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Audience

Audience (Photo credit: thinkmedialabs)

If you’re anything like most of my English students, you’re probably constantly looking for new ways to practice your oral English and speak spontaneously.

Giving a presentation can provide that platform to practice. It can also do the following:

  •  it gives the presenting student a good opportunity to practice unaided speaking
  •  it gives the other students good listening practice
  •  it increases the presenting student’s confidence when using English
  •  it can be good practice for the real situation for those students who may actually need to give presentations in English in their professional lives
  •  it is an excellent generator of spontaneous discussion

What is a presentation, anyway?
It is a verbal report presented with illustrative material, such as slides, graphs, etc.  by one person to a group of people introducing and describing a particular subject (for example: a new product, company results or a proposed advertising campaign).

For this article we are considering the use of presentations for speaking practice.

Let’s begin exploring how to prepare an English presentation to an English language class.

1.           CHOICE OF SUBJECT

The first question that goes through any student’s head when presented with this task is ‘What will I talk about?’

If you have anything of interest that you want to share with others such as: hobbies, professional activities, past holidays etc., this can be a starting point.

Sometimes when making a presentation, a student may discover a hidden talent like performing a stand-up comedian routine, or juggling act.

Everyone has an interest or skill that is particular to them and may be of potential interest to others. After having dug a little into your mind, you can record the interests on paper as you narrow down the topic of your proposed presentation.

Only if you are at a complete loss do you need to ask for help from the teacher or a friend. But be imaginative.

2.           TIME LIMIT

It need not be a long presentation, just 5 or 10 minutes, plus questions. Practice reading the presentation with a timer to determine how long it is.

Read it in a normal tone and pace. Pause after each sentence to give yourself time to breathe and most of all relax.

In reality, it is far more difficult to prepare and give a 5-minute presentation than a 20-minute one. In addition, once underway, most students very often overrun on their time.

3.           EQUIPMENT

This will be governed by your environment. The main thing is to use support material and visual aids.

The bare minimum would be a whiteboard or flipchart. If you have an Overhead projector or data show projector so much the better.

Bring in additional materials, for example wall maps or samples or other realia like tools or objects discussed in your presentation, if allowed.

 4.           PREPARATION

 

No doubt, preparation is the key element of any presentation. There is no getting around this one.

Give yourself plenty of time to prepare. It will give you confidence on the day. You can use homework and/or classroom time for preparation. You can ask for help from the teacher to further explain what you need to speak about.

Remember that lack of preparation may lead to failure, and the last thing you want to do in front of class is to present a failure.

5.           THE PRESENTATION

You may wish to read up on the principles of presentations, just to take the edge off of your nervousness.

Depending on your objective, are you giving a ‘presentation’ as an end in itself, or are you using presentations as a means to practice English? In any case, learning the value of preparation and signposting will help.

As a student, you are watching the teacher presenting all the time and probably take for granted the sheer mechanics of presentation and don’t notice the butterflies she may have before her lessons.

Learn from the presenters, and emulate them.

6.           KEYWORDS AND NOTES

Remember that the objective is not to come to class, show everybody the top of your head and read a text.

The objective is speaking, admittedly prepared, but without a text.

Key words, yes! Notes, yes! But no texts, don’t read the presentation, present it.

Again, prepare your notes or keywords.

 7.           QUESTIONS

Presenters usually indicate to their audience when they will answer questions – i.e., during or after the presentation.

It may be best to encourage question-taking after rather than during the presentation.

This will give you more time for uninterrupted, unaided speech and avoid any danger of the presentation itself degenerating into a free-for-all.

A well managed Q&A session at the end of the presentation is of real value. Don’t be afraid of silence! Students need time to think of and formulate questions.

 8.           PEER FEEDBACK

Again, depending on the audience, level and culture, you may wish to invite feedback from other students on your performance.

You can give the audience a prepared feedback form, listing the points to watch out for and comment on. But be very careful, some nationalities will be unwilling to, as they see it, ‘pass judgment on’ their colleagues.

At lower levels, students may be totally deflated by such feedback. In all cases, the audience should be looking for positive points at least as much as for negative ones.

This can be a useful activity, but if in doubt, it’s probably best avoided.

The important point is that this type of verbal practice exercise should have a positive, beneficial result – Improved oral communication.

Most of all have fun doing it.

Presentations will build self confidence and give you a platform to practice speaking English.

