November, 2021


Erika McClane,
English Communication Coach for professionals
Elizabeth Mc Donnell,
English Communication Coach for health professionals
Welcome to our autumn newsletter from us both, Elizabeth and Erika. We hope you have had an enjoyable summer and managed to get some time to relax, get out and about, and enjoy the open air. 

What's new at Professional English Solutions? We are excited to announce the start of our new podcast series, Everyday English with Erika and Elizabeth! In our first podcast, we interview a non-native English speaker and a native speaker and discuss their use of phrasal verbs.

In this edition of our newsletter, we are going to explore the topic of presentations. We will look both at general principles, important no matter what language you are using, and particular challenges that may arise for non-native speakers when giving a presentation in English. 
Everyday English with Erika & Elizabeth

Everyday English with Erika & Elizabeth is the podcast series that explores how native English speakers use the language in everyday settings.
Whether in work or social settings, everyday English can be challenging for non-native English speakers. The English language is full of colloquial terms, phrasal verbs and idiomatic expressions.

Although everyday English is not as formal as professional or academic English, it is used in the workplace. It is important for professionals who are interacting with native speakers to understand such terms.
In this series, Erika McClane and Elizabeth Mc Donnell of Professional English Solutions explore some of the common challenges that learners of English have, and they offer some pointers on understanding everyday English.

Click here to listen to Episode 1: What is Everyday English? What is Everyday English?  In the pilot episode of the series, Erika and Elizabeth explore what we mean by 'everyday English'. 

To do this, they interview two speakers of the language. Nico, a non-native English speaker from China, talks about her experiences in using the language in professional and social settings, including a story of a misunderstanding. 

Elizabeth then speaks with her son, Jarek. They discuss phrases that a native speaker would naturally use when arranging to meet up with a friend. 

Go to Professional English Solutions for more on how you can improve your everyday English.

Presented and written by Erika McClane and Elizabeth Mc Donnell
Production and editing by Jarek Zaba 
Artwork by Danielle Morrison 

Featured Article -- Presentations
Part 1
Purpose, Audience and Visual Aids 

By Elizabeth Mc Donnell

Maybe we should start by specifying what we mean by a 'presentation'. A presentation is the act of presenting something to someone, putting something before someone as a gift or for consideration by another. Thus, a presentation involves at least two people, the giver and the receiver, a key consideration when thinking about presentations. In this article, we are thinking of presentation as a communication between the presenter and the audience.
A presentation is a communication between the presenter and the audience.  
Assuming you have decided that you are going to 'give a presentation', the first question to ask yourself is 'Why?'  What purpose will it serve?  Do you wish to convince your audience of the merits of a product, or inform them of the latest findings from a study, or update them on the latest developments in the company? 
Ask the question: Why should 10, 20 or 100 people wish to sit and listen to me speaking for 45 minutes or more? 
Answer: Because they will know / learn about / be convinced of…..
As soon as you are clear on what you wish to communicate, you will now consider the 'how'. The 'how' includes the words that you will use and also any visual aids that you think will help in communicating your ideas and thoughts. Nowadays, whenever the word 'presentation' is mentioned, 'Powerpoint' often comes to mind, but there are other types of visual aids that may be appropriate, depending on the purpose of your presentation and the audience. So, knowing your audience and choice of visual aids goes hand-in-hand. Powerpoint slides can be very effective if used well and appropriately.
Flip charts and post-it notes can be effective visual aids.
Keep in mind the following:
      A visual aid is just that, an aid to communication, not a set of
notes for the presentator. 
      The audience should always be the focus when deciding on visual
      Visual is the operative word - use images, key words and phrases
      The sequence of visuals tell a story. Your words wrap-around the
visuals, embellish them and bring to life that story. 
Below are two examples of slides on the same subject, Polysemy.
The first example is dense with writing and full of specialized language. It would be difficult for an audience to read the slide and pay attention to the speaker.
Example 1: A dense and ineffective slide 
The second slide contains a few key words, examples and images. The presenter would expand on its content and explain it to the audience. 
Example 2: A slide containing key words, as well as relevant and illustrative examples and images.
The first slide was easy to prepare. I just cut and pasted some text and inserted the source. The second slide took more time, as I had to decide on how to encapsulate the topic into a few key phrases and find the relevant images and examples. 
Now that you have decided on your purpose, storyline and visuals, you will need phrases and terms that signpost - direct your audience and signal where you are in your story and where you are going next. 
Below are sets of phrases useful at different stages of your presentation. 
Phrases to start a presentation. 
      Welcome all. It's lovely to see so many of you here today. 
      Welcome everyone. I'm delighted to be here today. 
      Welcome and thank you for inviting me here to speak today.  
Phrases to introduce yourself. 
      My name is ...  and I am …..
      I´m … and presently I am --
      I am … and my work involves ….
Phrases to introduce the topic of the presentation. 
      Today I would like to talk to you about …
      In my presentation today, I´m going to explore the topic of ..
      Today I am going to tell you about the latest developments in….
Phrases to give an overview of the presentation. 
   First, I am going to tell you about  / To begin I will outline for you / I will
first introduce to you.
  Then I will go on to / After that, I will consider / Next, you will hear about 
   Finally, I will talk about / I will conclude by / To finish off, I will 
Phrases to reference your slides.  
  This first slide shows / In this first slide / As you will notice on this first
   As this slide demonstrates / Here on this slide, you will see that / The
slide highlights the fact that 
  This interesting fact is shown here on this slide / The slide illustrates the
nature of the problem / These two ideas are summarized on this slide 
Phrases to summarize and to conclude.
      So, in summary, I have….
      The main points that I have outlined for you today are as follows…
      That concludes my presentation. I would now like to invite your
In summary, think about 
      The purpose 
      Your audience 
      Level of formality 
      Visual aids 
      Identify your key message
      Open with a summary / overview 
      Pace the information, summarize and reiterate key points at intervals
      End with a clear message 
      Prepare for questions 
Featured Article -- Presentations
Part 2
Giving a Presentation Using
Clear, Natural-sounding English

