As a coach and international business school instructor, I have worked with hundreds of current and future leaders who are accomplished, bright, and capable — and who quickly lose their confidence and competence when making business presentations. For a subset of these leaders — those who need to present in English when it isn’t their native language — the stakes and the stress can feel even higher. Meanwhile, the need for leaders to be able to present in English is growing at a rapid pace. According to Harvard Business School Associate Professor Tsedal Neely, author of The Language of Global Success, “English is required for global collaboration and global work.”
Nevertheless, being compelled to speak in your nonnative language can lead to feelings of frustration, pressure, and insecurity. As Neely reports, “When nonnative speakers are forced to communicate in English, they can feel that their worth to the company has been diminished, regardless of their fluency level.” Add to that the burden of making formal business presentations in front of superiors, decision-makers, and key stakeholders in your nonnative language, and the anxiety is significantly greater.