one of the topic below.

  • Your company going public
  • Diversification of your company’s activity
  • Buying an airline
  • Buying a hotel
  • Restructuring
  • Taking over your competitor
  • Merging with your competitor

Presentation Scheme

Attention getter A way to lead the audience to the need efficiency
Need A difference between actual and desired situations
Task What I decided/was asked to do to address the need
Main message The one sentence I want my audience to remember
Preview A map of the body (ideally three points, max five)
Point 1 1
Transition 2
Point 2 3
Transition 4
... 5
Review A recap of the body, leading into the conclusion
Conclusion What the above mean to the audience in the end
Close A way to end the presentation clearly and elegantly

16.5. Speaking Reinforcement

Assignment. Get ready to make your presentations. Use the Active Vocabulary section to organise it and make it smooth for listeners. Be prepared to give feedback to your groupmates on how effective their presentations were, say if there is space for improvement.