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With a single speech today, I can reach millions of people. An enormous potential for those who have something to say, who can present authentically and with a certain competence.

Chris Anderson, curator of the TED Talks, names the number of over 1 000 speakers who have already succeeded in doing so by 2016. The 25 most popular TED Talks alone generate a reach of 16 to 56 million clicks each. On YouTube, TED and TEDx Talks now have 30 million subscribers with 4.4 billion clicks.

 

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Do you present your project in English for an international audience? Do you adapt your presentations to people with different cultural backgrounds? Are you ready to take the next step delivering even more professional speeches? Here are some highlights on how you will succeed with your presentation.

 

Connect with your audience

The German way of thinking is said to be very precise. In short, their highly functional language can be traced back to numerous wars and subsequent reconstruction efforts. UN interpreter and author Susanne Kilian attributes this to Germany’s central geographic location in Europe. In fact, many German presenters introduce technical concepts full of details while also including numerous technical terms.

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Sarah and Simon met at a science conference. Sarah works as a research assistant at the Chair of Migration and Intercultural Communication, Simon is a PhD student. Both meet again two weeks after the conference: Sarah supports Simon in preparing his presentation for the next conference. They discuss the draft and Simon rehearses his presentation. He starts with the sentence “Dear Ladies and Gentlemen…”

 

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Sarah’s presentation was easily understandable and entertaining. In the discussion she gained new ideas and insights. At the coffee break she is approached by other people who want to learn more about her project. Simon is a PhD student at the symposium and listened to the presentation with interest. He wants to know how Sarah prepared her successful speech.

 

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A promising recipe for high-quality presentations is the proper language style: Use plain language! Speak in a way so that you are understood immediately and easily. Allow no space for average presentations.

You can skip the obvious at the beginning like in the following speech excerpt confidently: “Good day, dear audience. It is great that so many of you have appeared. My name is Wolfgang Schneider. I will first provide an overview of the research area, then I will present the methods before I move on to the actual results of our project. For the sake of completeness, I will list the literature sources on my last slide…”

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An expert on your subject, you have registered for an international conference. After weeks of waiting you are reading the message in your mailbox: Your presentation fits well into the program and will be accepted for the conference. Congratulations!

Presenting in your first language is comparatively easy for you. You know your way around the topic anyway. These questions may pop up in your mind when you are accepted to deliver a speech in a foreign language:

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Do you act confidently in the event of unplanned interruptions and disruptions? You can influence a lot with your personal attitude. As a speaker you are most likely sensitive to any kind of disruption. Can you differentiate between trivial disturbances and those where you need to intervene? With a portion of serenity and good preparation you will act with confidence. And with an entertaining, interesting lecture you will have the audience on your side: They will follow you attentively and can hardly be distracted. In the latter event, it does not have to be your fault: You cannot know in advance whether a listener is ill, mentally worried about her private situation or has another important appointment. As long as there are only individual participants who do not disturb your presentation any further, you can neglect them.

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Cultural development is driven by factors such as language, climate and environment. For instance, how we communicate can be seen in the climate in which we live. In cold climate conditions, we keep our conversation to a minimum – it is rather short and purposeful, and we sometimes seem to be buttoned up.

 

Presentation and language style

The fact that small talk is rather a luxury under adverse climatic conditions can also be seen in the language style: we keep it short, words do not have as many nuances and are clearly and unambiguously defined. In German, many words end in consonants or silent vowels. This language is not as melodic as Spanish, French or Italian because of the less pronounced high and low tones. In these countries, vocabulary and vocal melody are much more variable than in Germany or Scandinavia. Accordingly, body language is much more pronounced under warm Mediterranean climatic conditions.

These differences also affect presentation style: Some words are given more weight, often accompanied by facts and figures – the factual level has priority. As speakers we appear focused and compelling in terms of content, speaking a rather plain language: statements are taken literally, content is more important than the overall picture. The language style is direct and detailed, facial expressions and gestures are less important.

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Here is THE tip for all presentations you will give in the future: Dare to prepare – each of your speeches, again and again!

Of course, every speech should be prepared so well that you can deliver it in a convincing way. Every single speech is unique and cannot be compared to any previous presentation. Also consider your target group: your audience…

  • is not comparable
  • has its very own expectations
  • often brings with them very different levels of expertise.

 

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