I’m worried about making mistakes in English grammar or pronunciation during my presentation.

If you are a non-native speaker of English, you can still give a good spoken presentation, even if you make several mistakes in grammar and pronunciation. This is because written English and spoken English are not the same. Most native speakers of English use some ‘incorrect’ grammar when speaking. The most important thing is that you make your meaning clear to the audience.

Here are some strategies to try:

  • Clarify your points, by repeating them in different words: e.g. “The data was classified according to gender. So we analysed the results for men and women separately.”
  • Use written language for important key words, e.g. on Powerpoint slides.
  • Use other visual support to clarify what you are talking about, e.g. pictures, tables, diagrams.
  • Use gestures to strengthen your meaning: e.g. while you are talking about classifying data according to gender, move your hands to show the data in the middle being moved into two separate groups for men and women, to the left and right.
  • Make a list of the most important technical terms for your presentation, and practice their pronunciation beforehand.
  • Make sure that at the end of your introduction you tell the audience what the main parts of your talk will be: e.g. “I will first briefly mention the method of analysis and where the data was taken from, and then give you some of the most interesting results so far. We have found some quite different outcomes to what has been discussed in the research literature, so I will then finish by talking about what this might mean for the theory. So now, our method of analysis was…”
  • You should not worry about your grammar while you are speaking. However, it is important to make sure that the grammar, spelling and meaning are correct in all the written parts of your presentation (e.g. Powerpoint slides, hand-outs, diagrams, tables, reference list). Ask someone to proofread these for you beforehand and correct any mistakes.
  • Attend a practice workshop on oral presentations at the Learning Centre (see the workshop links on the right of this page) or join a public speaking club outside of uni, like Toastmasters, to build your confidence in spoken English.

For more on this topic, see the links on the right...