By Erika McClane 
Now that we have gone over the purpose, audience, and visual aids, I would like to discuss the pronunciation aspects of giving a clear presentation. An excellent method that I would like to recommend is using the Prosody Pyramid system to speak naturally and effectively.
The Prosody Pyramid system is a linguistic tool that Judy Gilbert introduced to the ESL teaching community in 2008. It is made up of four layers.
Native English speakers instinctively use the Prosody Pyramid system when they are speaking and listening, without even knowing what it is.
This is how it works:
Step 1 - Create thought groups. Sentences are made up of phrases and clauses. Each one of these phrases/clauses is one thought group. Look at the following sentence for example, "As you can see on this slide, our sales have been increasing over the past six months." We can break this sentence into three thought groups. As you can see on this slide, / our sales have been increasing / over the past six months.
Step 2 - Take each thought group and find its focus word. This is usually the last content word of the thought group. Examples of content words are main verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, negatives, or question words such as 'what' or 'when'. Let's look at the following example: our sales have been increasing. In this thought group, increasing is the final content word, so it becomes the focus word.
Step 3 - Take the focus word and find the stressed syllable: inCREASing
Step 4 - Take the stressed syllable and find the peak vowel sound. This is the clear, loud vowel sound of the stressed syllable. In this case, it is the long EA sound.

This is how the thought group looks according to the prosody pyramid technique.
At the peak vowel sound, the pitch in your voice is higher and the sound is longer, clearer, and louder. Try it.
When I do presentation coaching, I ask my client to first make an outline of his/her presentation (including the introduction, body, and conclusion). The next step is to actually write out what they want to say in full sentences. Then, I ask my client to break the sentences into thought groups and use the prosody pyramid technique to find the correct stress. Finally, the client practices saying the sentences with clear pronunciation and emphasis. The more practice, the better! In the end, the presenter will not be reading the full sentences from the paper but can have note cards in his/her hand with key points (only!) as a memory aid. That means, the presenter will have memorized most of the sentences with natural-sounding pronunciation before giving the presentation.
Further reading:

Get in touch with Erika and Elizabeth if you would like help with developing and improving your presentation approach and with your use of English in doing so. 
Gain confidence in your English language skills.
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