Giving presentations is already nerve wracking. Non-native speakers face the additional challenges of language and cultural barriers to communication.

Non-native speakers can dramatically improve their presentation skills and become significantly more understandable to the audience by focusing on three key areas of English communication: phrasing, intonation and stress.

English-speaking audiences  expect to hear certain patterns in these areas. If they do not hear these patterns, they will have a difficult time understanding you, and may lose interest in your presentation.

Phrasing and Thought Groups

Thought groups put information in understandable chunks to help lead the listener through the speaker’s message.  Clear boundaries showing where the phrases start and end, not only make it easier for your audience to follow your message, but make your speech sound less choppy and more fluent.

New research suggests / that average global temperatures / were higher in the past decade / than over most of the previous / 11,300 years


Intonation is the way your pitch rises and falls. It is extremely important in English and carries a great deal of information. English has many intonation patterns to show meaning and nuance. Using vocal variety and intonation patterns in your presentations makes your speech easier to understand and more engaging. Three common intonation patterns that are useful in presentations include:

rising, rising, falling – to show a list. Pitch rises for each list item and falls on the last.
rising, falling
– which can be used to show  if/then, either/or, and making comparisons
– to show the end of a statement


Stress is also key to English communication. Using the wrong stress can make you unintelligible. Using no stress, where each word gets equal emphasis, is monotone and confusing to follow.  In presentations, stress is often used to show emphasis and focus.  These “focus words”  are pronounced louder, longer and higher than the other words in a sentence. This brings the listeners’ attention to key words and let’s them know what’s important.

Using the wrong stress can make you unintelligible.

Hearing first, speaking second
Adopting these patterns is crucial to becoming a good presenter. However, you first have to get used to identifying them. Listen closely to native speakers as they talk or give presentations. Focus on listening for these 3 keys and practice mimicking them until they become natural for you. Using correct phrasing, intonation and stress will improve your communication dramatically.

Contact us to learn about Presentation Skills for Non-Native Speakers training programs.