27/08/2018 – Post by Senior Student Projects Officer Darcy Whitworth

Second Language learning & ICUR 2017

Presenting for the first time at ICUR in 2017 was an extremely rewarding and eye-opening experience where I was exposed to an entirely new form of research communication.

As a Japanese studies student with advanced proficiency in the Japanese language, I was tactically paired in a panel with Kyushu University. Approaching my presentation with the understanding that I would be talking to an international audience, I specifically designed my speech and content to include simple language. This meant I could communicate my message effectively to all members, no matter their level of English language. Moreover, I utilised my language skills to present a short introduction of my topic in Japanese; thus, I was able to foster a sense of inclusion between myself and the Kyushu audience from the very beginning of my presentation.

Overall, my involvement in ICUR 2017 taught me the importance of speaking slowly, using well-known graphics in my slides, body language and eye contact within my presentation. Looking toward the future, I have devised a checklist of ‘must-do’s’ for presenting to an international audience which can be a used by anyone wishing to boost their intercultural competency skills.  

Must do #1: Think of language as a tool to bridge the gap between cultures

Firstly, language plays a vital role in how well the audience can understand the crux of your research and if used correctly, your words can be a powerful tool to bridge the gap between cultures. For this reason, it is essential that you choose your words wisely, and if you know that you will be presenting to an audience whose first language is not English, I would consider simplifying your content. Furthermore, always remember to speak slowly with a measured pitch, so as the audience will be able to easily process information. In this way, you can be sure that everyone will know what you are talking about and that your research message will be effectively conveyed to all.

Must do #2: Body Language is your superpower

Secondly, I cannot stress enough the importance of using body language, gestures and stance when presenting and communicating. This is a skill which is valuable to not only for your ICUR experience, but also in your everyday life as well. I would like to think of you as Superheros, with body language as your superpower which you can use to connect with every member of the audience. Communication with your audience begins before you open your mouth. The audience’s first impression of you is your posture and presentation, so it’s very important to know how to stand, as well as, how to act.

Tips for how to present yourself: (Don’ts)
  • Don’t stand facing your visuals and turning your back to your audience.
  • Don’t stand with your hands in your pockets, with your shoulders slumped forwards. It’s very difficult to convey a strong message through this posture.
  • No hands-on hips; when your hands are on your hips you tend to look too powerful.
  • Lastly, hands clasped in front of your body. While it makes you look somewhat timid or scared it is very bad when you would like to use your hands to gesture from this stance. (“I want to show you something.”)
Tips for how to present yourself: (Do’s)  
  • Stand face on to the people you are talking to with your hands by your sides. Move your hands forward to emphasis main points, with palms up, not down.
  • Gesture toward your body by opening your arms, using both at the same time to demonstrate positive facts.
  • Move your hands down in a ‘chop’ motion, one or both, to deliver strong opinions.
  • Eye contact, look at how your audience members are sitting, are they paying attention or are they zoning out? You can alter your movements and actions to reconnect with the audience. For example; try adding a little bit of humour to your presentation to lighten the mood!

Must do #3: Slide graphics, the simpler the better!

Finally, the content of your slides can dramatically affect how well you are able to communicate your message across cultures. For this reason, I would recommend using simple English, with a minimum of two to three dot-points per slide. For your presentation, you do not want to overwhelm the audience with textual information in your slides, as they will already be working very hard to understand the English within your speech. To ensure effective intercommunication, include well-known graphics and analogies to simplify your main points. This approach can be useful to bridge the gap between multiple nations and reconnect with the audience through common interests. Furthermore, by including well-known ideas and graphics such as images from pop-culture, you can increase the likelihood of the audience understanding the main message of your research; thus, improving their engagement and experience of your presentation.

So, best of luck on your journey into presenting to an intercultural audience! If you take on even a few of these points you will be well ahead of many in the field. Good luck to those of you presenting at ICUR 2018 and enjoy the experience, it’s really special when you are able to connect with an international audience.