10 Top Tips for Presentations: EAP vs. BE

Under the umbrella of English for Specific Purposes you will find Business English and Academic English. In both contexts, students are asked to give presentations. Have you ever wondered if there is a difference between presentation skills for English for Academic Purposes and Business English? If you teach in both contexts, should you emphasize the same things? In this blog post you will find 10 top tips to give your students when presenting in an academic or a Business English context. Two teachers collaborate. I will give you my top 10 tips for presentation skills (EAP), and Philip Saxon will give his top 10 (BE). Will our tips overlap? Let’s see. What do we tell our students?

English for academic purposes

Often in university students give presentations about their research. This is the advice I give to students who are preparing to give a presentation in an academic context.

1). Your presentation is about your research. You know it better than anyone else, so do not panic.

2). Pay attention to your slides. They are the tool you will use to help you present. Avoid using too many animations and be careful of the pictures you use. Do not have wordy slides.

3). Follow the structure of a presentation. Have an overview, an introduction slide or background information slide, the main part of your presentation, a conclusion, references and a thank you/questions slide.

4). Cite your sources on your slides. Plagiarism is an academic offence and it extends to presentation skills as well! Don’t forget to have a reference slide.

5). Pay attention to your voice, rhythm and pace. Your voice is the way you will attract and engage your audience.

6). Jokes are great, but in EAP they are not the best way to start a presentation. If you want to be more dynamic, interesting, and engaging, as I said earlier, pay attention to your subject, your voice, and ask rhetorical questions. In EAP, there is no need to be ”haha” funny.

7). Use signposting language. You need to guide your audience through your presentation. You can use words like:

Let’s move on to the next slide/ moving on to the next slide/ moving on/ at this point we will discuss…

8).Whilst your slides should not be too wordy, you still have to be able to elaborate on your ideas and research. The information shared on your slides is not enough to give the depths/parameters of your research. You need to be able to do this yourself, orally.

9) Think of your audience and what type of presentation this is. Do all the people in the audience know the specifics of your subject or are they from a more general background? If your audience is of a more general background, then you may need to clarify some key terms/definitions/topic.

10). Plan and practise. Once you have finished practising, practise more.

 So, having seen EAP presentation skills, let’s move on to Business English. Does context actually affect the teaching of presentation skills?

Business English presentation skills

In business, people very often give presentations about the launching of a new product, sales,  annual company goals and so on. What skills/techniques and strategies are important in a business presentation? It’s time to look at what advice Philip Saxon gives his Business English students.

1) Be interesting! Have something you want to share with the audience as a gift. If it matters to you, it may well matter to them.

2) Be clear whether your presentation is a talk or a workshop. There is no such thing as an “interactive presentation”. In a talk, the audience has the floor during Q&A at the end. In a workshop, breakout discussion activities may happen along the way.

3) Sketch your structure – and take your time over it. You can use pen/paper and “go analogue” at this point.

4) Engage your audience. Hook their attention at the beginning; thereafter, interact with them regularly. Invite them to see things your way. It builds rapport.

5) If you’re a leader, you can opt for impact techniques and look strong. BUT it can distance you from your audience. If you’d rather not risk that, you may prefer to build rapport as in 4.

6) Treat your visuals as an equal partner. Both of you should tell half the story and complement each other, never compete for the audience’s attention. The audience can’t read and listen at the same time, anyway: research has shown this.

7) When ready, practise in front of a trusted friend. They can offer constructive criticism and advice. Plus, you need to know how well you’re managing your time.

8) Anticipate audience questions – tip 7 can also help with this.

9) Mind-map your initial ideas. But then condense it to a key message! If the audience should remember one thing from your talk, what should it be? You should sum up with this.

10) Treat each live presentation you give as a learning experience. The best presenters all made mistakes to begin with, but they were persistent. You can succeed, too!

So, while the top tips we gave are not the same, there are some meeting points.

Points in Common

Planning is essential. It affects the effectiveness of a presentation. Students need to know what they are going to say and when. If they do not plan, they will also be unprepared. This leads to the next common feature; practising. If students want to be comprehensible and feel happy with their presentation, they need to practise. Practise makes perfect, doesn’t it? Being dynamic and interesting is also very important. These are oral presentations, and the audience needs to find the presentation appealing. That’s why your students need to attract attention. Finally, slides are an integral part of a good oral presentation. This is why students need to be careful of what goes on them. 

I hope you enjoyed this post. Feel free to comment or add your top tips in the comments section below. Special thanks to Philip for giving his top tips.

A bit about Philip: Philip Saxon teaches English as a Foreign Language in both university and in-company settings in Budapest, Hungary. A Warwick graduate (he obtained an MA with distinction in 2014), his interests these days include teacher training and teaching languages with technology. His blog can be found at http://englishforauthenticpurposes.blogspot.co.uk/.


Till next time…….


13 thoughts on “10 Top Tips for Presentations: EAP vs. BE

  1. Hi, Joanna. I have not taught presentations since I came across Office Mix. Which is a shame as Office Mix Is free and it lets you record video of yourself speaking over your PowerPoint slides. I think it has great potential to allow students see themselves giving the presentation and focus on the areas they need to work on. What do you think?.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for this post! Very interesting to see the best tips side by side!
    and tekhnologic Thank you for mentioning Office Mix, this sounds like a really great tool for teachers! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Interesting pieces of advice. More or less, most of the articles share similar tips. however, do you think that there should be a plan B in case the presentation for any reason takes a different course? I am asking this since I have attended a conference where everything was well planned and met the standards of a good presentation. Yet, the power went off, the audience was eager to ask questions and expected immediate answers although they are asked to wait until the end of the presentation.


  4. Hi Nada,
    I think a plan B is always necessary. I will give you my EAP plan B (power failure/questions).
    In terms of power failure, to be honest, I have never had that problem. If presentations is part of a training session, no power will not be a problem cause we can move on to something else. If the presentation is part of an exam, something formally assessed, then that would be very problematic. Luckily, power has never been a problem. If it were an issue on an exam day though, I would suggest waiting for the power to come back (as sts are very often being assessed) or have the presentation take place another day.
    Regarding questions, I always say, ” Questions at the end”, again because the audience questions can side track a student, cause anxiety, and be very bad for time management. So, no questions during the (formal) presentation!
    I hope this answers your questions 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Nada! I’d more or less agree with everything Joanna says here.

    As regards policy on interruptions – I’d suggest the audience ought not to interrupt a presenter who is clear with both themselves and their audience as to what type of talk they are giving (as per my point 2). Plan B? Not needed if the expectations are set well at the opening of the talk. There is no such thing as an interactive presentation.

    Liked by 1 person

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