I once had a student at a large hi-tech company who told me:
“I can carry a conversation pretty well,
and I think I am fairly Fluent. I read and write perfectly.
But sometimes when I have to present or when I have an important meeting,
I lose my grasp of English, I get stuck, I’m unable to formulate a clear thought and overall I feel pretty lousy about myself”.
(He actually used a harsher word. But I toned it down).
-“How do you prepare yourself for a meeting in English?”
-“I don’t”, he answered.
-“Wait, you don’t approach it any differently than the way you approach your Hebrew meetings?” Said I.
After releasing a dissatisfied grunt I went off for 10 minutes (no breaks) telling him what he absolutely HAS to do if he wants to succeed and improve in English.
You, as a non-native speaker simply CANNOT approach important speaking opportunities the same way you approach them when they’re in your native tongue.
You just can’t.
You don’t want to survive in English. You want to thrive.
(Look at that. A good point AND it rhymes!).
Here is what I told him:
Hey, it’s Hadar. In this video, I’m going to give you 5 important tips that’ll help you prepare and succeed in any important meeting, talk, or interview in English.
Have you ever had a meeting in English where you were afraid to talk? You started a sentence, but didn’t know how to finish it. You felt that you just can’t get your point across or you just kept getting stuck. Now, if you’re a non-native speaker and you work and use English on a daily basis, I’m sure that you answered ‘yes’ to at least one of these questions.
And you know what? That doesn’t mean that your English sucks or that you’re incompetent. It means that you’ve probably been duplicating patterns from the way you conduct yourself in your native tongue, expecting your English to be there for you, like a good old pal. But you know what? English is deceitful. It’s not a loyal friend that is going to be there for you no matter what, especially if you take it for granted.
You have to acknowledge that preparing for a meeting, talk, or interview in English has to be different than the way you prepare for a meeting in your native tongue. For those meetings, you might not even have to prepare. Right? Set yourself up for success, and don’t underestimate the importance of being over prepared, using the 5 following steps.
Before a meeting or interview write bullet points of the things you’d like to address. And afterwards, say them aloud. Always say them out loud. Otherwise, it just doesn’t stick. And you know, then you would know where your pronunciation issues are. Now, even if you think that you’re pretty confident and clear about what you want to say, do it. What have you got to lose? You’ve got a lot more to lose if you don’t do it.
You know, sometimes the meeting doesn’t go as planned. We get annoyed or nervous or get carried away with someone else’s agenda, and we forget. This will help you stay focused and prepared. It’ll help you find the right words in advance, words that may escape your mind in real time. You know how these things work. Even if you don’t stick by every bullet point you write, you still have solid anchors that will help you feel safe and confident. And that automatically affects your confidence and performance.
When you’re tired, hungry, thirsty, or really have to pee, it affects your state of being. These things occupy your brain and take up important space. And you need all the space you can get when communicating not in your native tongue. And when part of your attention is directed towards silly things, it will affect your fluency and eloquence.
And yes, I know it sounds obvious. But think about it. How many of you are so busy that you don’t even have time to rest and sleep and eat well during a stressful week at work? If you have an important meeting or a presentation, make sure that you’re well rested, that you ate something nutritious before and drank a full glass of water. Do whatever it takes and whatever you need to do to feel and be at your best.
Checking your messages, your email, starting a conversation, or going over your stressful task list is not something that is recommended to do before an important meeting or talk. Instead, breathe in and breathe out for 10 times. And if you have the time and ability – meditate for five minutes. It’ll focus you and help you feel present, which will enhance your fluency, word retrieval, and your ability to truly communicate.
Remember that the first few minutes determine your entire experience. Be clear and speak slowly. Start focused, strong and confident, even if it means ‘fake it till you make it’. Be present and engaged. If you’re speaking to a new audience, make sure that you speak slowly to enable them to learn your accent and intonation patterns.
If you start fast because of adrenaline or you just want to get it over with, you may stumble upon your words, get stuck, or get confused. And moving up from there is a lot more difficult. Start slowly and start strong.
In the meeting, don’t wait for a new argument to be perfectly structured in your head before you speak up. People tend to not take part in a conversation not because they don’t have anything important to say, but because they wait until the idea is fully articulated in their heads. And by the time it is, it’s no longer relevant, or the meeting is over.
If that ever happened to you, you know how lame this can make you feel. And it can affect your confidence and even your performance at work. So here’s what I have to say about that. Just open your freaking mouth and speak up. Start talking and trust that the idea will flow out. And if it doesn’t, if it’s not perfect, it will be next time. You need to practice the skill of speaking and finalizing your thoughts on the go. It doesn’t happen unless you try it time after time. It doesn’t happen until you fail and get stuck.
And let me tell you a little secret. If you’re concerned about what other people think of you or that they’re going to think that you’re not fluent or unintelligent, then don’t. Humans are such self-centered creatures that they usually focus on their thoughts and arguments, as other people speak, paying only partial attention to what others say. They’re definitely not looking to see how perfect your argument is, or if you’re using fancy words. So just let your judgmental mind go to rest and allow yourself to explore, make mistakes, and improve.
That’s it, these were my five tips. Now, don’t be too cool for school and say, “Oh, why should I invest in this meeting? It’s not important. Yada, yada, yada. I have tons of those every day.” Fine. But remember: it’s not about the meeting, it’s about you. And maybe the meeting is not important. Maybe you’re not that crazy about that company you’re interviewing for.
But every time you prepare yourself for something you advance yourself and you take your English one step further. You learn new words, you increase your confidence, your fluency, and you improve your self-worth. It’s a step towards achieving the English goals you’ve set for yourself – not for tomorrow, not for tomorrow’s meeting, but for a year from today. And since our lives as professionals are so hectic and busy, it’s those opportunities that you need to take advantage of in order to practice and feel the change.
All right, that’s it. We’re done for today. If you want a PDF with the summary of all those points, go to my website or click on the link below this video and download it to your computer. Do it now, put it on your refrigerator, and rock your next speaking opportunity.
Now tell me, what do you do that helps you get prepared and perform well? Share it with us in the comments below.
Thank you so much for watching. Speak up and kick ass. And I’ll see you in the next meeting… video.
How to prepare in English
Get the 5 steps to succeed in EnglishGet it
Let me know how it goes!