Do you like to give presentations in any language?

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Talk talk talk talk talk talk...

Talk talk talk talk talk talk... (Photo credit: THEfunkyman)

‘Talk’ is used to express informal conversation between limited numbers of people.

 

Examples of various ways to use ‘Talk’ include:

to express yourself by speaking – “I want to talk to my people about the changes that are coming.”;

to have a conversation – “She talked about her busy day at the office for over one hour”

to discuss a subject – “ Let’s talk business.”;

to communicate – “They will now talk using sign language.”

speak a particular language – “I will now talk in my native Italian language.”

to reveal information – “The police questioned him but he wouldn’t talk.”;

to gossip or spread rumors – “The neighbors began to talk about the new teacher in town.”;

to make sounds – “When is my baby going to begin to talk?”;

to influence or persuade people – “Money talks, BS walks.”

 

‘Talk’ is often used with the preposition ‘about’ when introducing the subject of conversation, and ‘to’ when introducing the conversational partner.

 

Let’s give them something to talk about.

 

Talk to me like you mean it.

 

Verb Forms: Talk – Talked – Talking

 

Now let’s start talking and stop fighting. War is hell.

 

Are there things you’d like to talk about more on this blog? Give me a holla!

 

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Your ability to make ‘small talk’ is highly valued. In fact, many English students are more interested in making effective small talk than knowing correct grammar structures. Small talk gets friendships started and ‘breaks the ice’ before important business meetings and other events.

What is small talk? Small talk is pleasant conversation about common interests.

Why is small talk difficult for some English learners? First of all, making small talk is not difficult only for English learners, but also for many native speakers. However, small talk can be especially difficult for some learners because making small talk means talking about almost anything – and that means having a large vocabulary that can cover many topics. Most English learners have excellent vocabulary in specific areas, but may have difficulties discussing topics they are unfamiliar with because of a lack of appropriate vocabulary.

This lack of vocabulary leads to some students ‘freezing’. They slow down or stop speaking completely because of a lack of self-confidence.

6 Ways to Improve Small Talk Skills

Making effective small talk takes lots of practice, with these tips you should improve your overall conversational skills.

  1. Do some research — Spend time on the Internet, reading magazines, or watching TV specials about the type of people you are going to meet. For example: If you are taking a class with students from other countries, take time after the first few days of class to do some research about their country. They will appreciate your efforts and your conversations will be much more interesting.
  1. Stay away from religion/strong political beliefs — While you may believe in something very strongly, beginning a conversation and/or making small talk about your own personal convictions may abruptly end a conversation. Keep it neutral. Don’t try to convince the other person that you have the ‘correct’ information about a higher being, political system or other belief system and their ideas are not correct. Respect others’ points of view.
  1. Use the Internet to gain specific vocabulary — This is related to doing research about other people. If you have an important meeting, or are meeting someone who shares a common interest take advantage of the Internet to learn specific vocabulary. Almost all businesses and interest groups have information on the Internet explaining jargon related to their business or activity.
  1. Ask yourself about your culture — Take time to make a list of common interests that are discussed when making small talk in your own culture. You can do this in your own language, but check to make sure that you have the English vocabulary to make small talk about those subjects.
  1. Find common interests — Once you have a subject that interests both of you, stick with it! You can do this in a number of ways: talking about travel, school or friends you have in common. It is a good idea to even discuss differences between your culture and the new culture (just be careful to not make judgments, i.e., “The people in our country are nicer than the people are here in France“).
  1. Listen — This is very important. Don’t get so worried about being able to communicate that you don’t listen to what the speaker is saying. Listening carefully will help you understand and encourage those speaking to you to have patience with you while you are speaking. You might be nervous, but letting others state their opinions will improve the quality of the discussion – and give you time to think of an answer! But don’t spend too much time thinking of an answer that you stop paying attention to the speaker.

Common small talk subjects:

  • Sports – current matches or games, favorite teams, etc.
  • Hobbies – sewing, knitting, painting, reading
  • Weather – boring, but this usually gets the conversation going
  • Family – general questions, not questions about private matters
  • Media – movies, books, magazines, blogs etc.
  • Holidays – where, when, etc. but NOT how much!
  • Home town – where do you come from, how is it different/similar to this town
  • Job –  general questions not too specific
  • Latest fashion and trends
  • Celebrities – any gossip you may have read !

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