Adjust your speech for an audience of non-native speakers

Adjust your speech for non-native speakers

This is a guest post by Dot Lyon.

Creating an outstanding presentation is hard enough as it is, but when you present to a group of non-native speakers, you face additional challenges.

The key to engaging your audience of non-native speakers is to point out the issues up front. Demonstrate your compassion by telling listeners that you understand that there is a bit of a language barrier but that you will do everything you can to ensure that they understand your message. Create an additional bond by revealing your enthusiasm for sharing the information. Also use these strategies:

  • Prepare a PowerPoint or other tool that gives the audience a chance to read the key points of your message as you are talking. Include more text on your slides than you normally would. Typically, experts discourage using a lot of text, but that will allow the audience to read the main points of your speech if they have trouble understanding you.
  • Present evidence with graphs, flowcharts, time lines and images instead of bullet points. Images like those leave less opportunity for comprehension issues. If you’re having trouble conveying your message verbally, visuals like those clarify your points for the audience.
  • Pause longer. Add more time between sentences to give your audience the opportunity to translate your meaning.
  • Rephrase buzz words and clichés right after you say them. Example: After saying “That’s the $64,000 question,” add “In other words, I don’t know the answer.” Better yet: If the phrases aren’t critical to your message, leave them out altogether. It’s best to avoid jargon and slang if you can.

What methods have you used to help non-native speakers better understand your presentations?

About the author: Dot Lyon is a freelance writer for organizations including Briefings Media Group. She previously wrote and edited for the Center for Chemistry Education at Miami University.

[Image Source: Steve Jurvetson]


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